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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.

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Banking on communities: the realities of funding local renewable energy projects
9th October 2012
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The other day I spent the morning with a bank. It was one of the most interesting meetings I’ve ever been in. I was talking to the Co-operative Renewable Energy Finance Team, about the highs and lows of funding renewables projects.

I now know all about credit scores, bond ratings, due diligence and debt service cover ratios. I’m quite proud of that. But more importantly, we talked about why renewables projects – and community renewables projects in particular – are a challenge for lenders. Here’s what I learned:

First, politics matters. What politicians say, or don’t say, about their commitment » Continue Reading.

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My big idea: own your own wind farm
3rd September 2012
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Green Alliance asked me to come up with a ‘big idea’ the other day, for their blog. No pressure. I thought long and hard. Here’s what I said:

My big idea is simple. Give people the chance to buy shares in renewable energy developments near them. Whether it’s a wind farm, an AD plant or hydro power, there should be an option for anyone living locally to invest in the scheme, and share in the profits.

It would be a small change, but a very significant one, with the benefits felt far and wide.

Let’s start at the sharp end: » Continue Reading.

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Ask a silly question…. Why the Royal Society totally misses the point on fracking
29th June 2012
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Imagine this. A learned society publishes a report into domestic violence. They conclude that it is a hazardous activity. If you carry out an attack, there’s a chance that the victim may retaliate, and you could suffer injuries as a result. So it’s important to look at ways of reducing risk, through following correct procedures and using the right equipment. In other words, they advise, wear a hard hat to beat your wife.

But isn’t domestic violence wrong? Doesn’t it go against everything we stand for as a decent, moral society? Ah, say the boffins. That was outside the scope » Continue Reading.

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Mulling on Mull
18th June 2012
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Last week I saw a sea eagle fighting off a buzzard, and a sea otter eating a fish. I stared at a seal, and it stared back defiantly before flipping and disappearing below the surface with a showy splash. I got in the way of a puffin delivering sand eels to its pufflings, and swam through forests of kelp. I stayed up late drinking whisky and putting the world to rights. And it was all in the name of work.

I swapped my office for a sea kayak, and four days on the seas off the island of Mull, in » Continue Reading.

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Why today’s energy bill could spell trouble for community energy projects
22nd May 2012
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The Government today published the Energy Bill, which sets out proposals for far-reaching reforms to the way that electricity is bought and sold (the Electricity Market Reform process, or EMR in the jargon).

The aim, we are told, is to provide a stable market for all forms of low-carbon generation – nuclear, renewables and carbon capture. But there’s a sting in the tail. A system designed to promote low-carbon energy may well have some nasty unintended consequences for community-owned projects.

There’s been lots written about the benefits of community-owned energy – like my report for Co-operatives UK and » Continue Reading.

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A carbon budget for the Lake District
24th April 2012
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Off for a picnic with the kids this weekend, we stopped in Windermere to buy a few things. Outside the supermarket, next to an advert for half-price pies, was a newspaper billboard shouting “LAKES CLIMATE CHANGE PRAISE”. I’ve never seen my work on a billboard before. It made my day.

The ‘praise’ was from a Committee of MPs – the Select Committee on Energy and Climate Change. Last week they published a report into ‘Consumption-Based Emissions Reporting’, complimenting the Lake District, West Sussex and Manchester for their efforts in managing climate change at a local level.

I’ve been working » Continue Reading.

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Practising but not preaching
20th December 2011
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I really like this article from the Guardian Environment Network, which points out that some companies may have an impeccable environmental record in terms of their own performance, while simultaneously lobbying against progressive environmental legislation. The example they use is News Corporation, who have announced that they are ‘carbon neutral’, and regularly appear at the top of the rankings for corporate responsibility. Yet they own Fox News, whose influential commentators, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck, reject climate science, with Hannity saying “the debate’s over. There’s no global warming”.

For anyone working with government to develop better environmental policy, the » Continue Reading.