10. 09. 2015

Community Energy Fortnight: Going on to a War Footing

This is the first full week of Community Energy Fortnight, coordinated by Forum for the Future on behalf of the Community Energy Coalition (for which FFF provides the Secretariat), and supported by Cooperative Energy.

This is the third such fortnight, and BY FAR THE MOST IMPORTANT. And that’s because there’s a war on.

That may sound a bit over the top, and I know how people in this wonderful green movement of ours dislike militaristic metaphors. But if you suddenly find yourself in the middle of a war zone, which is absolutely not of your own making, you either get involved, however reluctantly, as a fully signed-up combatant, or you let the b******s walk all over you.

It’s as simple as that. This Tory Government has declared war on the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries. There is no rationale (let alone strategic logic) behind this, other than to reinforce the case it is now obsessively making for hydrocarbons (particularly gas, and particularly new fracked gas) and for nuclear. The vast majority of people don’t want this, are supportive of renewable energy technologies, and would like to see more done about climate change – rather than the opposite.

But the Tories apparently don’t care about public opinion on any of these issues. Recent polling carried out on behalf of the Guardian showed that nearly 80% of people wanted the Government to do more to support community energy schemes – schemes owned by, and with profits going back to, communities. (Even UKIP supporters were decidedly in favour of that.) And more than two-thirds of people were happy to have such projects sited near their homes, including wind turbines.

Because it’s a war, the normal rules of political debate don’t apply. Government Ministers regularly and shamelessly lie through their teeth about the so-called ‘excessive costs’ of renewables, and the impact of supporting renewables on our energy bills. Most of our right-wing press happily lap up this crap – though even in those dark places there’s mighty little support for fracking.

And that’s why Community Energy Fortnight is so important. Every single event organised through CEF is both an act of defiance and a statement of positive intent. Every email sent, blog posted, and tweet tweeted, strengthens the case we need to make for renewables and efficiency. Every conversation to that effect helps set the tone – and counter the tide of deception and propaganda in which this Government seeks to engulf us. Every event and every intervention contributes to an amazing learning network that is now emerging around the power of community energy to transform our corrupt and dysfunctional energy systems.

There’s a huge amount of stuff out there (particularly online) to provide people with all the ammunition they need. For starters, I’d just like to make four quick links:

1. CEF15/UK CEC itself. This provides information about meetings, mobilisation opportunities and so on.
2. South West Renewables. Renewables and Bills: the Facts’ is brilliant at debunking the lies and myths about costs.
3. Solar Trade Association (STA). Solar is going to be particularly badly hit by this Government’s all-out assault on Feed In Tariffs, and it’s where we could make the biggest difference fastest.
4. REPOWERBalcombe, aiming to generate the equivalent of 100% of Balcombe’s electricity demand through community-owned, locally-generated renewable energy.

This is a war that can still be won, and it will be won by tens of thousands of people supporting local initiatives that promote community energy, energy efficiency and renewables. The village of Balcombe found itself at the epicentre of the emerging debate about fracking back in 2013. Not only did it repel the developers intent on fracking the hell out of the local environment, but they organised themselves in such a way as to demonstrate in practice the viability of the alternatives.

I suspect we may need a thousand Balcombe look-alikes before this war is won, but Community Energy Fortnight 2015 is as good a place to start as any.
 

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