Launch of Repowering Communities: small-scale solutions for large-scale energy problems

Last night, Prashant Vaze and I held a launch event for our book, Repowering Communities, which has now been published. Prashant gave a presentation seeking to rebut five energy myths:

  • Large energy companies are needed for delivering sustainable energy at scale.
  • Low carbon electricity is solution to heat.
  • Integrated energy suppliers can be persuaded to reduce customers’ energy use.
  • Energy efficiency will be adopted voluntarily.
  • •Large energy firms are most innovative.

He used some of the case studies in our book to show that none of these need be the case.  I then summarised our conclusions and recommendations, stressing that local government does much better when supported by a national framework of regulation and by low-interest finance, which needs to be provided nationally, as the German KfW bank demonstrates. I also pointed out that local government, co-operative and community activity are an important part of the energy answer, but not the whole answer. Large energy companies are also needed to build enormous offshore wind farms and CCS plants.

We then had a response from Councillor Joe Goldberg, the Haringey cabinet member in charge of Finance and Carbon Reduction.  This is an excellent portfolio, underlining that reducing carbon is not only important for environmental reasons (there is another cabinet member for the environment), but also for economic reasons. Joe said that Haringey assesses carbon reduction proposals in the same way as it assesses any other financial proposal. He also said that most of the emissions in the district are from domestic heating, with much less than the normal UK proportion from transport, as most people in the borough cannot afford cars.  Haringey has had some success in borrowing money at low interest rates for infrastructure investment – prudential borrowing.

We then had a response from Lord Larry Whitty, former chairman of Consumer Focus and before that minister for energy efficiency in the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Larry bemoaned the fact that those working on energy supply – then in a separate department, the Department of Trade and Industry – had had much more influence than those working on energy efficiency. He then said that the coalition government’s recent publication on Electricity Market Reform had put too much emphasis on large, centralised generation and too little on localising energy supply.  That is also the view of Prashant and myself (see The UK’s Energy White Paper and Renewables Roadmap).

David Miliband, former Foreign Secretary and Environment Secretary, has read the book and said:

… the low-carbon agenda is so large that policy matters tend to look only at large-scale solutions.  This book is a welcome antidote to that temptation.  It is a challenge to all of us.

Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has said:

Prashant Vaze and Stephen Tindale’s book offers a unique perspective on the need to adopt innovative energy policies that engage communities and promote localised energy production.


1 Comment

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