Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Greens to run volunteer Bus Service for 18th year in a row.

The Green Party will be running a free volunteer Bus Service on New Year’s Day for the 18th consecutive year. The first service was run in the early 90s when Bus Services were drastically reduced over the festive period.

Green Party Councillor Andrew Cooper said,

“This is now one of the longest regular volunteer bus service in the country. We have seen some progress in recent years with Metro and First reintroducing services on Boxing Day on many routes, but unfortunately not all. There is a lot of talk these days about a ‘big society’ and about volunteers running services. This is an example of where we have been doing exactly that long before the words ‘Big Society’ were ever used. Our aim has never been to replace existing bus services but to encourage bus companies to reintroduce regular services during holiday periods”

The Newsome Bus Service starts at 11.00a.m and runs for 8 hours allowing people to go to Town do their shopping, visit friends and loved ones in Huddersfield Royal Infirmary or just to simply to go for a festive pint in the Town Centre.

The Greens ran a Bus Service on Boxing Day this year linking Flockton and Grange Moor with Huddersfield. Kirkburton Green Party Councillor Derek Hardcastle who drove the bus said,

“It was a huge success and we had over 70 people use the service to visit relatives. People were really enthusiastic about it and it allowed people who don’t have access to a car and can’t afford Taxis to get out of the house. These are villages that are often poorly provided for in many ways so it was good to be able to provide this service.”

Green Party New Year’s Day Service

                                         1st Bus       on the hour        last bus

Berry Brow                       11.00              00                18.00

Newsome Church             11.02               02                18.02

Huddersfield Westgate      11.10              10                 18.10

Huddersfield Infirmary       11.15              15                 18.15

Mount                               11.30              30                 18.30

Huddersfield Infirmary       11.40              40                 18.40

Huddersfield Westgate      11.45              45                 18.45

Newsome Church             11.55              55                 18.55

Berry Brow                       12.00              00                 19.00

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

At the Kirkburton Parish Pump

I don't say much if anything about Kirkburton Parish Council on my blog and really I should because it's a real positive story. We have 12 Greens out of 25 Parish Councillors which though not quite a majority due to the non attendance of Conservatives we do tend to hold sway. I first got elected to the Farnley and Thurstonland Ward of Kirkburton Parish in 2007 along with Robert Barraclough. It is a complete contrast to Kirklees Council. Kirklees has budgets running into the hundreds of millions with responsibility for social care, housing, environmental services, highways etc etc. Kirkburton Parish Council has a budget of just over £100k with ownership of a Village Hall, responsibility for allotments, a graveyard and a grant pot for numerous groups within the Parish. So does this mean that at a small scale politics doesn't feature? Well it didn't start out that way. There were certain individuals in the Tory group who went out of their way to give the Greens a hard time and were unnecessarily unpleasant and for at least the first year and it was hard going but we seemed to work our way through that particular pain barrier to get on with the job. To be fair some of the Conservatives were quite reasonable and eventually seemed to become sick of the antics of their colleagues and worked cooperatively with Councillors of all parties.
Past Chairman Robert Barraclough and current Chairman John Hirst

So what's been acheived? A Parish Walks project drawing in external funding, a training course giving teenagers a City and Guilds in Energy Advice, the repair of Kirkheaton Cemetery Wall (a long standing bugbear), solar panels on Burton Village Hall, winning the 2008 British Renewable Energy Awards with the judges comment, "this small Parish Council appears to be doing more than our national government". These are just some highlights there's plenty more but as with all things it comes down to a good team of people, Michelle Atkinson, Chairing the Environment Committee and introducing the popular Environment Fayre and Sunflower Competition, Geoff Hickey and Robert Barraclough ably chairing the Parish Council during some difficult times. The current Conservative Chairman elected with all Party support plays with a straight bat and across party divides. A special mention for Lin Holroyd, Independent who chaired the Parish in the 2007/8 year which was not an easy year at all which she handled with a determination to ensure no one got to far out of hand. I guess even myself on occasions!

Monday, 13 December 2010

Thank Goodness it's not too bad in Surrey!

Today the Government revealed the impact of it's cuts on Local Government across the Country. As you can imagine I've been concerned about how leafy Tory Surrey might fare under a leafy Tory Government. I needn't have worried just a 0.3% decrease. Naturally I also was wondering what might happen to Dorset fortunately the Government saw sense and actually raised their funding by 0.25%. The good news just kept coming with Hampshire, West Sussex, Buckingham and Richmond Upon Thames all escaping the worst of the cuts.

You can imagine what would have happened if these Councils had received the same level of funding cut as Kirklees or Leeds or Bradford with all the job losses, cuts in services and closed libraries and facilities that these Councils are likely to face. Fortunately for us Northern types there is an answer for the jobless provided by David Shakespeare Conservative Leader of the Local Government Association. David suggests we could all come down south and pick fruit on their farms. This would have the added benefit of taking jobs away from Romanians. Smart eh! David is also the Leader of Buckinghamshire County Council with a very reasonable 0.6% cut so naturally he's fairly pleased and feeling generous enough to let us help out on their farms.

So are the Conservatives and their Lib Dem 'pets' out of touch? Well we are 'all in it together' but in the North we are up to our necks in it while in the south it barely reaches beyond the soles of their green wellies.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

December Full Council report

Yesterdays Full Council was I think the first 'full on' Tweet Council with myself, Kath Pinnock from the Lib Dems and Leader of the council Mehboob Khan all participating on Twitter (plus 'LibDemKitty' I think I've worked out who that is!). Was there a value in it? Yes I think so. You could certainly get an insight into  our meetings you wouldn't have had otherwise. Take for instance the Lib Dem amendment on opposing the cuts to  provision for  Schools Sports Partnerships. The Greens supported their amendment. When I tweeted to this effect the twitterfeed from Kath Pinnock rather churlishly said 'Shame that 50% Green Group absent from Council'. For those of you who don't know there are only 4 us. One of our 4, Cllr Julie Stewart-Turner had to leave the meeting as she was a Governor for Newsome High School, a Specialist Sports College and had an interest in the motion, and Cllr Graham Simpson was late because he was attending a Tenants Association meeting. So a rather unpleasant attack on the Greens who were actually supporting a Lib Dem Amendment. I thought they could do with all the support they could get at present.

Another Lib Dem Amendment we supported was one on Planning Protocols. The amendment insisted that Cllrs on the Planning Committee attend training on Planning (what else). The Conservaties were opposed to this as many of them hadn't gone to training and were quite happy to spout away in an uninformed fashion at Planning meetings potentially leaving the Council open to challenge during an appeal process. My contribution to the debate was to point out that decisions backed up by knowledge should be more important than simple opinion on planning matters. This provoked a rather unpleasant verbal barrage on me by Conservative Councillor Mrs Christine Smith which I found fairly amusing to be honest. I'm not on her Christmas Card list!

During questions I asked the Labour Cabinet Member Councillor Mr Ken Smith what his opinion was of the impact of the rise in Tuition fees on young people in Kirklees. He gave his view that it was potentially disastrous and agreed to my request to write to the Government to express this view. This provoked much comment from Lib Dem Cllrs who defended the tuition fees policy. This directly contradicted the expressed opinions of Lib Dem Candidates during the General Election which I pointed out (and they ignored). I also asked Cllr Peter O Neill what his views were on 'The Big Society'. He gave me a very full response. So much so that I was unable to get my supplementary question in before time was up unfortunately.

Over 600 people watched the Council meeting on the Web but according to Kath Pinnock webcasting of Council meetings 'doesn't work'. Yes there have been some technical issues that some people have encountered but generally it has gone pretty well. I think the problem for Kath is that it was a Green Party proposal and that gives her a rather jaundiced view on the subject. Cest la vie.

After the meeting I collected a large sealed envelope with the papers for the 'Star Chamber' meeting on Friday and Monday to discuss the Kirklees Budget for the next year. In the envelope are the officers views of how we will acheive the Lib Dem/Con Governments spending cuts. This will not make pleasant reading.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Snowlar Panels

Snow has had a not unexpected impact on my solar panels. A thick covering of snow does not make for a good flow of solar electricity. At lower temperatures photovoltaic panels generally operate more efficiently but as there is less available light during the winter months the benefit of the increased efficiency is negligible.

Among the usual letter writers in the Examiner last week was one Bernard McGuin ex Tory Candidate for Newsome. He focussed on my support for renewable energy and the financial subsidies for it. Amongst the ramblings and many inaccuracies (photovoltaics do not heat houses Bernard they create electricity) was the assertion that solar photovoltaic panels need a lot of maintenance. As there are no moving parts and it is a solid state product that's clearly not the case. Some of the first panels installed in Japan 40 years ago, on lighthouses, are still working. Panels do slowly lose efficiency (as all things do) over time but are warrantied for up to 25 years.

Clearly Mr McGuin is no expert but he does have opinions and that's important. So above is my demonstration of some of the maintenace requirements of solar panels

Thursday, 2 December 2010

sNOw Insulation

Thermal imaging cameras can cost thousands of pounds but everytime it snows we have the opportunity to do a check of how effective our loft insulation is. I went down the street in Newsome today knocked on a couple of doors with clear roofs and referred them to the Kirklees free insulation scheme. Wish I'd tucked my shirt in!

Here's the Press Release from work.

Monday, 29 November 2010

I wish I'd said..........

I was on the gogglebox on Sunday for the Yorkshire and Humber bit of The Politics Show. My brief was well, 'brief'. I was told that I would be talking about transport policy. There was to be Lord Lucas (not Lucan mores the pity) down the line from London who would talk about the fact that Councils are wanting to charge more for parking tickets and about the possibility that in addition to the cuts that Councils could be asked to repay millions in parking fines due to poorly painted yellow lines and incorrect signage. This is just what we need more money taken off councils when we're being asked to make huge swingeing cuts. I was to come in after the Lord when they widened it out to a more general discussion about transport. In reality there was very little time for that and I just made the link between this policy and the lack of revenue Councils had for jobs and services following government cuts. As I wandered home towards the station after the interview I realised the line I wanted to say,

"Don't you realise that Councils have to raise these fines and cut jobs and services for local people. I mean otherwise how are the banks going to be able to afford to pay some of their staff huge bonuses if we were to tax them instead."

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Supermarket Sweep?

Dale Winton of Supermarket Sweep fame.
The Con Dems (Greenest Government Ever?) have made a good decision regarding their developing Green Deal. This Coalition Government programme will be delivering energy efficiency measures to householders commencing in Autumn 2012. According to the DECC Minister Greg Barker Local Authorities will have a strategic role in the delivery of the Green Deal in their areas they will also be able to bid to become Green Deal Providers in their own areas and deliver their programmes on a street by street basis. Previously Barker had repeatedly referred to Supermarkets as the deliverers of choice despite their lack of experience in delivering these programmes and some fairly lacklustre attempts to deliver insulation to householders. There now seems to have been a bit of a change in tack. As always the devil is in the detail and there remains the issue of whether or not the Green Deal will actually be a compelling offer to householders.

We need to understand how 'the Golden Rule' will work, which says that any savings made will greater than the cost for paying back the measures. With so many different house types, with different usage patterns, different heating requirements this is going to be a tall order and if the golden rule isn't convincing for all householders whatever their circumstances then confidence in the Green Deal will be severely shaken. The other good news is that Private Landlords could be fined if they don't improve the energy efficiency of  their dwellings, with Local Councils being able to penalise them up to £5000 for non compliance.

This is all good stuff and credit where its due. I don't however believe that Greg's yet given up on his supermarkets as a major deliverer. Lets hope its not a clean (supermarket) sweep when it comes to who actually does the Green Deal and Local Authorities that demonstrate the capability to deliver also get the opportunity.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Feed In Frenzy?

A solar farm under construction
The Feed In Tariff for renewable electricity is working and working well. So well, that the Con Dems are already contemplating cutting back on it. When the scheme comes up for review in 2012 they are planning on ‘reducing projected costs by £40 million by 2014-15’. You have to wonder why though. Government does not pay for the Feed In Tariff through taxation, we all do through our energy bills so why is government so concerned? They would have been right to be concerned about ensuring that lower income customers benefit from the FIT through solar installations on their properties but fairrness doesn’t seem to be a priority for this government. 

Though 2014-15 sounds a long way off DECC Minister Greg Barker has said that,

“in the event of deployment running ahead of published projections would we bring forward that review. But, to reassure the industry further, we will announce the trigger for such an early review shortly”.

So there we have it if the policy is working too well the FIT will be cut and soon we will know the limit of the government’s ambition for FIT funded renewables.

Another aspect for concern is the Government’s desire to limit large scale ‘solar PV farms’. This statement by Greg Barker in the House of Commons last week sent shivers through the solar industry,

“we inherited a system that simply failed to anticipate industrial-scale, stand-alone, greenfield solar, and, although we will not act retrospectively, large field-based developments should not be allowed to distort the available funding for roof-based PV, other PV and other types of renewables.

This is clearly nonsense. The Conservatives supported the Feed In Tariff in opposition and were fully aware of the 5MW limit on installations. What is described by Greg Barker as ‘greenfield’ developments could equally be large installations on derelict, brownfield land with little agricultural or amenity value. Far from distorting the market for microgeneration these large PV developments could help drive down the costs of renewables for householders by growing the solar industry and creating large economies of scale.

The Government, and particularly the Lib Dems, have made great play of the fact that they will now allow Councils to keep the revenue they make from renewables through the FIT. A prime example is Cornwall Council which is soon to install a 5MW array and this will be a real money spinner for the Council at a difficult time.  One of the greatest opportunities for Councils to make back some of the money taken from jobs and vital services in the cuts could be from large scale PV arrays on land that otherwise would have no value to them or to the communities they serve. It now appears that the Government are effectively removing that solar silver lining from their cloud of cuts.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Newsome South Methodist Church - Sponsor a Solar Panel!

Newsome South Methodist Church are planning to put solar panels on the roof of their church to generate electricity for the building and help save money and the environment at the same time. The panels will be available for everyone to look and will have a display meter in the lobby area showing people how much electricity is being generated at that moment in time and how much has been generated over the life of the panels. There will be an information board below the meter telling people how the panels work and where they can get more information for getting panels for their own home business or community building. Next to the information board we will have a sponsorship board where we will display the names of individuals and companies who have contributed array. The sponsorship board will take the form of a mock up graphical solar panel with sponsors names and details going in each individual cell that makes up a panel.

A £5000 sponsorship target

To put the panels on the church roof will cost around £15,000. We believe we can raise around £10’000 from grants and other fundraising so we are aiming to raise around £5000 from sponsorship. If 100 individuals pledge a minimum of £50 we reach our target. If companies also provide sponsorship this will make the target easier to achieve.

Individual Sponsorship

Individual sponsorship will be £50 each. If a number of people wish to club together to sponsor a cell

(up to a maximum of 5 at £10 each) they are very welcome to do so.

If you want to organise a fundraising event to help riase your £50 please let us know and we'll help you promote it

Company Sponsorship

Company sponsorship will be £100 each. As well as your company name you may put your contact details and a brief sentence explaining what your company does.

What do I do next?

At this stage we are looking for pledges from individuals and companies. So if you are interested in sponsorship please contact Councillor Andrew Cooper with your name and contact details at and whether you are an individual or company sponsor and we will contact you in the New Year when we expect the project to commence. If you have any queries regarding this please get in touch.

Monday, 8 November 2010

2010 - The Year We Made Energy

It's been a landmark day in our household. Our 'Dunsley Yorkshire' Wood Boiler was fitted today. It will provide heating and hot water and is an approved appliance for smoke control areas. The added bonus is that it is made in Holmfirth a couple of miles away. It is connected to our thermal store as is our gas boiler and solar thermal system. It also has a hot plate on the top so we can cook on it if the mood takes us. So though we have a stone built edwardian house it's carbon emissions should be pretty low. Our solar thermal and solar PV systems were installed in March and we signed up to Good Energy for our electricity and gas.

It's taken a while but I think we're becoming 'green'

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Lies and the lying liars who tell them

Phil Woolas Labour MP (as was) has lost his seat for lying in his election literature. It was pretty unpleasant stuff that Mr Woolas put out about his Lib Dem opponent but there really is heavy irony here. Having been in politics a good number of years I've seen some dodgy leaflets from Labour in Newsome but the dodgiest I have seen from all over the place has to be the Lib Dems. The incredibly spurious graphs they produce indicating how high their support is supposedly is one example. When challenged about these tactics I usually get a sort of half embarrassed smile and the words 'well that's politics' as if that were some excuse for having no standards on the paper you stick through electors doors. There was the nonsense they put out accusing the Green Party of calling for lower insulation standards for Council tenants. Scandalous an undefensible but Lib Dem tactics through and through.

Of course we have the Lib Dems in government who's election priorities bear little relation to those of the coalition e.g. Trident, nuclear power, tuition fees etc etc. Are we going to be able to take the whole Lib Dem Parliamentary Party to court for lying in their literature? No of course we can't because if they actually had won the election they would of course delivered on their promises - yeah right. The problem they have right now is that it is difficult to spot the Liberal morsels in the Coalition amidst the devastation that is being wrought in their name.  Anyway for entertainment value here's Captain Ska with 'Liar Liar'. How come Ska comes into its own when there are Tory Governments (sorry Tory/Lib Dem Govts)?

Friday, 29 October 2010

Oil - The glass is half empty

This week saw the publication of 'The Post Peak World' by Dr Colin Campbell of the Institute for Policy Research and Development. It says that we have already passed the peak of oil discovery and that production of oil and gas from fossil sources will inevitably decline. Given much of our civilisation is based on fossil fuels this is disturbing reading. The concept of peak oil is well established and has moved from a concern of environmentalists to well informed former oil company insiders. The oil companies themselves play down the peak oil debate and their own brand of denial pushes the issue down the political agenda. But it is coming.

Dr Campbell outlines a future where oil goes up to 100 dollars a barrel and where the world population falls by billions to a level half what it is today in 40 years. All pretty apocalyptic stuff.  Modern food production is highly dependent on oil and therefore food production and prices are highly sensitive to the cost and availabity of oil. It seems crazy that we are actually using oil to produce plastic bags and useless plastic rubbish from mainly China when oil should be used carefully and sparingly. It gives an additional push for renewable energy in a post oil world.

Today I've been in a Council briefing on the Kirklees budget issues we face and quite rightly we are looking at how we deal with the cuts being passed down by central government and it is truly horrendous. We are as we know 'in a deficit situation' a financial deficit and the Tories (and Lib Dems) tells us we are living way beyond our needs. Whereas money is an artificial construct, oil is a very real commodity and a limited resource which we have been using at an alarming rate. We are effectively in an 'oil and gas deficit' with consequences which affect our very civilisation. We have to really understand and accept there's a problem before it can be addressed. We have a long way to go in a short time.

We have been here before of course back in the 70s with the OPEC crisis which prompted a flurry of concern about oil depletion and apocalpyptic films which the deniers point to as 'proof' that the peak oilers are crying 'wolf'. The other charge of course is that there is some sort of hankering to live in the past and that talk of  a transition to a low oil (and carbon) economy is anti - progress. This sort of talk is just dodging the issue, the problem exists and we have to find ways of dealing with it some of this will be using technology  to take us to a low carbon future and yes there will probably be some old skills that we have to employ to boost local food production. Anyway to reinforce a few prejudices about peak oilers here's 'Heavy Horses' by Jethro Tull from 1978 about a time when the 'Oil Barons have run dry' and when we will be using horses again to work the land.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Lib Dems - They don't like it up em!

Seeing a Lib Dem motion to Kirklees congratulating the Coalition Govt on it's commitment to tackling climate change was somewhat annoying having seen cut after cut in energy programmes and broken promises associated with the new feed in tariff. So the Green Party Amendment listed many of these and annoyed the Lib Dems because of the length of the amendment but then there were a lot of cuts and broken promises. They also claimed the amendment was inaccurate but never really identified exactly what was inaccurate about it. There was an inaccuracy in the amendment. It said that funding for the Green Investment Bank had been scaled down from £6Billion to £2 Billion. Following the Spending Review yesterday this figure went down to £1Billion. Our apologies!

The focus of the Lib Dem motion was the new right for Councils to sell renewable electricity they generate back to the grid and this is indeed welcome but there are a few 'howevers'. One particular 'however' is the fact that a promise to extend the Feed In Tariff to early adopters of renewable technologies such as pioneers like Kirklees has now been dropped by the Coalition government. This means that thousands of  pounds worth of funds that could have come to Kirklees now will not. The Lib Dems called for a Green Energy Action Plan to take advantage of the Feed In Tariffs. At no point in the debate did they mention the programmes already being planned such as the £650k worth of PV for Council Buildings or the £12 million for Council buildings, probably because they've had nothing to do with it. You can imagine however that a few months down the line a Lib Dem leaflet will appear somehow linking themselves with these developments. They do have some form in this regard. They poured scorn on the Green Party amendments for a free area based solar photovoltaic programme across Kirklees saying it was 'unaffordable' and a 'fantasy'. They are clearly not following developments in the capital financing of PV projects across the country where all the capital costs and more of the projects are being met by the feed in tariff. Indeed businesses are being set up seemingly weekly offering free PV. A Council led scheme could offer value for money and spread the benefit to households beyond those which are dead on due south with large roofs.

Anyway for your delectation here is the Lib Dem Motion and the Green Amendment. For the record the Green amendment was defeated by the Cons and Lib Dems but was supported by many Labour Cllrs. The Lib Dem motion was passed.

Lib Dem motion

Coalition Government's Commitment to Tackling Climate Change

This Council congratulates the Coalition Government for their positive commitment to tackling climate change.

Council welcomes the decision by the Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne to allow local councils to sell renewable energy to the grid, overturning a ban on this activity by the previous Government.

Council recognises that we have a vital role to play in the switch to a new low carbon economy. This decision will allow us to take full advantage of the feed-in tariff and deliver long term benefits to support services delivered by this council.

The availability of feed in tariffs will provide this council with an opportunity to generate a significant income and reduce our energy bills via increased micro generation.

This Council therefore calls upon the Cabinet to urgently develop a “Green Energy Action Plan” to maximise the benefits and identify potential savings that can be delivered via the use of feed-in tariffs.

Green Party Amendment

Delete all after ‘This Council’ insert

‘questions the Coalition Government’s commitment to tackling climate change based on:-

• the breaking of a promise by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats prior to the election to include early adopters of solar panels such as Kirklees in the Feed In Tariff

• the abolition of the Yorkshire and Humber Regional Spatial Strategy which would have provided strong policies to encourage microgeneration in new buildings.

• the breaking of a commitment by the Liberal Democrats not to support new nuclear power stations the cost of which will now be borne by the public.

• the end of a commitment by the previous government to insulate all lofts and cavity walls where technically possible to 2020.

• the abolition of the Sustainable Development Commission which actually saved the Government money.

• Cuts of £12.6m from The Carbon Trust's grant for low carbon technology and business support funding from DECC

• Cuts of £4.7m by cancelling final rounds of Bio-Energy Capital Grants Scheme and Bio-Energy Infrastructure Scheme

• Cuts of £3m by reducing the scope of the Offshore Wind Capital Grants Scheme

• Cuts of £3m from closing the Low Carbon Buildings Programme early

• £2.9m cuts by reducing the scope of the government's Low Carbon Technology Programme

• £1m cut to funding for development of deep geothermal energy generation

• £700,000 cut by the closing of renewable technology trials early

• The damage caused to the solar thermal, biomass and heat pump industry by the long period of speculation over the future of the Renewable Heat Incentive

• The damage caused to the solar PV and small wind industry by long speculation over the future of the Feed In Tariff

• The reported reduction in the Feed In Tariff by 10%

• The halving in funding for Carbon Capture and Storage Projects

• The reduction in funding from the proposed £6Billion to £2 Billion for the Green Investment Bank

• The proposed abolition of the Warm Front scheme for Low Income households

• The 10% increase in funding for nuclear decommissioning

• The cancelling of the Severn Barrage which could have provided 5% of the UK's electricity needs

This Council has the following concerns about the Coalition Government’s ‘Green Deal’

• An over emphasis on supermarkets as the deliverer of the Green Deal when clearly Council schemes such as the free insulation provided by Kirklees Council demonstrably deliver high numbers of measures while schemes lead by supermarkets have performed poorly.

• The reported omission of microgeneration from the Green Deal finance package

• A loan mechanism will not be the most cost effective way of funding low cost measures such as loft and cavity wall insulation.

This Council calls on the Coalition Government to ensure the Green Deal

• makes Councils a key partner and/or deliverer of the programme.

• enables area based approaches for the delivery of insulation and microgeneration measures

• has a cost effective way of delivering low cost measures such as insulation measures

This Council calls on the Cabinet to

• develop a free area based solar photovoltaic programme to be made available to all households where technically possible and where there is no impact on Council budgets.

• Add carbon reduction as a 5th Council Priority

• Develop a comprehensive action plan to reduce carbon which based including energy conservation, energy efficiency, behavioral change and green energy.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Blooming Bonkers

Thursday this week I returned to my old sixth form Greenhead College for a Green Question Time session. No Labour or Conservative representatives were available but the 'Greenest Government Ever' was represented by Liberal Democrat Cllr Ann Denham and we had the treat of a UKIP representative in the form of Godfrey Bloom MEP. He's a fully paid up climate change denier and believes its all part of a conspiracy to make lots of money. I of course got stuck into him and defended his right to believe manmade climate chamge didn't exist, I also said I would defend his right to believe in Pixies if he so wished. All good fun but it was the students who really impressed me. After Godfrey told them not to accept anything they were told at face value they took him at his word and relentlessly challenged him on the rather dodgy 'evidence' he presented. Godfrey's the chap who has referred to Greenpeace as terrorists and defended the action of the French when they blew up the Rainbow Warrior killing one of the crew. He also has some rather 'traditional' some may say old fashioned views about the role of women. He had a young familiar in the audience who blamed Greenpeace for the deaths of thousands from malaria in Africa due to their opposition to the widespread use of DDT. You could spot him he was the only one in a suit. The Greenhead Students rounded on him too.

Godfrey represents a constituency of opinion, not one of knowledge, not of logic, just opinion. There is a foaming mouth tendency among certain folk which is reflected by groups like the Taxpayers Alliance, the Daily Mail and of course UKIP. They recognise cost but not value, they would rather be wrong than be seen as 'politically correct' and they don't just deny climate change but change and reality in general. The problem is with people like Godfrey being simple folk is they give simplistic explanations of the world around them, that linked with his cut price Boris Johnson characteristics means that he can be a hit with a not too discriminating audience. This definitely wasn't the case at Greenhead College however.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

The Denby Dale Passivhaus

Here's a film about the Denby Dale Passivhaus completed this year. I saw it during construction an at its opening and I'm incredibly impressed by the work the groundbreaking work the Green Building Company have done on this project. The estimated heating costs are around £75/year and around £100 for the hot water (though the solar thermal system may reduce that cost). It is of national significance as it uses cavity construction and so could by replicated by the building industry across the UK. The commitment to reducing energy demand through airtightness, super insulation standards and heat recovery ventilation is impressive. Great to see such an important project in the Huddersfield area.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Flocking to Grange Moor as the Eco Childrens Centre opens

Sheepswool insulation ready to be rolled out.
Today was the opening of a new Childrens Centre in Grange Moor in the Kirkburton Ward. It's a real acheivement for Kirklees and has a very high green specification. The walls are highly insulated with wool from local sheep, it has a green roof using sedum and is heated using an air sourced heat pump. Most importantly the kids, the local mums and dads and the staff like the building. I and Parish Cllr Michelle Atkinson were lucky enough to look round the building during construction and experienced first hand the enthusiasm of the builders for the eco features of the new centre they were working on. One particularly satisfying thing was that it was partly financed by the Renewable Energy Fund established by the Green Party in a budget amendment over 10 years ago now. I mentioned this to one of the Conservative Councillors in Kirkburton Ward today and she got all unnecessarily unpleasant asking what I was doing there. I came up with a bizarre spurious answer saying I was a Kirkburton Parish Councillor and it's a Childrens Centre for the whole of the Kirkburton area. Dubious I know.

Parish Cllr Michelle Atkinson with the wool
With the price of wool dropping , finding a new insulation market for sheepswool could be a real boon for many hill farmers. It won't replace mineral fibre wool overnight but it could play an increasingly important role in prestige buildings where the low embodied energy of construction products will be valued. From this base sheepswool could go on to become a much more mainstream product. Here's a picture of Michelle doing what you couldn't do with fibre glass insulation without gloves and and a paper suit.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Who is going to clean your house George?

A blue feather duster

George Osborne's announcement that there is to be a new cap placed on Housing Benefit for people in areas with higher rents is going to make it less likely that we have mixed communities with a range of incomes.

Far from being workless many households on very low incomes have family members carrying out low paid jobs such as cleaning streets, homes and offices. Of course many can, and do, contribute to the rents to the tenant of the property, usually the parents. The tenant could be retired or unable to work due to illness or disability. All this new cut will mean to the tenants or occupants of these homes is a reduction in their income and possibly further pricing them out of the communities that they may have lived in for many years.

This is actually part of a confused theme running through this government of moving  people on low incomes around the country. It was only a few months ago that we had Iain Duncan- Smith telling us that he wanted families in council houses in deprived areas to move to council houses in affluent areas so they could get work - see link. There were many echoes of Norman Tebbit's 'On yer bike' speech from the 80s. Of course as we know it was a non policy as there are huge waiting lists for limited numbers of council houses,(Conservative /Labour 'Right to Buy' policies) and this is more pronounced in more affluent areas. So where would these job seekers go if they want to clean George Osbourne's floor? That's right, to the private rented sector but haven't we capped the benefits making it more difficult for them to live near George. Yes we have. Of course the real answer is to put a cap on the rents not on the benefits but that would put a cap on the earnings of private landlords which may not go down too well with some Conservatives who may have interests in this area of the economy. The only crumb of comfort is the unlikely vision of George Osborne having to clean his own house.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

The pickled politics behind local government budget cuts

Jabba the Hut - Intergalactic Gangster
The annual Kirklees Council budget setting process has begun and early. It is usually another couple of months before everything kicks off from a Councillor point of view, but what with the governments cuts agenda it pays to start early I guess. Last Saturday we had a meeting at the Deighton Centre to kick the process off. The meeting was not an official Council meeting, no decisions are made there and the idea is to inform Councillors and to explore ideas for handling the truly terrible economic situation the government(s) have put us in. The meeting is held under budget protocols meaning that Cllrs are free to express ideas without them being reported wider so as not to 'send hares running' on things that may or may not happen. So what can I tell you? All Parties on the Council were represented, around 18 Councillors present, the Chief Exec and around 4 other Senior Council officers. The background to much of what was discussed is known with anywhere between 25% and 40% cuts in budgets. It doesn't take a genius to work out that this will mean some very difficult choices going forward and a lot of pain. You can imagine how I felt reading an article in'First' magazine by Eric Pickles MP, the Communities and Local Government Minister entitled, 'A new golden age'. It was all about localism or as Eric puts it,

"Instead of demanding that councils report back to me on everything they do, it means expecting that they become much more accountable to local residents instead"

So lets get this right, the Coalition Government cuts funding to local authorities and then Councillors have to be accountable for the 'choices' they make. Of course there's very little choice in reality. This week has been redundancy/retirement week at Kirklees Council. The numbers of staff leaving the Council is huge,  around 500 are gone with around another 1000 to go over the next few months but even this will not be enough services will have to be cut further to satisfy government demands or as Eric puts it,

"For the first time, councils will have real power and a real say over how money gets spent. "

another particularly irritating quote,

"We've cut the apron strings which have tied (Councils) to Whitehall for too long, giving them freedom to act on behalf of their residents,"

This is just utter tosh and a degree of spin that would make Mandelson blush (OK maybe not). People are being 'freed' of local facilities, services and income. He makes a virtue of getting rid of reporting such as that needed for the Comprehensive Performance Assessment and more reporting to citizens on how ther money is spent. OK but we do need to report on the impact on public services, the jobs lost, the impact on the wider economy, the health and social impact of cuts, the loss of public facilities. The Conservatives and their Lib Dem henchmen should not be allowed off the hook for their actions.

They are accountable too!


Thursday, 30 September 2010

How to survive having a politician brother

Richard Cooper
 It's not been a good week for Ed with brother David taking his bat and ball home. So I thought I'd share my views of having a political brother.

Mr brother, Richard got elected as a Councillor in Harrogate at the same election as me in 1999. He was also a paid political agent for a while as I was. He was on the Cabinet at Harrogate Council for a number of years as was I in Kirklees. We've pretty much managed successfully to avoid stepping on each others toes and rivalry for key Party positions is highly unlikely.

So long as he remains in the Conservative Party we should be OK!

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Me, Mr Ed and the Earth Centre

My Ed Miliband anecdote is from the General Election Campaign where we both appeared on 'The Politics Show' at the doomed Earth Centre near Conisborough. On the panel was Paul Scriven Sheffield Council Leader and General Election Candidate, Mr Ed himself, a Tory replicant candidate recently let out of the factory that produces them, a mad woman from the BNP who blamed climate change on immigrants (where from? - Mars) and yours truly. Ed was of course unashamedly pro nuclear despite no real work having being done to prove the necessity for nuclear power - its just something people say "We need nuclear or the lights will go out - no really they will". What struck me about Ed was how mind bogglingly serious he was. I don't remember him smiling once. I'm sure he does on occasions. One of the BBC North reporters, Len Tingle, asked me, off camera, if I ever dreamt of being on a panel with Ed Miliband? I was charactaristically undeferential suggesting Ed might benefit from the encounter more than I would given our respective records on tackling climate change.

Avast me hearties, the Earth Centre pirate ship.

The venue, the Earth Centre, is a real tragedy. A reasonable idea at the time it was opened just over 10 years ago. A top of the range environmental awareness raising centre it has now been abandoned for the last 6 years and there's a local campaign to bring it back into use.There are low energy buildings, reed bed serviced bogs, a massive 50kWp solar array and a mock Pirate Ship, which my son Dominic played on when we visited it around 7 years ago. It was a nice, if a bit of a pricey day out. A couple of years ago I was asked to have a look around the site by Doncaster Council to give a few opinions on how the site could be brought back into use or at least pay its way. My suggestion was to put some significant size wind turbines on the large Earth Centre site to generate electricity and some valuable revenue to at least help support the site and possibly bring some much needed cash to the Council. The Council has been able to make some cash from the Earth Centre as a film location for a post apocalyptic HQ following a plague in the BBC series 'Survivors'. The Earth Centre was ideal and the only thing they had to CGI on the skyline to complete the picture were some large wind turbines.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

"We're all in it together" - if you use Public Transport

Huddersfield's Free Town bus
I was contacted this week for comment by 'The Examiner' on the cuts to bus services by the West Yorkshire Integrated Transport Authority - Metro. There are proposed cuts to the Free Town Bus Services in town centres around West Yorkshire, including Huddersfield, reductions in early morning and rural services. Interestingly one of the comments on the Examiner Website article says,

"Cllr Andrew Cooper is playing party politics as it is not the government that is choosing to cut this service. The decision is a local one!"
You have to ask yourself what cuts passed down by national government could the West Yorkshire Integrated Transport Authortity make that aren't to public transport! It is what they do after all. If the government gets off the hook as easily with the chap who said this they can cut us to oblivion with impunity.

Of course the people who rely on these bus services are often people who don't have access to a car and in many cases that is because they simply can't afford it. Huddersfield Town Centre is built on a slope. From St Patricks Catholic Centre down Westgate to the Beast Market you are walking down hill. If you go shopping at theKingsgate Centre and are getting the bus home then its a long way uphill especially if you have mobility problems or are getting on a bit. For these people the Free Town Bus Service is a godsend. Ultimately this is down to Government spending cuts and cutting the budget deficit. Of course politics is about choices so lowering the upper tax threshold to incomes over £100k? No. A Robin Hood Tax on financial transactions? No. Tougher action on banks and bankers bonuses? No. Cutting bus services? Yes!

Then of course there are the environmental implications of a diminished public transport sector but then this is "the Greenest Government ever".

Sunday, 19 September 2010

What! The "Greenest Government Ever" breaks a promise

The Roman God Janus. Apt in so many ways to this article.
When the Feed In Tarrif was introduced in April this gave a much needed boost to the microgeneration sector particularly those installing solar photovoltaic panels. One disappointment however was that only installations fitted after July 15th 2009 would qualify. So all those pioneers who had helped keep the industry alive before the tarrif was announced would receive only 9p/kWh while those new installers would get 43.1p kWh. The Conservatives prior to election promised to include all microgenerators in the tarrif. Rather than me repeat the sorry tale in detail heres a link to the excellent Yougen blog which details it.
I guess from this blogs point of view I should detail how this will affect Kirklees. Well, we have been installing solar panels on Council houses and council buildings all through the noughties mainly funded through the Renewable Energy Fund established by the Green Party. Chris Huhne Lib Dem DECC Minister's decision is therefore disappointing to say the least. It doesn't stop us moving forward with existing schemes but it can hardly be regarded as 'fair' - the touchstone word of this government.

The really irritating thing is that it would have cost very little. It could have beeen limited to microgeneration installations fitted under government supported programmes. This should have been a fairly manageable number. As the Feed In Tarrif is funded through utilities it would not have affected public sector budgets.. The impact on the populations fuel bills would have been hardly noticeable and it would have helped hundreds of households in Kirklees Council housing on the very lowest incomes have a few hundred more pounds in their pockets. It would have been a small step towards a fairer and greener society but sadly not to be.

The next key date is October 20th when the Spending Review reveals what the GGE 'Greenest Government Ever' is going to make of the proposed Renewable Heat Incentive. There are also concerns about how it will treat the existing Feed In Tariff. Lets see what happens. I promise to say something nice about the Coalition Government at the next opportunity. May it be soon.

There's the no such thing as (the BIG) society

Newsome's 'Big Society' Clean Up Gang. 

Margaret Thatcher famously informed us that that there was no such thing as 'Society' now her latest Conservative successor David Cameron not only believes Society exists but he wants it to be 'big' as well. This comes as surprise to many of us who were sure David Cameron believed in society but only 'High Society'. OK that's got the Posh Tory jibes out of my system and onto the subject of  the 'Big Society'.

A central belief of 'The Big Society' is that services are better delivered by individuals, community groups and charities rather than public bodies and a belief that we need to 'turn government completely on it's head'. There is also a belief that somehow people's natural desire to improve their communities is being stifled by local or central government and that barriers need to be removed to enable the Big Society to flourish. As David Cameron said in July "stop us from stopping you do things for your area".

What comes to mind is a conversation the Newsome Green Party Team had in a pub in the late 90s where we believed we were no longer just community activists but the providers of services. In fact as I remember it we went as far as to say we had become not merely Councillors but an alternative to Council Services. We started to list all the things we did or did with volunteers in the area. When buses were removed from service over the Christmas holiday period we brought in a free volunteer bus service, when areas got heavily littered we organised skips and clean up teams to clear rubbish, when no recycling services existed Councillor Graham Simpson did a waste paper collection round to many households around the Newsome area. I even stretched the point to the limit and suggested that at its height our casework gathering in Council estates was estate management. Like all conversations after a few beers the case may have been overstressed but there was a still a lot of truth there. While believing in voluntarism there was still a strong element of campaigning (and shaming) of the public sector to pick up the slack of inadequate provision in the Newsome area. So the waste paper collections played their part in encouraging Kirklees to put more effort into household recycling, the Christmas Buses pushed Metro into provision of services on Boxing Day at least. So if anything much as we believed in the power of people doing things for themselves we also believed that the public sector could do more than it was doing not less..

The role of the 'Big Society' should not be to replace the management  and provision of publicly funded services but to enhance them to provide additionality to what is provided already. The classic example in Newsome is 'Growing Newsome'. Volunteers working together on local food projects doing the level of detailed work that would never be provided by the Council nor should it be. This is individuals coming together with passion and commitment on a project which should be more fun than worthy. If the Big Society is not about additionality it is by definition about changing the management of local services from the public sector  to charities or community groups. There may be some limited value in this. For instance I can imagine a strong role for the Fuel Poverty Charity, National Energy Action in taking on the role of managing and monitoring progress on action to improve energy efficiency taking powers away from DECC and possibly local authorities. I just wonder whether taking powers from central government is what Dave actually meant. It would be interesting to test this.

Capacity and enthusiasm are the keys to successful volunteer action. A lot of people are simply not interested. Why support local food projects when there's so much quality Reality TV to watch. Those who are interested may have lots of different commitments limiting their capacity and eventually people will get bored of growing marrows for the community (or whatever) and want to move onto something else. This is one reason why we need to think very carefully before core services are moved from the Public Sector for the sake of those people who rely on them.

A classic example of the 'Big Society' gone bad is the concept of 'Free Schools' where parents or charities can get together to run and manage a local school. This will undoubtably unfairly skew financial provision from publicly funded schools to once run by religious organisations or discontented parents who can't justify a school in their area under normal circumstances. Again this would not be additional provision it would be a dubious way of creating yet more inequality in our stupid 'choice' based education system. (Don't get me started!)

A real test of the Government's commitment to the Big Society would be to actually public fund it rather than doing a one off trawl of dormant bank accounts. If it really believes it will deliver better more efficient and cost effective services it would be worth it, wouldn't it?

Monday, 30 August 2010

Zero Commitment

News that the 'GGE' (Greenest Government Ever) is watering down the Labour Government's commitment to make zero carbon homes mandatory for new build by 2016 is disappointing. I guess this also means that the commitment to make all new buildings 'zero carbon' by 2019 is also

The 2016 target always stood out as an ambitious government aim and you had to ask yourself why a Labour government that was so lamentable on its action to reduce the emissions of existing homes was being so stringent on new properties. Predictably the members of the Home Builders Federation were resistant from the start and increased cost of building for their membership would be a constant pressure to dilute the target. Ironically the feed in tariff for renewable electricity could completely negate the cost of installing solar photovoltaic panels for developers by assigning the tariff to them ( and would provide them with an income to boot). This could also be the same for renewable heat technologies dependent on the outcome of the Renewable Heat Incentive consultation in October. So ironically the 'eco-bling' as its critics call it, the highest cost could cost the developer nothing and indeed make them a profit.

The Denby Dale Passivhaus
So the real question is around the thermal performance standard of new build housing, the insulation, the airtightness, the recovery of heat through ventilation. The emphasis on the importance of this in the design has been stressed by proponents of the Passivhaus approach where addressing the need for energy demand during the design and construction phase is paramount. Here in Huddersfield, where else, we are ahead of the game with the Denby Dale Passivhaus. This was constructed for a private owner by the Green Building Company and it has raised serious questions about the governments Code for Sustainable Homes on which the Zero Carbon Standard was to be based. Ironically their property would only acheive a Code Level 3 on the Code for Sustainable Homes because of it's calculation methodology not because of its actual carbon emissions. So to put it clearly, one of the best performing homes in the UK in terms of thermal performance ever would be illegal if the zero carbon homes standard became law but would probably produce less emissions. There's some great resources on how the property was constructed including Bill Butcher's excellent construction diary here.

So what are we to conclude from all this. Well the government would not be right to water down the Code for  Sustainable Homes if anything it should be tightened up. Should we ignore microgeneration as many in the Passivhaus movement suggest? I don't think so, electricity consumption by homes remains an issue and if anything the use of photovoltaics should be mandatory on new build houses and the financial mechanisms that make this possible should be retained. The rumblings are that government is looking again at the tariff levels for the feed in tariff. Let's hope that if they are it doesn't take us backwards.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Harvest Time

 Down at Malvern Road allotments in Primrose Hill it's harvest time! This was a disused allotment brought back into use following a successful budget bid by Green Cllrs which saw an expansion of allotment facilities across Kirklees. Ironically it is difficult to see such a programme getting funding today but because it was funded people are able to grow their own food cheaply at a time of rising household bills and rising unemployment locally.

The rising role of allotments obviously fits very well into the Growing Newsome agenda link and there is a community allotment at Ashenhurst that needs volunteers to help. Contact Growing Newsome guru Diane Sims to volunteer your services

Our allotment has produced loads of spuds, peas, beans, cabbage, turnips and marrows and marrows and marrows which were courgettes before I went on holiday. Our kids don't like marrow so they've been eating it quite happily mashed into pasta sauce until I told them. I then explained the many uses of marrows including the fact that if you mash marrow and banana together you get marajuana. If I ever find evidence he's tried doing this he really will be in trouble!


Friday, 27 August 2010

Thanks to all those who voted for Greening Kirklees in the Total Politics Blog Awards. Apparently 2200 people voted in the Awards and my blog came 22nd in the Green Category. Not bad as its been going less than a year.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Green Deal or No Deal?

We've had the first 100 days of the "greenest government ever" and  following on from my post on the subject last month we have a number of other green question marks over the Coalition Government's commitment to addressing climate change.

 In abolishing the Regional Spatial Strategies, where the primary purpose was to abolish housebuilding targets, the government have also abolished the regional renewable energy targets. These were supposed to drive the installation of wind turbines, solar panels and other clean energy sources. With this gone there is very little hope of the UK hitting the EU's 2020 target of 15% of the UKs energy from renewable sources unless government acts quickly to put new policy drivers in place.

There is also concern over the government's commitment to high Environmental Performance Standards for new power stations and whether or not carbon capture and storage technology is yet mature enough as a technology to make coal fired plants viable. It is likely that though the Lib Dems supposedly are against using public money to finance new nuclear power stations that ways will be found in making them a reality. This will probably be though our energy bills. So no public money just the publics money. Fiendish or what!  Despite all the public statements by politicians on the need for nuclear the case has never been properly made. Most opinions on this seem to be based on belief not facts. Lots of evidence contradicting assertions that we need nuclear energy 'to keep the lights on' can be found at

So we are left with reducing energy demand in the home as our best hope for reducing carbon emissions. The 'Green Deal' not the 'Green New Deal' (as promoted by the Green Party at the last election) is what the Government is pinning its hopes on. Roughly the Green Deal will be a loan arrangement linked to the properties energy bills where the cost of measures will be recovered at a rate no greater than the cost of energy saved making it a win win scenario. This is due to be introduced in 2012 as primary legislation will be required to establish the property linked loan. So far so good but the devil is as always in the detail. There are contradictions to overcome. Within a month Greg Barker MP, Tory Climate Change Minister has said solar panels/microgeneration will not be part of Green Deal's finance package and Nick Clegg, Lib Dem leader has said they will. There are questions over whether simple cost effective insulation measures are best dealt with through loan arrangements in value for money terms compared with public/CERT funded area based initiatives like Kirklees Warm Zone. The answer is probably no. So if microgeneration is not to be included and low cost insulation measures are not appropriate that leaves us with solid wall insulation which may be a 'hard sell' for many households. So there are more questions than answers yet and the governments stated belief that somehow finance packages and project management by supermarkets hold the key to reducing household carbon emissions does not bear much examination. If anything it is local authorities in conjunction with energy utility partners that have the best models for delivering mass energy efficiency measures to households not Tescos.

There is always hope however and we need to see what can be done to steer the Green Deal on the right path in a world where public money is tight and where the risk of a double dip recesssion is ever present. There are more questions than answers at present and the danger is that models for delivering energy efficiency to householders are designed by people who have never had to deliver a successful energy efficiency project of this kind using untested policy models but I'm sure the government wouldn't do that!

(Pictured Noel Edmonds creator of Channel 4s Deal or No Deal gameshow and of course Mr Blobby, proponent of cosmic ordering and also an anti wind Campaigner who created the Renewable Energy Foundation that campaigns against renewable energy. I'm not a fan,)

Saturday, 14 August 2010

AGC Chair - Position filled

I have a new job! Pay zero, significant responsibility and opportunities for expansion high.

I attended the Association of Green Councillors Annual Conference in Sheffield and was approached to take on the role of Chair which I refused but after a bit of cajoling and the support of  Deputy Chairs Cllr Darren Johnson (GLA/Lewisham) and Cllr John Marjoram (Stroud District/Stroud Town) I agreed to take on the job.

It's an interesting time. We've been through a fairly tough set of elections at the local level due to the general  and Local Elections being held on the same day. We have made some progress with a number of breakthroughs but significant steps back in London where we lost a number of good committed Cllrs. In Norwich, next month the Green Party could become the largest party on the City Council if they are successful in a series of by-elections in September. Experienced Green Cllrs from across the country could be needed to provide advice to the new administration.  We also need to see how we can coordinate the campaigns of Cllrs with our MEPs and MPs. Vitally we need to respond coherently to the Con Dem cuts agenda at the local level and expose the ideological nature of the public spending cuts which goes well beyond deficit reduction.

Friday, 16 July 2010

How is the "Greenest Government Ever" doing?

It is still early day for the new Government but the early signs are not good for David Cameron's claim that  this would be the 'greenest government ever'. There have been several damaging cuts to what were already pretty miniscule programmes to support low carbon technologies. These have destabilised small renewable industry installers particularly with regard to biomass. With the cancellation of the Low Carbon Buildings Programme grants and uncertainty over the Renewable Heat Incentive struggling biomass installers are up against it.

There was hope by some that the Lib Dems would make the Tories  green rhetoric a reality but little evidence is forthcoming yet. During the election campaign Friends of the Earth released lots of yellow balloons outiside parliament representing all the Lib Dem candidates who had signed up to their key election asks (and a few blue ones). When I asked them why they hadn't released any Green ones for all the Green Party Candidates who had signed FOEs asks (like me!) they said that they went out to buy green ones but there weren't enough. Hmmm..... with 'friends of the earth' like these who needs enemies.

Cuts to low-carbon technology programmes:
- £12.6m from The Carbon Trust's grant for low carbon technology and business support funding from DECC
- £6.1m 'efficiency savings' and under-spending on programme budgets within DECC
- £4.7m by cancelling final rounds of Bio-Energy Capital Grants Scheme and Bio-Energy Infrastructure Scheme
- £3m by reducing the scope of the Offshore Wind Capital Grants Scheme
- £3m from closing the Low Carbon Buildings Fund early
- £2.9m by reducing the scope of the government's Low Carbon Technology Programme
- £1m cut to funding for development of deep geothermal energy generation
- £700,000 by closing the Energy Saving Trust technology trials early

Friday, 9 July 2010

New Carbon Emissions Reduction Targets what the government should do!

There is some good news in the Con Dems new approach to Carbon Emission Reduction Targets for energy utilities. There will be a much greater emphasis on insulation schemes with 68% of the funding going on such schemes and they reckon that around 3.5 million homes will be insulated by December 2012. There is also to be less emphasis on gizmos and gadgets, I guess they mean Energy Display Monitors - which might be a mistake if applied too rigorously. There is however still no statement from the government as to whether or not the previous governments target of insulating all homes by 2015 remains a target. So there are still significant questions over the governments ambition but if schemes like the Kirklees Warm Zone are to take effect what should we be looking for in the new CERT regulations? Here's my top 5 'asks'

Area Based Approaches – Area based approaches will be positively encouraged under new CERT arrangements particularly for insulation based schemes. A minimum of 75% of CERT funding, allocated to insulation measures, should be dedicated to area based insulation programmes. Area Based approaches are by their nature more cost effective as more installations can be carried out in a day by crews working in the same street and better prices can be achieved through the tender process. In this way economies of scale can be more easily realised and reduce the cost of carbon saved.

Local Authority linkages - All area based programmes shall be delivered in partnership with local authorities who will be encouraged to link them with with a income maximization advice/benefits advice package to reduce the likelihood of households being in fuel poverty.

‘Free’ Area Based Approaches – It is recognised that take up of insulation measures is much greater in area based schemes where there is no upfront cost or where the offer is free of charge. In Kirklees it has been shown that 3 times more measures are achieved than ‘Able to Pay’ Warm Zones. Priority should be given by utilities to Area Based Approaches where additional funding is offered by partner organisations (such as local authorities) which enable the scheme to be delivered free of charge to all householders. CERT regulations will be adjusted to encourage these initiatives. An alternative to the universally free insulation offers would be a Pay As You Save type arrangement repaid through energy bills but only if this will be feasible for this round of CERT.

Real Time Displays – It is recognised that Real Time Displays have a real role to play in helping householders reduce electricity consumption and raising awareness of energy use. There is however a danger that they could be the new giveaway taking over from CFLs. We propose that RTDs are only given away to householders as part of area based approaches and are installed in the home and demonstrated to the householder by Energy Advisors trained to at least City and Guilds Energy Awareness level.

Energy Advice – This will be credited by CERT but only where it is delivered in the home as part of an Area Based Scheme by trained staff to at least City and Guilds standard.