Born out of Transition Town Brixton and the experience of launching Brixton Solar Energy in 2011, Repowering London was started by a group of volunteers who wanted to produce renewable energy locally. They have now helped many other housing estates, schools, and community centres across London to fund, install, and manage their own clean, local energy.
From the organisation’s second project, Brixton Energy Solar 2, developing young people’s training and opportunities was key. When local mums on the housing estate vocalised the lack of youth opportunities, the Repowering Youth Training Programme was put together, taking young people on a skills development journey. Since then, over 120 young people have been trained, all being paid 40 hours at London Living Wage.
Whilst this makes it expensive to run, valuing work is important. Programme manager Dave Fuller explains: “From our perspective, young people in areas of deprivation don’t get respect, and are quite skint, so we show young people that we respect their time and work through paying them. It creates a different relationship than they have with tutors at college, and it enables more people to take part in the programme properly. The training on its own won’t change anyone’s life. We want to be one in a series of small positive actions in people’s lives.”
Based on requests from teachers they talked to as part of their community engagement, Repowering London has also developed solar education and training for primary schools. They have a Key Stage 3 science lesson, a programme which teaches climate change through drama in Key Stage 2, and an assembly session.
Young people’s stories
The training has had a significant impact on some young people’s lives. Victoria Omobuwajo (age 29) took part in the Banister House youth training programme.
After the training she volunteered with Repowering London, before becoming secretary of Hackney Energy and then CEO of her own healthy snack company. Victoria was featured in UK Forbes ‘30 under 30’ as a young entrepreneur.
Another young man, Daniel* (age 18) was trained as part of the Banister House project. He was already qualified in electrical engineering before starting but could still only get a job shelf stacking. However through his work at Banister house he went on to get work experience with Repowering London, build up his CV, and now has a job in construction. Dave reflects on Repowering’s role in young people’s lives: “It’s not about us. We’re just a positive part of the journey. Ultimately, we want to develop a programme for young people to access green industries. The climate movement is overwhelmingly white and well-educated, there isn’t enough breadth of experience. We are working in areas where there is an incredible variety of everything. We can support young people to get into the sector and diversify it. We have a plan, but if you go into a young person’s life, you need to do it and resource it properly.”
Continuing the journey
Moving forward, Repowering London want to start working with more young people, and on a longer-term basis, providing a path into meaningful employment and a platform for young people to create their own opportunities in the transition to an environmentally sustainable society. Repowering’s long-term strategy is to run its Youth Training Programme through a network of engaged energy co-operatives. However, the organisation often finds that young people aren’t keen to get involved with long meetings and topics which at times seem dry. Instead, Repowering is keen to foster the values of mutualism and solidarity already being displayed by younger people in wider society, and channel them into work they are interested in.