26 October 2021
The Times (p.4-5)

As world leaders haggle on the banks of the Clyde, ordinary Glaswegians are taking the climate emergency into their own hands, report Laith Al-Khalaf and Constance Kampfner

Glasgow Community Energy

Ellie Harrison is trying to find greener ways to power Glasgow while empowering its residents. “Our people are our resource in the fight against climate change,” she says.

The 42-year-old is the chairwoman of Glasgow Community Energy (GCE), a co-operative in Pollokshields with 150 members who install solar panels across deprived areas of the city. “It’s about reclaiming power for the community,” she says, smiling at the double meaning.

An artist and community activist, Harrison began developing the co-op six years ago, when it was just a dream shared with friends. “We spent years trying to get it off the ground,” she says.

Last year the group used the government’s Feed-In Tariff, which pays producers to generate green energy, to install solar panels across the roofs of schools in Easterhouse and Pollokshields, where many of the co-op’s members live. “It also provides an educational apparatus and workshops for the schools,” Harrison says, standing outside Glendale primary school, in Pollokshields, which GCE completed panelling in October 2020.

As a co-operative, GCE allows its members, who each pay as little as £50 to join, a vote about where to work next and where the low-carbon power will go. “It’s something practical that people in the community can get involved with,” Harrison says.

As well as managing the solar panels democratically, the co-op allows members to decide where to direct funds generated from selling surplus energy through a community benefit fund. “Reinvesting that in the local community is central to the co-operative,” she says, “to help feed the benefits back into the area.”

The co-op believes that its business structure challenges existing energy companies and could be a vital tool in securing a green transition for the Scottish economy. “The energy sector is a bit of a shambles at the moment,” Harrison says, “and in the absence of a more strategic vision for energy, we will have to do our bit.”

Harrison is hoping to see GCE expand into different renewable energy sources and join with other groups. She insists that any green transition needs to be led by ordinary Glaswegians. “We need to devolve more power to communities,” she says.

Laith Al-Khalaf