Let’s turn our streets into solar power stations

Artist and filmmaker Dan Edelstyn says the council and government aren’t doing
enough to make our homes energy efficient

Credit: Optimistic Productions Ltd

During lockdown me and my partner Hilary Powell started ‘Power Station’, a project with the goal of putting solar panels on every house on our Walthamstow street, thus making it a renewable power station of sorts.

The project was born just after we finished making a feature documentary called Bank Job where we blew up £1.2million of high interest debt. Due to pandemic restrictions, we couldn’t go to many of the cinemas that wanted to screen the film and so we started to do more of our work online and behind closed doors, like everyone else.

As artists and activists, me and Hilary wondered what we could do. We wanted to design a new project where we could investigate the connection between the financial system and the ecological emergency. This is why we started to print our own money – called Greenbacks – and use the proceeds from selling it to fund ‘Power Station’.

So far we have managed to put solar panels on 16 houses as well as two schools in close collaboration with Solar for Schools. This clearly isn’t enough and it certainly wouldn’t feel like a great climax to our story. More renewable energy and retrofit and insulation needs to be deployed at great speed which is why we’ve opened a crowdfunder to help achieve our solar panel fitting and insulation goals.

We have two very clear demands of the government. The first is to stop the irresponsible drilling for oil and gas in the North Sea. The second is that it deploys renewables, and retrofits and insulates homes with the speed and urgency necessary to make a positive difference to the crises facing us. I believe the worst of these can still be headed off but the government has been asleep at the wheel. Well, it’s time for our leaders to wake up!

This story is published by Waltham Forest Echo, Waltham Forest's free monthly newspaper and free news website. We are a not-for-profit publication, published by a small social enterprise. We have no rich backers and rely on the support of our readers. Donate or become a supporter.

Locally, Waltham Forest Council’s climate team has been very supportive of our project, which we have appreciated. That said, many of their systems for dealing with climate risk actually exacerbate the very pressing dangers of climate change. What do I mean? Due to excessive council bureaucracy it took over a year to get the green light to install solar panels on our local primary school.

It seems that the same systems which are designed to mitigate climate risk are making the council too slow to adapt to said risk. We also wanted the council to put solar panels and insulation into its own properties on the street but they turned us down by citing their established process of identifying and prioritising the worst performing properties across the borough for energy efficiency works.

What the council should know though is that by taking a street-by-street approach rather than a house-by-house one, it becomes possible to involve the entire community and this can in turn unleash the momentum that is necessary to fight climate change.

We understand that the council is underfunded and that leads to restrictions on what it can do. But since they have launched zero-interest £20,000 loans for home insulation, we ask if the council will consider working with us and adopting our street-by-street approach to energy efficiency.

Find out more about the ‘Power Station’ project and how to support Dan and Hilary in their mission here

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