South Manchester Carbon Co-op

An interview with Jonathan Atkinson of South Manchester Carbon Co-op

What is Carbon Co-op and what is it trying to do?

It is a collaborative project between myself and URBED Co-op. We’re working to set up a bulk buying co-op to harness the power of communities to tackle climate change and work towards local energy independence.

The Carbon Co-op starts with the idea that for one person to buy a solar panel is expensive but when the whole street buys one it becomes cheaper. We want to enable streets, neighbourhoods and communities to club together to buy low carbon technologies, everything from energy monitors to wind turbines. The more people that join, the cheaper the products and the more that can be achieved.

What’s the biggest success you have had so far?

We’ve received funding from Manchester Innovation Fund which has allowed us to develop our engagement tools and test out some ideas. This is taking us a long way towards launching and trading which is where we hope to be in 2010.

We’ve also been selected as a winner of the Big Green Challenge Plus (BGC+) programme. This will allow us to run a Carbon Co-op project in a street in South Manchester for a year. BGC+ is a real bonus because there are some great projects among the other winners and the funders, NESTA, have a new and innovative approach to supporting environmental projects.

What are the main challenges you’ve had?

It’s not hard to sell the idea, anyone can understand the power and potential of people and communities working together to create change. The key challenge is making it pay, how can we ensure that the Carbon Co-op keeps itself sustainable and self-financing whilst brokering the installation of all these low carbon technologies for its members.

The other issue is enthusiasm. People hear about the idea and want to get going straight away. But I’ve seen too many projects peak too early with enthusiasm and fade away in frustration. When the Carbon Co-op launches there needs to be a sustained way people can get involved and maintain that involvement long term.

What is the big thing you want to achieve in 2010?

To be up and trading and enabling people to transform their communities around Manchester. To be there to see that first energy monitor or solar panel installed.

How can people “get involved”, or make use of your expertise/service?

If people are interested they can email me at jonathan@lowwintersun.info
We will need volunteers for our Big Green Challenge, all you need is a little bit of time and enthusiasm and we can sort the rest. In terms of members joining the co-op, watch this space!

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

Keep doing what you’re doing!

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