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The Hot Seat: James Angel (King's College London)

Thursday 11-02-2016 - 11:25

This Go Green Week, we speak to James Angel about their vision for publically owned renewable power.

Our Divest-Invest campaign isn't just about pulling our money out of fossil fuels. It's about moving £100 million into clean and renewable alternatives - alternatives like Switched On London.

To celebrate Go Green Week, we spoke to James Angel from King's College London about this exciting campaign.


What is Switched On London?

Switched On London is a new campaign coalition, calling on the Greater London Authority (GLA) to create a new people-powered and public clean energy company.

We’re fed up of big energy companies cashing in from out-of-control fuel bills, air pollution and filthy fossil fuels. So we’re demanding an affordable, democratic and environmentally sustainable alternative: a not-for-profit company powered by renewable energy; a company that cuts our fuel bills and invests in energy efficiency; controlled democratically by energy users and workers.

We’re backed by a broad coalition of community organisations, trade unions and environmental groups. We’re inspired by Nottingham and Bristol, where local councils have set up pioneering public energy schemes. And while our campaign is focused on London as a starting point, we want the GLA to set up a company that anyone across the country could switch to.


Can we really power an area as big as London on renewables?

100 per cent renewable energy is a totally achievable goal for London. Major cities across Europe are leading the way towards renewables: Munich and Copenhagen have both pledged 100% clean energy by 2025.

Meanwhile, London is lagging behind, leaving one million Londoners in fuel poverty, with thousands dying from air pollution and our climate targets drifting away.

From solar panels on our schools, community centres and houses through to low-carbon district heating, tidal power and utilising waste heat generated from the underground, there’s an array of clean energy potential in the capital. And there’s nothing to stop London investing in renewable technology elsewhere, for instance in new wind farms off the coast.

All the research shows that as well as cutting polluting emissions, it’s investment in clean energy that will bring down fuel bills as well.


What’s the benefit of this being publically owned?

Since our energy was privatised in the 1980s, bills have risen and customer satisfaction has hit rock bottom. But the profits of the big energy companies have increased tenfold since 2007.

Meanwhile, across the world it’s public investment – not private companies – that is leading the way towards the clean, renewable energy we need in the face of climate change. Germany’s transition to renewable energy is being led by cities reversing privatisation and taking back power.

Private companies will always prioritise their bottom-line over the public interest. By removing the profit-motive, public companies are better placed to work in the interests of energy users and workers.


We're running a Divest-Invest campaign at the moment. Is this the sort of thing our universities could be investing in rather than fossil fuels?

Yes, definitely! Switched On London is inspired by the success of the Divestment movement in shifting the debate around fossil fuel finance. It’s fantastic to see universities across the country finally waking up to the fact that fossil fuel investments are socially unacceptable and economically risky.

Given the success of Divestment, we now need concrete and viable – but transformative – plans for where this money goes. Just re-investing in clean energy projects backed by the same business interests and financial institutions that got us into this mess risks re-creating some of the same problems.

Switched On London’s proposal is about reinvesting in a project that takes a lead on pushing forward the clean energy revolution, while at the same time challenging the power of corporate elites and putting power back in people’s hands.


Could you imagine students running something similar on a campus level?

Projects like the Solar SOAS student led energy co-operative show the power of students to get organised for energy democracy. Small-scale energy co-operatives will work best alongside bigger scale public energy schemes at the city-level. So as well as setting up campus-based energy projects, students could also mobilise to pressure their own local authorities to set up democratic energy alternatives along the lines that Switched On London are proposing.

There’s also plenty to be done on campus to support Switched On London’s campaign – from organising an info-night to gathering signatures for our petition.

Find out more and get involved on our website

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