Sustainable energy projects must become the future of the United Kingdom’s energy landscape if we are to survive climate change and the depletion of our planet’s finite resources. And encouragingly, despite the UK government’s lack of policy on sustainable solutions, a growing number of community housing groups and not-for-profit organizations are taking matters into their own hands.
In a radio interview on UK Radio Marlow FM this month Howard Johns, Director of Southern Solar and the Solar Trade Association said that one enormous obstacle to the development of clean, renewable energy in the UK is its economic system; “The value of our economy is all based on the valuation of companies. If you look at the FTSE 100 [share index], a lot of the companies there are oil companies or fossil fuel companies. So the valuation of our economy is based on an asset we must never extract unless we want catastrophic global warming.”
Another major cause for concern is the current Coalition Government’s love of temporary but dangerous measures to address the fuel crisis. The recent announcement by UK Prime Minister David Cameron that shale gas must be exploited, with dozens of hydraulic fracking sites already designated, is causing massive concern and opposition amongst both environmental experts and the general public. In response to this, Executive Director of Greenpeace UK John Sauven says; “Pinning the UK’s energy hopes on shale gas is a reckless gamble. We should instead be investing in clean, safe, renewable energy.”
But if economic and governmental short-sightedness, and a lack of policy on sustainable solutions are slowing down “green” energy development, it’s encouraging to know that it’s not stopping people from seeking their own alternatives independently. Across the UK a growing number of community housing groups and not-for-profit organizations are taking matters into their own hands, and helping to create a greener Britain.
And is testament to the power of the people!
Low income families or individuals are particularly vulnerable to fuel poverty brought on by extortionate fuel bills from the Big 6 companies. If the growth of housing cooperatives and associations is a way for low income people and families to have access to affordable housing in a country where only the rich can buy a home, then community renewable energy is a way for communities within these housing projects to avoid rocketing fuel bills, reduce greenhouse gases and democratize their own energy generation.
Brixton Energy is one such community group. Brixton Energy raised its funding through a community share offer, with an expected average annual return on investment of 3% and up to 50% tax relief under the Government’s Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme. Likewise the South Yorkshire Housing Association (SYHA) has equipped over 120 houses with solar panels as part of its flagship renewable energy project, which will save 350 tons of carbon pollution each year. These are just two examples in a vast range of countrywide projects.
In the UK, such large projects with high energy usage often qualify for additional funding, such as the Commercial PPA (Power Purchase Agreement) finance scheme for commercial solar energy, led by industry pioneer and campaigner Howard Johns. It allows groups and businesses to install solar technology without huge upfront costs; installation is paid for through an investment fund, and a low fixed rate means fuel costs won’t change for 20 years.
These kinds of sustainable energy projects have to become the future of the UK’s energy generation landscape if we are to survive climate change and the depletion of our planet’s finite resources. If communities work together, we can hope to gain independence from the monopoly that greedy oil and energy companies have, not only over our fuel, but also our economies.
About the author:
Tara Gould is a writer who covers environmental issues including climate, solar and renewable energy, and green politics in the UK. She is passionate about spreading the word on ‘conscious’ business, and low impact, sustainable ways of running and powering societies, which are crucial for the health of people and planet. She also blogs at ethical-business.eu and ethicalweddings.com