We continue our occasional series on people who inspire us. This week we’re talking to Kees Frederiks, an environmental activist and Lambeth’s Green Community Champion, about Brixton Energy, his other projects, and making.
What do you like about living in Brixton?
What I like most is that it has a bit of a village feel, in the centre of London. A lot of people from other parts of London view it as this little oasis of cool and up-and-coming stuff. Not sure that I agree with it, but there’s definitely a lot going on in a pretty small place.
What inspired you to work on environmental issues?
Apart from a long-standing interest, I was a little lucky. My background was in sales, and I decided to give back to the community, and offered to volunteer three months of my time to an environmental cause. The first person who put the hand up got me – and that eventually led to me becoming a Green Community Champion Officer for the Brixton Low Carbon Zone .
Tell us about Brixton Energy – as a person on the street, what would I need to know?
Brixton Energy will be London’s first community-owned solar power station. We are putting a lot (that’s up to 50 Kwp) of photovoltaic panels on a roof, generating electricity and using the government’s subsidy called FIT or Feed in Tariff. The aim is to generate enough money for a little return to investors and set up an energy efficiency fund for the local community that runs for 25 years.
Why should people invest?
Investing gives you a chance to get renewable energy started in Brixton. Most people don’t have a suitable roof or even own their own house, so this allows you to become a member of a co-operative that is going to start generating renewable electricity in Brixton, this April. That alone is worth investing in!
You get a little bit of interest on your money (up to 3%) for helping to set up a wonderful and local energy efficiency fund which will run for a long time.
How risky is this investment?
It is an investment, so like any investment it carries some risk. Having said that, the main source of revenue for this project is a guaranteed subsidy from the government, for 25 years. And it has been “grandfathered”, meaning that it will be honoured by future governments as well, irrespective of the political party in power.
Has this been done before?
Yes, quite a few times and in the UK. One initiative that springs off the top of my head is in the Ouse valley, where they put solar panels on the roof of a brewing company, one of the first in theUK. There’s easily a half a dozen others working with solar power and lots more with wind . The concept of co-operative energy projects has been going for years in the UK, though it is far more developed abroad. In Denmark, 30% of energy generated is co-operatively owned – we could do the same in the UK.
What other projects are you involved in?
Quite a few, both through work and volunteering. As a Green Community Champion Officer I’m involved in some growing projects – for example, Loughborough Green and Growing – and I am also involved in the general Transition Town Movement.
I am also working on a cycle parking scheme for Lambeth, which is a UK first. Not everyone has space in their home for a bike, so the idea is to have a secure lockable facility on the street near to your home to get you cycling more. Our pilot was very popular, so we are putting in 28 more of them this year!
If someone wants to help with one of your projects, how can they get involved?
To get involved with Brixton Energy just go to their website: http://www.brixtonenergy.co.uk/
You can also go to the Green Community Champion page, and we are on Project Dirt too, where you can also find me. You can also contact me directly by email at email@example.com. And of couse through my Makerhood profile.
Do you like making things?
I love to potter. The last thing I made was a little step for my girlfriend so she can reach the condiments area in the top drawer. I made it as a Christmas present, from a pallet. I broke apart a pallet, sanded it down and then started making it. I didn’t really know what I was doing, and in fact the first time it went wrong as there was too much flex in the way I had stuck the pieces together and I was using wood glue. But I had another go using screws, and it worked.
So there you are – give something a go, and if it doesn’t work, just try again!