Can we forget about energy?
18th November 2015

Amber Rudd’s speech today was nothing if not politically shrewd. A phase-out of coal-fired generation is very welcome news; the backtracking on renewables has been announced in several waves over the last few months, and is no surprise at all. So reaction to Rudd’s announcement has been surprisingly positive.

But yet again, we’re playing the technology game. Coal v gas v renewables v nuclear. It’s all about kit, and not about people. In fact, Rudd emphasised this, by saying straight out that “energy policy shouldn’t be noticed”. We should be able to go about our daily lives without so much as a » Continue Reading.

The real value of people power: New research project with the British Academy
22nd October 2015

With renewables policy in a state of flux (I think that’s the polite way of putting it) it’s really important to make the case for community-based initiatives, which offer much more than megawatts – contributing to local regeneration, social cohesion and engagement in climate change. So I’m really pleased to be working with the British Academy on a project which really gets under the skin of these projects. Working with colleagues Pete Capener, of Bath and West Community Energy, and Neil Simcock at Lancaster University, we’ll be delving into the all-important cultural factors which influence these projects, and seeing what the » Continue Reading.

Working with Lancaster University and Green Alliance: Understanding political responses to climate change
8th October 2015

This month marks the beginning of my collaborative research project with Lancaster University and Green Alliance.

How often have you heard the lament amongst environmentalists, “what’s lacking is political will”? If only politicians understood enough, and cared enough, to confront and act on environmental issues like climate change, the argument goes, they could implement the solutions (green the economy, fine the polluters) and lead the transition to a sustainable society.

But is it as simple as that? What is this elusive quality, ‘political will’? Put another way, what is it that motivates politicians to take action on climate change, and » Continue Reading.

Energy Mentoring: Lessons for Government
13th July 2015

I’ve written before about the fantastic Energy Mentoring Project that I’ve been working on with Co-operatives UK.


One of the things we built into the project from the start was a report-back function, whereby we help the community energy pioneers talk to government about how policy could help the sector achieve its potential. (Imagine if all projects supporting social entrepreneurs had a properly resourced talk-to-government-about-your-experience element to them. It would be a brilliant antidote to corporate lobbying.)


So to help with this, over the past couple of months I’ve talked to our brave energy pioneers about » Continue Reading.

Peer Mentoring for community energy: So, has it worked?
2nd July 2015

I blogged a little while ago about the Peer Mentoring Scheme for community energy projects that I helped to design, and which has been run brilliantly by Petra Morris at Co-operatives UK. Over the past few months, I’ve spoken in detail to the projects who have received support from the scheme, as well as the mentors who’ve offered their support, both moral and technical. The results of these conversations, and other outcomes from the scheme, are now summarised in this pretty (and mercifully short) publication that Petra put together. Let me know what you think.

A new job…. steering the future of energy research
13th April 2015

I’m really pleased to have been appointed to the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Research Councils UK Energy Programme, as a representative of Green Alliance.

The Energy Programme  invested £625 million in research and skills to pioneer a low carbon future. It’s a joint initiative, led by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and bringing together the work of five Research Councils, including the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), for whom I’ve served as a Council Member over the past four years.

With massive changes in energy technology, systems and businesses afoot, and ambitious carbon targets to meet, it’s » Continue Reading.

I love it when a plan comes together: Community energy mentoring in action
4th March 2015

I had a great time last week at the Powering Up North conference, a Manchester gathering of community energy projects and enthusiasts. It was lovely to see so many people that have been colleagues and allies in my past few years’ worth of work on such an interesting issue.

But what I  really appreciated was seeing the results of something that had been long in the planning. When I started working with Co-operatives UK to support community energy, back in 2010, it was clear that changes to policy and regulation were needed if community energy was to » Continue Reading.

It’s Freshers’ Week…
30th September 2014

October 1991. Bryan Adams tops the charts (Everything I Do…) closely followed by The Scorpions with Winds of Change. I’m excited but nervous, in my flowery corduroy trousers (yes really). It’s Freshers week.

Roll on a few years, and here I am again. And while I may not be approaching the extracurricular side of Freshers week with quite such brio this time round, I’m just as excited to be heading back to university.

I’ve spent my working life trying to crack a series of knotty environmental issues, from climate change to chemicals regulation. What I’ve learned, above all, is that » Continue Reading.

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A community energy revolution? Or: can we prove Kafka wrong?
5th September 2014

One of the great things about working independently is that you only have yourself to answer to. So, while I’m grateful to the brilliant organisations I collaborate with on community energy (Co-operatives UK, Pure Leapfrog, Centre for Sustainable Energy to name a few) sometimes you just want to say exactly what you think, without having to represent anyone’s position.

That’s just what I did at the very enjoyable PoweringUp conference at Oxford Town Hall this week. Inspired (should that read provoked?) by Ed Davey’s declaration that he wants “nothing short of a community energy revolution”, I took his words » Continue Reading.

Want to buy a wind farm? Now’s your chance…
16th April 2014

Perched on a fell above the Lakeland town of Ulverston, just down the road from me, are four wind turbines. They’ve been turning steadily since 1997. The turbines all look the same. But one of the four is very different. It was the first in the UK to be owned by local people, who established a co-operative to buy shares in the turbine. The other three are owned by a commercial renewables developer.

More than a decade on, government has realised that it’s really quite a good idea to let local communities buy into local renewable energy schemes. I’ve » Continue Reading.