Through a new campaign and documentary film, the activist outdoor brand wants to bring the benefits of renewables back home to citizens
Imagine this: more jobs in your area, your energy bills getting cheaper while climate emissions reduce, and your connections with others where you live becoming stronger. These are among the benefits when people collectively own solar, wind and other renewable energy projects in their local area, say advocates of the community energy movement.
Stepping up to amplify this movement that is happening across Europe is the outdoor equipment and clothing brand Patagonia, which is hosting a free online event on 21 April to inspire more people to get involved. The live panel discussion, featuring leading practitioners of citizen-led community energy, is part of a new Patagonia campaign and launch of a documentary film, titled We the Power.
With this new campaign, the company – which is known for its environmental activism and says that it is “in business to save our home planet” – wants to fire up the hopes for this most exciting of responses to climate change. It’s a movement that has already seen one million Europeans get involved in producing their own renewable electricity and sharing in the economic benefits. Some predictions suggest this could mushroom to more than a quarter of a billion people by 2050, generating 45 per cent of the continent’s electricity.
Renewable energy costs have fallen rapidly in recent years, with those of solar plunging by up to 90 per cent in a decade. That has shifted the prospects of this democratic and participatory power revolution from pipe dream to plausible reality in just a few short years.
The field of community-owned energy projects is richly diverse. Among inspiring initiatives that have already got off the ground are Brixton Energy, which produces solar power from the roofs of a local housing estate in south London and is owned as a co-operative by its residents; and Denmark’s Middelgrundens Wind Farm, which is co-owned by the City of Copenhagen and a group of local citizens.
And ‘community’ doesn’t have to mean ‘small’ – at least not when it comes to impact: in Germany, no less than half of all renewable energy capacity is community-owned.
Wednesday evening’s virtual event is hosted by acclaimed environmental journalist Lucy Siegle, and features Josh Roberts of the European Federation of Citizen Energy Co-operatives; Marjan Minnesma, who led the campaign to compel the Dutch government to enshrine tackling the climate crisis as a legal duty; and Derk Loorbach, one of Europe’s leading thinkers on the transition to sustainability.
Together, they will show that solving a big problem such as the climate emergency doesn’t have to be left to big corporations. Indeed, for all sorts of reasons, ethical and practical, it really shouldn’t be, say the event organisers.
Community-owned energy is “a win-win situation” says Beth Thoren, Patagonia’s environmental action and initiatives director. “Local, renewable energy production puts money directly into local communities, and speeds up the creation of a cleaner, healthier future for our children. Patagonia is committing to advocating for this revolution in energy.”
As the saying goes, the future is bright when we make our own light.