Film review: The green grassroots revolution in clean energy

Human Energy, a documentary from Adam Dzienis, shares stores from a dozen European countries

Climate change and concerns over the ownership of energy production have led to the search for new models in the sector – including the rise of community-owned energy.

In this 62-minute film, producer and director Adam Dzienis shares the stories from leading lights of the sector across dozen European countries – the UK, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Greece, Germany, France, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Spain, along with insight from climate change experts and academics.

Against a backdrop of powerful fossil fuel lobbyists working across the continent, ensuring continued government support and subsidy for polluters, Human Energy offers a hopeful not, showing how grassroots groups are making a difference in their communities.

It links this idealism back to the founders of the modern co-op movement, taking viewers on a tour of the Rochdale Pioneers’ Museum. Sustainability adviser Paul Monaghan thinks renewable co-ops need to draw on the determined spirit shown by the Pioneers if their model is to succeed.

Renewable co-ops are on the rise across Europe; which is now home to more than 2,500 renewable energy co-operatives., the European federation for the sector, represents 1,250 energy co-operatives and their 65,0000 members.

But in countries like Poland, co-ops face an uphill struggle; they are often seen as relics This doesn’t have to be so; before they were used as tools for forced collectivisation, co-ops had a long history in the country. Prior to WWII, one in five Polish people was a member  of a co-op.

In Greece, consumer and agri co-ops are well known but energy co-ops are still not well understood. It took a year to set up Sifnos Island Res Coop, which faced obstacles at every step of the way, says member Apostolos Dimopoulos.

Similarly, in the UK, Repowering London is running energy gardens on the Overground network, offering people space to grow vegetables and install solar panels.

And consumers still have the power to choose where they buy from, says Ricardo Moura, member of Coopernico RES Coop Lisbon. He thinks
co-operatives enable people to consume in a responsible, ethical way.

Far from being utopian ideas, renewable energy co-ops are viable business models that can help to address climate change, says the film – a message it was keen to put across at its official premiere took place in December 2018, held at a side event at the UN Climate Change Conference in Katowice.