Agenda and draft minutes

Housing and Environment Scrutiny Commission
Monday 17 December 2018 7.15 pm

Venue: Ground Floor Meeting Room G01A - 160 Tooley Street, London SE1 2QH

Contact: Julie Timbrell 

No. Item




Notification of any items of business which the Chair deems urgent.


Disclosure of interests and dispensations.




Southwark's sustainability plans

    Stuart Robinson-Marshall, Head of Sustainability & Business Development, Environment & Leisure will present on Southwark Council’s environmental sustainability plans; a briefing paper is attached.

    Supporting documents:


    The chair introduced the session by referring to the council plan commitment to: “support the creation of community led sustainable energy projects on estates to help residents reduce their energy bills” and the Commissions role in contributing to policy development.


    A member asked about the GLA initiative to set up an energy company and the possible benefits of economies of scale. The GLA sent a short briefing, however this did not touch on this. More information will be sort on this.


    Stuart Robinson-Marshall, Head of Sustainability & Business Development, Environment & Leisure presented on Southwark Council’s environmental sustainability plans, with reference to the briefing paper circulated in advance. This is working towards the borough being carbon neutral by 2050 and the council by 2025.




Community Energy: council plan and community pilots

     Martin Kovats, Community Projects Manager, Housing and Modernisation will provide an officer overview on delivering the council plan commitment  to:

    “support the creation of community led sustainable energy projects on estates to help residents reduce their energy bills”, with input from the following colleagues in Asset Management and Finance.



    ·  Ian Young, Departmental Finance Manager  Housing & Modernisation,

    ·  Louise Turff, Homeownership Services Manager, Finance and Governance


    Asset Management:

    ·  Michael O’Driscoll, Contract Manager, Lifts & electrical.

    ·  Tom Vosper, Strategic Project Manager, district heating lead.

    Supporting documents:


    Martin Kovats, Community Projects Manager, Housing and Modernisation provided a briefing which gave an overview of the three pilots, which are in development to take forward the council plan commitment. The chair invited him to present and he introduced the council’s work on community energy by saying the council has a large housing stock with considerable opportunities for generating community energy. The management of this is centralised, however the council is committed to maximising community engagement.


    Frequently community energy focuses on solar; however the other opportunity is district heating and most of the estates currently utilise this in some form, with hot water pumped in. There is currently a review of this. As this is still in the early stages it will be a while before this will report back on opportunities.


    Currently the council has low technical capacity to evaluate the viability of solar projects; the pilots aim to increase this.  There is already a large solar array on Four Squares, which the council is evaluating.


    The Community Projects Manager referred to the briefing that outlined the three pilots: Haddonhall; Juniper House, and Brenchley Gardens. He explained that the pilots are working in very different ways. Brenchley Gardens is investigating a variety of community energy initiatives. Haddonhall is working with South East London Community Energy Company (SELCE) and has recently received a grant to do a feasibility study. Juniper House TRAs intention is to install a solar array using existing capital of £30,000 from the previous housing cooperative which ran the estate.  


    Juniper House has had the most engagement with officers. This has focused on trying to resolve how to share the financial benefits of installing solar panels with all Juniper House residents equitably. Juniper House TRA’s aspiration is for the solar energy to be used to power the communal energy needs of the estate and for this to lead to reduced leasehold and rent charges.  However this is problematic as although tenants and leaseholders/ homeowners receive a separately itemised bill for communal energy, the calculations are done differently.  For leaseholder/home owners this is done based on the estate, but tenant’s charges are aggregated across the borough.


    The pilots are currently being evaluated by BRE Group. They have also been asked to advise the council on suitable criteria to evaluate future projects.




    Officers will provide the evaluation of Four Squares solar project when ready.


Community Energy pilots

    Overview of community led energy models by Dr Giovanna Speciale, Chief Executive Officer, and South East London Community Energy (SELCE) with input from Afsheen Kabir Rashid, Repowering London


      Haddonhall TMO with support from SELCE

      Juniper House, with a deputation including Rob Kenyon, Secretary, Juniper House TRA- a paper is attached

      Brenchley Gardens TMO


    Supporting documents:


    The chair invited Dr Giovanna Speciale; Chief Executive Officer of South East London Community Energy (SELCE) to provide an overview of community led energy models with input from Afsheen Kabir Rashid, Repowering London and SE24.


    Dr Giovanna Speciale explained that community energy companies like SELCE, SE24 and Repowering London are social enterprises, usually powered by volunteers, most of whom want a socially just transition to a low carbon economy, powered by renewable energy, where people in fuel poverty are helped to reduce their bills.  SE24 is the most local company and almost solely volunteer run, whereas SELCE and Repowering London have been operating longer, employ workers and operate across South East London and the capital respectively.


    SE24 explained that they have primarily worked locally in the charitable sector, with churches and community centres, however new funding means they will also be working with social housing associations.


    Community Energy companies use a similar model, which usually use solar in a suitable location, often in partnership with local residents and stakeholders, such as the Haddonhall TMO. Once feasibility has been established the next step is to raise investment funds by a stock offer to buy equity. Local residents are encouraged to invest. The resulting capital enables the purchase of solar panels. Once installed these provide a revenue stream through energy sold to the site at a cheaper rate and electricity sold to the grid, making use of feed in tariffs. This generates enough money to pay both a dividend to stock owners, at a small social rate of return, and a surplus that is reinvested back into the local community.


    SELCE have installed 7 solar arrays across seven schools in Greenwich; each school will reduce carbon by 300,000 metric tons over the lifetime plus save the individual schools £300,000 each. In addition create a pool of £100,000 is being raised, which is being used to reduced the energy bills of people in fuel poverty.


    The model saves carbon and energy. It is also a ‘win win’ business model: it is self financing, local residents make a small social rate of return, it lowers energy and carbon, and it works to alleviate fuel poverty. Critically it creates community engagement, and creates ‘buy in’ for other social and environmental initiatives. Previous projects have run energy cafes, worked with low income parents to reduce energy consumption and save money, and help gain funds for grants to carry out insulation for individuals – for example loft insulation and new boilers for low income homeowners. 


    The surplus generated is now less with lower Feed in Tariffs (FiT); and will decrease further when these end in April 2019. This will mean that the sale of electricity to the site will need go up; although savings will still be significant – for example a £200 per year saving on service charges will make a big difference to people living on the bread line. It is also likely that more attention will need to be given to the technical analysis  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.


Repowering London

    Repowering London have provided the attached paper; ‘Making Community Energy in Southwark’.


    Afsheen Kabir Rashid, Chief Operating Officer, and Felix Wight, Technical Director will present.



    Supporting documents:


    Afsheen Kabir Rashid, Chief Operating Officer, referred to the paper that Repowering London provided; ‘Making Community Energy in Southwark’.


    She explained that Repowering London started in Brixton where they pioneered the financial model; at this point she was working within the council as a sustainability officer and Lambeth was positioning itself as a cooperative council. In those days most solar schemes were in rural areas; so this was both an early urban scheme and also the first scheme on a social housing estate.


    The early schemes raised capital through a community share offer; many of the people who brought the first shares were not expecting to see their money again, but wanted to make this happen.  However it was a success and a year on many were surprised to see a cheque in the post. The model was based in Brixton and focused on ensuring that those residents who did not have the means to invest would see the benefits.


    Most initial schemes used little of the electricity on site as there is only a limited amount that can be consumed in the day by the communal areas when solar power is being generated. The schemes were selling most of the electricity back to the grid as the local consumption was restricted to the communal areas and demand was limited. At the same time residents were paying 13p per unit of electricity, however the scheme was generating only 4p by selling to the grid. This seemed a flaw in the model; however to supply cheap energy directly to residents you have to be registered as an energy supplier and there are various regulations governing this. Repowering therefore had to think carefully about how to generate benefit on the estate to residents directly. The project engaged with residents to ask them by knocking on doors and holding events. A ring fenced community fund was created to enable local investment. The early models created a surplus to generate this: the costs were met; returns to investors were capped, and the extra enabled the creation of funds which were then spent on resident priorities.


    Having both a cooperative in place locally, and a community pot of money, has provided additional leverage. This has enabled a number of schemes chosen by residents to be realised that combine alleviating poverty with reducing carbon. Energy Cafes work to reduce fuel poverty. A current scheme is working with 55 young people via an internship and mentoring programme which trains young people at risk of exclusion in community energy. This is an accredited programme, which came out of a demand from local parents on estates to provide something for young people.


    Each year it gets tougher to make theses schemes as the FiT has decreased, alongside a lack of national support and uncertainty. However London does now have a supportive Mayor which is helping and feasibility studies are being funded. Repowering London are looking to pre-register a number of schemes for FiT.


    Afsheen was asked if Community Energy  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.



    Members of the Commission, officers, community representatives, and stakeholders will discuss how Community Energy could be best taken forward in Southwark.


    Sustainable Energy 24 (SE24) have provided a paper; attached.


    The Mayor of London’s office has provided a comment on behalf of Shirley Rodrigues, Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy, who is unable to attend; see attached.


    Supporting documents:


    Members of the Commission, officers, community representatives, and stakeholders discussed how Community Energy could be best taken forward in Southwark. Sustainable Energy 24 (SE24) contributed to this item and provided a paper.  The Mayor of London’s office sent apologies and provided a comment on behalf of Shirley Rodrigues, Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy; also attached.


    SE24 reinforced the point made by Repowering London that there will be emerging business models post FiT, and that different sources such as grants will come into play. They noted that carbon offsets are a particular opportunity that is often underused by London boroughs; this is an area worth looking at. 


    SE24 recommended the council consider the benefits solar could bring from other parts of the borough estate; e.g. primary schools.  Schools can use solar generation as a way of changing behaviour. Community energy and solar generation provides an opportunity to educate children who then influence their families. Extending the scope of this programme to education could have a real impact on future generations.  Schools may be able to pre-register for FiT, as well as community groups.



    A member queried which residents would benefit from the community benefit funds generated by Repowering London solar schemes. Repowering London explained that the benefit would go to the residents on the estate with the solar arrays. This could be a way of sharing the benefits with residents, given the challenges of directly reducing bills to council tenants.


    The Juniper House secretary emphasised the important of sharing the cash benefit directly and equally with estate residents. He said schemes like this offer an opportunity to provide validation for social housing. To date residents have worked hard on this with little guarantee that there will be a direct benefit.  The council has the capacity to employ solar at economies of scale. He said that people want to focus on their own lives as they have a deficit of leisure and family time, and the trick is to ensure that residents are involved in ways they enjoy and are good at, not to make them bureaucrats.


    The chair invited officers to respond to the issue of sharing the benefit directly through reductions to bills. Officers explained that tenants would benefit to a small extent under existing policy as the savings from communal electricity costs would be shared across the borough. His said the policy to share communal costs was introduced as part of rent restructuring in 2003, in response to government policy. That does not mean to say the council cannot change this policy, however he said that while it would benefit places with planned schemes it would also be to the detriment of other social housing tenants.


    There are different categories of communal costs e.g. ground maintenance, lighting , door entry etc., however it is difficult to extract a particular estate service potentially  benefiting from solar ( e.g. lifts) as it will always be somewhat reliant on the grid during the night, so subject to the pooling policy.


    The  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.