We the Power – A business’s responsibility to restore power to the people A blog by Patagonia
We’re in business to save our home planet. Since 1985, Patagonia has pledged 1% of sales to grassroots environmental activism and whilst we make gear for outdoor sports, we take our responsibility to the planet into consideration in every action. We know that the predominant model of big energy companies and fossil fuel production must be changed if Europe is to have any chance of getting to the net zero CO2 emissions level required by 2050. We believe community energy is a critical climate solution and we are committed to directly supporting its growth in Europe.
In April 2021, Patagonia launched We the Power, a new campaign and film across Europe to encourage citizens to imagine an energy system that is local, community owned, renewable and rooted in bringing social and economic benefits. In the UK, this presented an opportunity to educate our Patagonia community about the grassroots networks determinedly driving the movement, whilst highlight the remedies community energy offers to the social issues perpetuated by our current energy systems.
We at Patagonia are not experts in the field of community energy, but recognize that through our granting program we can support those who are. By learning from their experience, we can ensure that the actions we take to support are impactful for communities and our environment. We’re grateful for the time our grantees and others have taken to teach us, and whilst we still have much to learn we’d like to share some key moments from our journey.
Empowering Communities. Renewable Community Energy can build community resilience, benefit the environment, and create opportunities to address the social injustices perpetuated by our current energy systems. This building of community resilience is demonstrated by Patagonia grantee Energy Garden who are repurposing the grey spaces in railway stations, train depots, schools, hospitals and housing estates to become green with solar panels, battery storage and community gardens. This results in thousands of square meters of green space, millions of kWh of renewable electricity generated, and formal training opportunities for young people to begin their journeys into renewable community energy. The We the Power campaign is now directing our community towards Energy Garden’s latest share offer where you can pledge to invest and become a part of their Community Benefit Society.
Absolute Power. The potential for community renewable energy to benefit local economies is being blocked by disproportionate costs and unfair regulations. These regulations are unequitable, and penalize the communities contributing to decarbonizing society. They deserve to enjoy the same financial benefits bestowed upon the large supplier-generator corporations. The Local Electricity Bill proposed by Patagonia grantee Power for People would create a system in which the challenges to being able to sell locally generated energy to local people becomes proportionate to the size of the renewable energy cooperative’s operation. Throughout the campaign, Patagonia has connected our community with Power for People, asking them to advocate for the Bill at key moments. The Bill currently has the support of 257 MPs, but still needs more to come onboard for it pass through Parliament. You too can Write to your MP here, and even if they already support the Bill it will serve to remind them that this people powered movement is ready to grow.
Where’s the Energy? Community has returned to the forefront of many people’s lives, and there is now a greater potential audience of engaged community focused, environmentally minded citizens ready to join this movement than there was even 12 months ago. Throughout We the Power we have been fortunate to have strong allies who could inspire and activate this new audience with their experiences of renewable community energy, however I’m sure there’s many more inspiring stories across the sector which are just not being heard. In the lead up to COP26, our question to community energy in the UK is what are your stories to inspire, mobilize and grow this community? And what are you doing to deliver them beyond your existing networks? Patagonia remains committed to amplifying the voice of the movement, so if you’re keen to share your experience of renewable community energy with a new audience feel free to contact us and let’s grow this movement together.
We the Power has presented an invaluable opportunity for Patagonia UK to listen and learn from those doing the work in this solution area. As a result, we have a greater understanding of how renewable community energy empowers citizen at the intersection between social justice and environmentalism. As individual citizens our voice alone may seem small, however we are part of a much larger community with a shared belief in this movement. That community too is intersectional, with businesses having as much a part to play in advocating for change as any individual. Patagonia is currently working towards carbon neutrality by 2025. In Europe we are investing in community owned solar, whilst in the UK we are exploring moving our showrooms and a store to a PPA. We will continue to be a vocal supporter of community energy, and direct our community and industry towards opportunities to take action. Patagonia is in business to save our home planet, and this people powered movement can only help us achieve this goal.