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But what’s it all for?
20th June 2013
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I found myself asking this question today. Not in an existential sense (though spending last week in a sea kayak spotting seals has made it much harder to chain myself to the desk since.) I was at Lancaster University talking to academics about what all this energy is for. Why do we each use fifteen times the amount of energy than we did two hundred years ago?

Regular readers will know this isn’t the first time I’ve asked this question. My 2011 pamphlet for Green Alliance, Demanding Less, attempts to get to grip with the big questions about energy » Continue Reading.

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communities and wind farms – beyond the politics
7th June 2013
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You would never have guessed it from the headlines, but yesterday’s announcement from DECC on community engagement in wind farms could be good news for renewables.

In an effort to placate the anti-wind lobby, government press officers seem to have spun the announcement as a crackdown on wind energy – with some newspapers even reporting that communities would now have a ‘right of veto’ over new developments (this in the Telegraph, for example).

The reality is somewhat different. Government is actually asking developers to begin dialogue with communities earlier, before the planning stage, and to work with local » Continue Reading.

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Are community schemes just small and cuddly, or can we roll out the megawatts?
26th April 2013
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I’ve been talking to the Department for Energy and Climate Change a lot about community ownership of energy. I make the case that there’s lots of potential for community energy at the mid-scale – from 5MW (that’s two or three large wind turbines) upwards.

This always surprises DECC people. They think community energy is small and cuddly. So with the help of lots of community energy types, I’ve compiled a list of community-owned energy projects of significant scale – at or around 5MW.

Two health warnings: first, it’s really not comprehensive. I just asked around. There’s no official stats » Continue Reading.

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Parliament shows support for mainstreaming community energy
24th January 2013
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This week, MPs got down to the tricky business of line-by-line scrutiny of the Energy Bill, to see whether it’s doing what it should. And at last, we’ve had a proper debate about whether the UK is serious about community ownership of energy.

As I’ve said in previous posts, we pay lip-service to its importance, but until now, politicians have not really believed that community ownership could be a significant part of the energy mix, as it is in Denmark and Germany.

But on Tuesday, the government and the opposition frontbench teams were jostling over who was doing most » Continue Reading.

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That’s enough chocolate orange, thank you: What I’m working on this year
8th January 2013
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I’ve swept up the Christmas tree needles, packed the kids off to school and scoffed the last segment of their chocolate orange as soon as their backs were turned. And surprisingly, I find myself quite content to be back at work – I’ve had my fill of lolling by the fire. So here’s a quick note on what I’ll be up to over the coming year.

Community energy is an increasing part of my work. It’s great to see more and more communities taking control of their energy, through investing in renewables and encouraging energy efficiency. But government doesn’t make » Continue Reading.

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Will our MPs help to bring about a community energy revolution?
20th December 2012
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Community and co-operatively owned energy schemes get a raw deal from government at the moment. While smaller projects can benefit from feed-in tariffs, larger projects (over 5MW – that’s two or three large wind turbines) have to compete in the energy market – a market that’s designed for big commercial companies, predominantly the Big Six. The reforms the government is introducing is likely to make things worse, not better, for community energy, as this independent analysis from Cornwall energy explains.

So it was great to see MPs from both sides of the House point this out in Parliament yesterday, during » Continue Reading.

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Energy Bill prolongs uncertainty for community-owned renewables
29th November 2012
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The Energy Bill, put before Parliament today, is a mixed blessing for community energy. While it’s great to have strong backing for investment in renewables, the government has not forward any measures to ensure that community energy will be able to compete alongside established players. Here’s the briefing I’ve written for Co-operatives UK, which sets out how we could change the Energy Bill to make it work for community energy.

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Carbon bubbles and the perils of pension planning: Or, will I ever play golf?
22nd November 2012
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The other day, I took a deep breath and sat down with a financial adviser to talk pensions.

It was painful, of course. I’m not paying in nearly as much as I should. My rosy future of leisurely lunches interspersed with the odd round of golf looks very far off indeed. But on a second look, it gets worse.

My pension projections are based on assumptions about growth in financial markets. And that’s the problem, for me. Assumptions about growth. My pension pot, I’m told, should grow between 2% and 8% a year.

I just don’t believe that. When you » Continue Reading.

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Community ownership of renewables: The best form of community benefit
13th November 2012
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How can communities benefit from nearby wind farms? The government is keen to hear views on this, and have issued a ‘call for evidence’ – the deadline is this Thursday 15 November.

I’ve written a discussion paper for Co-operatives UK which argues that the best form of community benefit is community ownership. Through an ownership stake in the project, communities gain real engagement, proper understanding of the industry and technology, and a financial stake in its success.

There are some great examples of this happening already. Infinergy is working with community group TRESOC to develop the Totnes » Continue Reading.

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What future for community-owned energy?
18th October 2012
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“I want nothing short of a community energy revolution”, said Ed Davey, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, a couple of weeks ago. He’s in good company. Today I was part of a group including fellow revolutionaries from the Church of England, the National Trust and Consumer Focus who met with Ed Davey to talk tactics.

It’s hard to disagree with the idea that renewable energy assets, like wind turbines, solar installations and hydro schemes should be owned by communities. It would help meet all the Government’s stated energy goals, of reducing carbon, creating a more diverse system, » Continue Reading.