City Council announce plan to become self-sufficient in low carbon energy

As reported on Pits n Pots 2 weeks ago, Stoke-on-Trent a city self sufficient in low carbon energy?, Stoke-on-Trent City Council yesterday announced that they are one of just six authorities nationwide to make it to the second stage of the ‘Creative Councils’ programme, securing £150,000. The funding will help the council create a trail-blazing local authority power company which will help the city become self-sufficient in low carbon energy – a first under the 2011 Localism Act. Continue reading

Free Home Insulation

From 1st August North Staffordshire WarmZone is launching a “Ëœfree for all’ scheme to ensure that as many homes as possible in Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle Borough are properly insulated.

FREE* cavity wall and loft insulation is being offered to householders ““ regardless of age, income, savings or other circumstances.

The strictly limited “Ëœfirst come, first served’ offer is aimed at increasing the amount of measures NSWZ can carry out as part of its work to reduce North Staffordshire’s carbon footprint.

People need to act quickly, because the scheme is now moving into its final phase. Residents have absolutely nothing to lose ““ the offer of free home insulation will reduce their homes’ CO2 emissions AND potentially save them hundreds of pounds on their annual heating bills**.
Proper insulation can also help to improve a property’s Energy Performance Certificate*** (EPC) score if it is being put on the market ““ so our “Ëœfree for all’ scheme really is a “Ëœwin-win’ prospect for householders.
We understand that the current economic climate means that money is tight for a lot of residents. But we want to provide help and support and this is a fantastic opportunity for city people to improve the energy efficiency of their homes.
To get loft and cavity insulation done privately could cost up to £500. To date, North Staffordshire Warm Zone has installed over 14,000 loft or cavity wall insulation systems and hot water jackets. We want more residents to come forward. Fuel bills will inevitably increase as the colder winter months set in, by taking up this offer now, residents can insulate their homes for free and save money in the future.

Anyone wishing to take advantage of the offer should contact NSWZ in writing, by sending their name, address and contact details to:
North Staffordshire Warm Zone,
Initiative House,
Campbell Road,
requesting a home energy efficiency survey, which will be then posted out to them.

Alternatively it is possible to apply online by using the link below.

*Subject to survey
Cavity wall insulation can only be installed in properties with a cavity construction. Some very large properties and the requirement of scaffolding may be subject to an excess payment although this is relatively uncommon.

**It’s estimated that around 35% of household heat is lost through the walls of a property, and 25% through the roof. Cavity wall insulation can save up to £160 annually on heating bills, and loft insulation up to £220.

***Every home marketed for sale must have an EPC Energy Performance Certificate as part of a sale or rental, which details a home’s energy efficiency. In order to issue a certificate it is necessary to conduct a survey of the property either by a qualified Domestic Energy Assessor or a Home Inspector. An EPC is also required for rental property by owners who wish to let their property.

Staffords Sun Inn To Use Alternate Energy

Titanic has become among the first breweries to install cutting edge equipment to chill its beer and provide heat for customers.

The Burslem brewer has teamed up with Geo Bar as part of the development of the Sun Inn, Stafford, which opens to the public next Thursday (22 July).

The Geo Bar heat recovery system takes excess heat created by pubs’ chilling equipment ““ which is usually expelled outside the building and lost – and uses it to heat water, either for direct use or in the heating system.

As well as saving money on energy bills, the Sun Inn will save 34,230kg of C02 emissions every year – the equivalent of 750 journeys from Stafford to London and back in a family car, or planting eight football pitches of rain forest.

Keith Bott, Managing Director of Titanic Brewery, said, ‘We are among the first in the country to install this energy saving system and the very first new pub to do so. It fits in with our philosophy of helping to conserve energy where possible to help the environment. We support the movement towards localism, buying local food for our pub customers where possible to cut down on food miles.’

17 musings on a project that delivers cheap energy, jobs, social cohesion and apple pie for Stoke residents

1. Stoke has a problem with areas suffering from poverty, high levels of deprivation and unemployment. A recent report in a local paper indicated that over 1 in 5 of local residents are on benefits.

2. Climate Change is one of the most important policy questions driving government action. All political parties are signed up to the agenda and targets to reduce carbon emissions.

3. Fuel poverty is a major issue in the area. National data indicates that over 25,000 people die each year from cold related illness a far higher proportion than other northern countries such as Canada or Norway. A national figure of 25,000 extrapolated down means that around 180-220 people day from cold related illness in the City each year.

4. The drive to create jobs from opportunities offered by this agenda is a growing movement in this country and elsewhere supported by a coalition of interests.

5. One area where a great deal of energy could be saved is adequately insulating homes and commercial practices. It has been calculated that something like 25% of energy is lost this way. A number of projects around the world such as Wisconsin Energy Efficiency is designed to stimulate a large scale building retrofit programme and create green skills training opportunity and jobs for local people.

6. Another community based project in South London is aiming to get people to produce and use energy sustainable, whatever their income.

7. There is an interest in one area of Stoke in the Burslem and Middleport area how local residents might become more involved in a concept that might provide local jobs and cut fuel bills for local people as well as fighting climate change.

8. The City Council is also committed to this agenda and that there is evidence that other communities would benefit from an approach that meets some of the challenges around poverty and worklessness outlined above. However I think that there ought to be a consciousness raising event or events to raise potential for this throughout the City

9. The City also has been successful in obtaining funding for a national retrofitting centre based at a former potbank where 400 local people will receive training in the areas of work outlined above.

10. There is also the opportunity to create energy through a variety of sources. One possibility is the approach taken by Birmingham by the installation of photovoltaic solar panels, insulation and modern fuel-efficient boilers in the city. The Council offers local residents and businesses grants and low cost loans to install insulation and panels and in return the Council collects the feed in tariff. The money raised is spent on more panels making the scheme self funding.

11. Another scheme in New Mills in Derbyshire harnesses the power of the River Goyt to turn a generator sunk in the riverbed to generate energy, which is used to power local homes and businesses. Extra energy generated is fed into the national grid and a dividend paid to local residents who buy into the project through a share issue scheme.

12. There is also potential for using the derelict land in the City to grow biomass crops. In a brief conversation with Prof John Dover at a recent regeneration lecture he indicated that there was land available in the City that a pioneer biomass-growing scheme could work depending on the chain of supply. However if biomass crops could be used to generate power locally this further could play a role in the creation of local jobs that fitted this agenda.

13. The national agenda of the new government also fits in with this agenda. This suggestion fits into the Big Society agenda and the localism of both Conservative and Liberal Democrats philosophies. There is also interest in the creation of a Green Investment Bank details will emerge later in the year.

14. However I am interested in the possibility of developing a few community benefiting structures such as a Community Interest Company (CIC) These are limited by shares or guarantee and are set up to benefit the local community. A principle of the CIC is an asset lock, which ensures that the assets remain in the community

15. Alternative as in the New Mills scheme which is funded by an Industrial Provident Scheme. For some projects the IPS has become the vehicle of choice. There is over 8,000 IPS in the country with over 10,000,000 members. The growing use of in sustainable energy developments has demonstrated the potential for raising significant capital for the community and it can offer significant return. An IPS can be run as a co-operative for the benefit of its community with profits ploughed back into the community. IPS can issue community share at a low cost by structuring them to avoid red tape of a full public prospectus. Giving locals a stake in the organisations such as New Mills can drive the project forward increase support for planning organisation lead to a feeling of community empowerment and raise awareness of the importance of renewable energy in addition to generating power and jobs.

16. There is some work to be done here

17. And call the organisation Potteries Power

And a possible job description to pull this together

Potteries Power aims to provide local solutions to fuel poverty and climate change, including energy audits, support and advice as well as enabling increased uptake of the various schemes currently on offer such as cavity and loft insulation, draught proofing, new double glazing, heating controls and replacement boiler systems and PV systems

The Energy Co-ordinator will develop and lead this carbon and energy saving project, organising events, home visits and giving professional energy advice. You will also be responsible for recruiting, managing, and supporting up to 10 part time Energy Champions who will help to deliver this project within their own local areas.

It is envisaged that the Energy Champions will be local people who have good community links, an interest in energy and carbon saving, and a passion for making a difference, but may not have any specific knowledge or experience in energy saving. After suitable training, these Champions will be the “Ëœon the ground’ contact for their local communities, and will be carrying out initial surveys, providing advice and motivating their communities.

Key duties and responsibilities

1 Develop and Lead the Potteries Power team
ï‚· Recruit, support and promote local energy champions in communities and provide and promote training for groups of volunteers.
ï‚· The Coordinator will start a series of public awareness meetings, using these to recruit 10 part time community based Energy Champions.
ï‚· The local Energy Champions will be trained by the Energy Co – ordinator, but each will also be trained to City and Guilds 6176 Energy Awareness.
2 Publicity and Marketing
ï‚· Deliver presentations, work – shops and lectures on energy issues to householders, businesses and other interested parties.
ï‚· Run regular local energy awareness meetings in community halls.
ï‚· Develop and maintain the potteries power website in conjunction with a specialist.
ï‚· Further develop the Potteries Power branding and detailed publicity material.
ï‚· Publicise and promote the project and related energy efficiency / renewable energy projects using the local media.
ï‚· Help to establish and support local information points and maintain an overview of the information network.

3 Work with the Community Energy Network to:
ï‚· Direct clients to services.
ï‚· Collate information on all householder grant funding available.
ï‚· Liase with local / national installers (insulation, glazing, heating controls, plumbing etc).
ï‚· Start Home Energy Checks.
Manage referrals and feedback data.
ï‚· Prepare best practice case studies and disseminate to households, organisations and businesses.
4 Home Energy Checks, Advice and Implementation
ï‚· Plan implementation of house by house visits.
ï‚· Select and acquire demonstration equipment (insulation samples, boiler controls etc.)
ï‚· Select and acquire smart meters.
ï‚· Conduct energy audits for houses / businesses / community buildings, where required.
ï‚· Provide follow – up information, support and advice for contacts made initially by local energy volunteers (households, community groups and small businesses) where required.
ï‚· Liase with Stoke Council to ensure householders (particularly those in fuel poverty) are claiming all their benefit entitlements.
ï‚· Distribution and training in use of smart meters.

5 Assist householders to liase with tradesmen for the installation of energy saving measures locally identified such as:
ï‚· Cavity wall and loft insulation.
ï‚· Draught proofing of windows and doors.
ï‚· Double or secondary glazing.
ï‚· Reflective film behind radiators on outside walls.
ï‚· Set up existing heating controls for optimum comfort conditions and minimum energy use.
ï‚· Upgrading heating controls – especially the retrofit installation of weather compensating ” optimum start ” 7 day heating programmer and thermostats. (especially where additional funding is available)
ï‚· Where appropriate, work with the on specification of renewable systems such as wood stoves, biomass boilers, solar thermal & PV systems.

6 Develop and maintain local contacts
ï‚· Establish and maintain a database of advice contacts and energy saving activities in the local area
ï‚· Develop connections with energy awareness campaigns, their fuel poverty action , and other organisations in such as VAST
ï‚· Identify and contact all similar local initiatives within and adjacent to the local area and liase with them as appropriate.

7 Administration
ï‚· Create and maintain a database of properties surveyed, action taken and carbon savings achieved.
ï‚· Produce progress reports for the management group, Climate Challenge Fund and project partners.
ï‚· Keep financial records of the project, and claim grant money
ï‚· Administrative tasks relevant to the post
ï‚· Carry out relevant tasks as requested by the management group
ï‚· Build on, and maintain, lists of installers and develop contacts

Green and Decent Jobs- a case for local action

“The ordinary person in the street does not necessary care about the Green aspect of this. He is only interested in two things firstly is there a prospect of a job in this and secondly will it save me money” So said one of the delegates at the Green Jobs summit another said “What option do we have in the present climate. It is the only option”

Two views that neatly encapsulate the essential pragmatism of many of the people present at an event at the Law Society in London, which was, hosted by the think tank the Institute of Public Policy Research. I attended yesterday (22nd June)

I have been interested in this issue for a number of years and earlier this year carried out a short-term project for Keele University on the numbers of Green jobs that existed in the local economy. I was quite careful to ascertain what a “green” job was including the type of work that included recycling, energy conservation and generation, public transport, land conservation and management, weather proofing and green manufacturing. I found about 4,000 jobs provided in over 180 companies

Why do we need green jobs and what should they deliver?

The main driver of the green job movement is the need to tackle climate change and the move to a low carbon economy. The Climate Change Act 2008 sets out demanding emission reduction targets for the UK of 34% by 2020 and an 80% reduction by 2050 (on a 1990 baseline).

Rising unemployment

I have written on Pits and Pots on the loss of all the jobs created in the 13 years of the last Government. The Sentinel reported a job loss figure of 7,000 in the local travel to work area last year. It is difficult to say how many new jobs we might see in these sectors and attempts to put a figure on the number of jobs have varied considerably. However if we put in place the measures that are needed to keep on track with climate change commitments, then a large and rapid expansion in the low-carbon sector will be required.

Labour market exclusion

In the context of Stoke on Trent the Sentinel reported that over 24% are economically inactive and this figure has not been reduced over the years. Many economically inactive people have been out of work for a great period of time, sometimes years and the opportunities to find suitable, good quality employment locally.

Too many people on low wages

Moving into work does not necessary mean a move out of poverty and the UK and North Staffordshire particularly has many people on low wages- including the writer of this report. In 2006 there were over 5million people on low pay. This is 60% of the median average wage. The proportion of people on low wages in the UK is considerably higher than elsewhere in Europe compared with 13% in France and 8% in Denmark.

Research also indicates that moving into higher paid jobs is very difficult: over half of people in low paid jobs experienced no significant improvement in their income between 2002-2005.

American Experience

The conference at the start heard of the American experience from two delegates from Oregon and Wisconsin. In the later state the Wisconsin Energy Efficiency project known as WE2 has designed a large scale building retrofit programme and has created training opportunities and decent jobs for local people.

WE2 has developed in partnership with Wisconsin State and local authorities, trade unions, environmental and community organisations and a Wisconsin Training Partnership-an umbrella organisation operating across the state to connect the unemployed with the skills they need in order to gain work.

A scheme operating in three cities working to retrofit building to make them fuel efficient and making sure that jobs pay a decent wage and benefit local communities.

One aspect of the project was the cost of retrofitting Milwaukee which cost $500,00 and generated 8,000 jobs saving the city $125,000 in energy costs which was retained in the local economy.

The key principles

The case studies in the US and the UK provide some important lessons who is interested in this agenda

Principle1 Keep it local

The case studies show the importance of having local level involvement in efforts to create green jobs. It has been concluded that local knowledge is very important in making the connections between new green opportunities, local training programmes and local communities.

Local awareness is important in understanding what kinds of green jobs are viable in the local area, what local barriers or threats there might be to green industries, what the local needs there are in terms of employment and what organisations might be able to help.

Without local help the possibility that the jobs created will not go the areas and the people that need them most. As was pointed out at the IPPR event the need to meet skill requirements was very important and local insight was essential. In additional new green industries might not know the local skill base, so better engagement with local organisations will help them find a work force for their new enterprise more easily.

It is important in the UK as cluster of different green industries developing around the country. Different approaches will be need in different areas to maximise the benefits of the different jobs.

Principle 2 Join forces.

From the US the most successful examples have involved cross sector partnerships. Each partner has been able to contribute something to each coalition, whether that is knowledge of upcoming green initiatives, training facilities, community networks or apprenticeships. By working together coalitions have been able to ensure they take a holistic approach from developing and lobbying for new policies, to providing relevant training for deprived areas and real job opportunities.

Some of the best examples from the UK have shown the benefits of partnership working. Projects like the Birmingham New Deal whose home is to boost the number of homes and businesses installing photo voltaic solar panels and efficient boilers around the city is a good example.

Under the deal Birmingham is offering local residents and businesses grants and low cost loans to install insulation, efficient boilers and solar panels. In return the council collects the feed in tariff from each unit of energy generated by a panel (currently 41.3 p/kWh). This money is spent on providing more panels making the scheme self funding. Participants benefit from insulation measures that help to cut their energy bills and the additional energy generated by the panels for free. They can also sell any spare electricity back to the national grid and keep proceeds.

The scheme is funded by the Energy Saving Trust, the Local strategic Partnership and the Working Neighbourhood Fund. The pilot installed 5,000 domestic panel and 300 local businesses. It is intended to retrofit 2,000 properties a year.

Creating local Jobs

The Council has taken steps to maximise the local economic benefits of the scheme for example placing requirements on contractors to recruit locally and targets deprived neighbourhoods and provide training.

The Council has learnt a number of lessons

Amongst them

ï‚· It was unable to use local manufactures to supply solar panels because they do not have the necessary accreditation to qualify for the feed in tariff.

ï‚· The requirement for local authorities to tender any contracts across Europe make it difficult to capture benefits locally

ï‚· Funding cuts make it difficult for the Council to get the right staff to run the project.

In response to these problems the Council is helping to set up local PV manufacturing and is further developing its approach to procurement by assisting local companies.

Peckham Power, London

A community based organisation working to get everyone in the area to use and produce energy sensibly, whatever their income. The organisation developed out of conversation between Councillors and a local community group. This led to a community conference on local energy improvements. Around 130 people attended the conference, which included sessions on renewable energy and retrofitting energy efficient measures and networking. Following the conference a group of 5 local volunteers with different experiences and expertise in energy efficiency developed Peckham Power’s programme of work in response to local needs.

In partnership with other local community groups a Power Meter project has been run. This promotes energy literacy among local people by demonstrating local renewable electricity production on the Peckham Power website and lends smart meters to help local residents monitor their energy usage.

In partnership with the a local environmental network have lead draught busting sessions which have educated local people on how to make small energy efficiency improvements and there is a possibility of turning this project into a social enterprise.

Recently Peckham Power received support from the Creative Energy Networks to deliver energy awareness fair in which locals received advice and practical demonstrations.

A number of barriers exist from creating Green Jobs

ï‚· A lack of time on part of the volunteers which prevents any scaling up of activity. The pool of volunteer is small.

ï‚· A lack of understanding on the key aims of the projects amongst the local community due to low levels of understanding of energy.

ï‚· Lack of funds to finance what a skilful and complex work

Principle 3 Not just jobs

The examples show that it is important to be clear about programme advantage from the start. Tackling poverty and supporting disadvantaged communities are at heart of many of these schemes. Without this being a central goal the desire to provide green jobs will not benefit those who need them most.

It is important, as the American examples show that the projects recruit locally and pay a decent wage.

Principle 4 Build a training to work pipeline

It is important to ensure those job creation opportunities with training and welfare to work programmes to ensure that the journey from unemployment into green work is viable.

One option is to partner training providers with work force mentor’s people who have a good knowledge of the local green industries and a good network of contacts within them. They can match candidates with vacancies

At the same time training programmes need to be linked to job creation programmes to ensure that local people have the right skills to take on new jobs and progress. Otherwise there is a risk that jobs that are created that are beyond the reach of local people.

Opportunities in the local area.

The Change of Government.

The Big Society

To quote from the Cabinet Office document

“We want to give citizens, communities and local government the power and information they need to come together, solve the problems they face and build the Britain they want. We want society ““ the families, networks, neighbourhoods and communities that form the fabric of so much of our everyday lives ““ to be bigger and stronger than ever before. Only when people and communities are given more power and take more responsibility can we achieve fairness and opportunity for all”.

The Budget

The government pledged to flesh out its plans for a Green Investment Bank to encourage funding for low carbon technologies in the autumn.

The project, which was included in Alistair Darling’s last Budget, will attempt to remove barriers to an environmentally sustainable economy.
The Budget report said: “The government will put forward detailed proposals on the creation of a Green Investment Bank to help the UK meet the low-carbon investment challenge.

“The government is considering a wide range of options for the scope and structure of the Green Investment Bank. The options will be evaluated for effectiveness, fiscal affordability and transparency.”

The 9 million retrofit centre in Longton, which is to be built on the site of an old potbank, and funded from a number of different sources such as the EU, National government and the City Council. The Centre will train 400 young people to work retrofitting buildings in the area.

I was approached last April by John Dalgleish from Middleport who is interested in taking forward some of the ideas that appear in both the Wisconsin and Peckham Power schemes to quote from his e mail

” You will know I have been to several events around housing, regeneration and green issues of late and I have been very impressed with what’s going on around improving home insulation, solar panels etc – all things that could improve our houses and reduce our bills (up by 125% in last 5 years)

The only problem is that is that not much seems to have percolated down to local residents; although I only speak for myself!

I have asked several of the speakers at a couple of the events if they would like to come to Stoke to talk to residents (AND Council officers, builders etc – they are even more important to influence) and not one has turned me down

I will give just two examples –

A) Summerhill Eco Village

Rob Annable from Axis (who have designed the Eco Terraces in ‘Castle) is willing to come and talk to us; the whole Summerhill project is a good model for us, as they not only improve existing housing stock but use local “hard to reach” labour to do it – and with projects like JET and the Stoke College green housing work”

B) Various initiatives from the LSE event – the example I will give is –

Philip Webber or one of his colleagues from Kirklees is willing either to come to Stoke or (perhaps better) host a party from Stoke to show what they have done

There is also a fair amount of funding available for some of these schemes
Do you think some sort of event might be worth organising – perhaps for all the Forums in the City? ”

I wonder whether there is an opportunity to look at the possibility of developing a social enterprise linked to some of the concepts that are floating around community based organisations using and producing energy sustainable such as the Peckham model in the Middleport/Burslem area as a pilot. The ultimate goal to provide green jobs and training opportunities for all sectors of the community?

Things not discussed in the election

I have watched the three leader debates and what has struck me is the things that are not discussed by the leaders and in the election generally. I have compiled a list of ten things that either have not been discussed or passed over fleetingly.

They are

1 Afghanistan/ Pakistan

2 Prison numbers.

3 The growing impact of China

4 Nuclear material falling into the hands of terriorists

5 The Future of Higher Education.

6 The War on Drugs.

7 Climate Change

8 Securing Energy Needs.

9 Ageing Population of UK/ Pensions

10 Corporate Power and impact on local communities.

When Harold Macmillan was Prime Minister he was asked what was the most difficult thing about being PM. “Events dear boy, events” he responded. Who for example could have thought that only months after the 2001 General Election the terrible events of 9/11 would have occured that have had such a profound impact upon foreign and domestic politics since.

One of the issues that I have included on the list , for example, is the question of missing fissionable material. The concern has been knocking around for a time. I recall going to the Hay Festival in 2002 to hear Robert McNamara Defense Secretary to President Kennedy and Johnson showing the greatest concern on the subject. It still is an issue and last month President Obama adressed a international conference on the subject.

Similarly the war on drugs which I have also written about on Pits and Pots. Given the massive amount of resources that are eaten up by this effort there has been no debate about whether this massive investment is making any difference.

The Prison quection is yet another one. In the time of economic restraint can we afford a prison building programme.

And finally the growing influence of China which seems to be coming out of recession. I cannot recall any debate on for example China forging deals with African States and effectively buying up natural resources.

I am sure that most and probably all these unspoken questions will have an impact upon local life. Who in 1989 could have foreseen that the breaching of the Berlin Wall would see 20 years later influxes of Eastern Europeans into the UK.

Transition Town Movement

I spent this morning working on the Quaker community garden in Leek as part of a Transition Town Leek project. We were planting apple trees. The siting of the project is significant the Garden is attached to the Meeting House in the town and with the exception of the parish Church the second oldest place of worship in Leek. It dates from 1694. And from 1897- a year after his death- the Meeting House was called the William Morris Labour Church and up to the outbreak of the First World War many pioneers of the labour movement such as Keir Hardie, Edward Carpenter and Charlotte Despard spoke at socialist meetings. The place has a very strong progressive resonance and its fitting that it is the setting for a social experiment that is sweeping across the country and galvanising communities.

But what is a transition town?

Transition Leek, as part of the national Transition Towns network, is a community response to the challenges of climate change and peak oil.

It is part of a national network of villages, towns and cities. The range of initiatives is both suburban and rural but all have a common thread.

The aim to bring about changes to Leek that mean we both use less energy and are more resilient to future energy shocks. These changes will, at some point, be forced upon us by reduced energy supplies and changed climate conditions, and it will be a much smoother transition to this changed future if we change now.

In addition, it is believed that many of the changes we need to make more localisation, more community interaction, will be a more pleasant way of living than at present.

It is our job to demonstrate this locally. It is also about people who want to be part of Transition Leek both initiating their own projects, and providing help to others. This could just as well is a project that’s part of an existing organisation as something completely new ““ our aim is to be a network of everyone who has the same goal of energy resilience and reduction.

We are engaged in a few projects that are looking at energy and local food production. The Quaker Garden project will produce a range of fruit and vegetables and the District Council is keen to work with us to try to bring other spare land into community allotment usage. The Energy group is in negotiations with a local farmer to develop a wind farm.

Its probably true to say Leek Transition Town is one of the more better organised movement’s in the area and in a number of well attended public meetings it seems that this interest is mirrored by others in the town.

ï‚· If we wait for the governments, it’ll be too little, too late.

ï‚· If we act as individuals, it’ll be too little.

ï‚· But if we act as communities, it might just be enough, just in time.

We need positive action on renewable power – not lectures from Government officials

By Matt Taylor

As Staffordshire’s climate change ‘leader’ comes out of the woodwork to urge everyone to ‘insulate’ themselves from inevitable future energy price rises, I’d like to add my own two penneth.

Government loves to put the onus upon businesses and the people to be more responsible with their energy usage, and use more efficient types of fuel, do fewer miles in the car and use public transport (ha ha). But what seems to be lacking whilst the government is spending the majority of time trying to stay in power and solve the current slump of capitalism, is the current cabinet taking responsibility for itself.

There are actually various alternative and renewable sources of power out there ready to be harnessed. And numerous products to transform them into something we can use to kick the flat-screen and the Wii into action. But when do we hear about them?

Regeneration money is being dealt out to those in need to lag their lofts, and to upgrade their heating systems; provided of course you’re not earning much more than minimum wage. But where is the education about the opportunities and the funding for alternative power sources?

One local company based in Shelton (Ultra Gas) is starting a sister company solely to install solar panels which can heat 60 percent of the water needed in the average home. Roof tiles which collect the sun’s rays and turn them into electricity can provide a third of a household’s power needs. And possibly the most innovative and likely to be a huge player in the way forward are heat pumps which use the heat underground to blow hot air and effectively heat properties (geothermal energy).

The huge problem of course is price. Setting yourself up with a hot water and heating system that utilises solar panels will cost around the four thousand pound mark. And because it doesn’t have the power to actually heat the house, the realistic saving is only likely to be around £100 a year, so you’re not going to be seeing a return on your investment very soon. The roof tiles supplying electriciy option is ever-so-slightly more cost-effective, with a whopping £18-20k investment in re-roofing your house with them being recoupable in about 25 years. So the more sensible option seems to be geothermal power, with systems now being available from around the £3000 mark. The problem is, you have to actually spend on electricity to run the pump in order to get the resultant heat from the earth, although this can be up to a ratio of £4 worth of heat for every £1 spent.

But what we need to see is swift government investment into working out which are the best technologies to use, without having lengthy investigations into the subject which cost a fortune and take years to complete. And then once the best way to go about things is decided upon, the government can offer genuine grants to residents to go down the environmentally friendly route and help reduce the reliance on wilting oil reserves and gas from overseas.

At the same time, the increased business available to companies supplying the equipment will mean more competitivity in the market place through an increase in the number of businesses fighting for their chunk of the trade, the knock-on-effect of which means – much cheaper prices.