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Parliament shows support for mainstreaming community energy
24th January 2013

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.

That’s enough chocolate orange, thank you: What I’m working on this year
8th January 2013

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.

Will our MPs help to bring about a community energy revolution?
20th December 2012

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.

Energy Bill prolongs uncertainty for community-owned renewables
29th November 2012

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.

Carbon bubbles and the perils of pension planning: Or, will I ever play golf?
22nd November 2012

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.

news Uncategorized
Community ownership of renewables: The best form of community benefit
13th November 2012

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.

What future for community-owned energy?
18th October 2012

“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.

Banking on communities: the realities of funding local renewable energy projects
9th October 2012

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.

My big idea: own your own wind farm
3rd September 2012

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.

Ask a silly question…. Why the Royal Society totally misses the point on fracking
29th June 2012

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.