Power to the people! A new independent energy supply company, the first in the UK operating on a non-profit distributing basis, plans to be selling heat and power to tenants in 200,000 homes across Scotland by 2020. Our Power Energy, a subsidiary of Our Power Community Benefit Society, has been founded by 35 member organisations including some of Scotland’s largest housing associations, and local authorities. Scotland's Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil with Kimberley Stoddart, a tenant of West of Scotland Housing Association. Photo: Scottish Government via Flickr (CC BY-NC).
Community Energy Fortnight - to participate is to resist!
11th September 2015
This year's Community Energy Fortnight is taking place at a strange time, writes Jonathon Porritt, with the entire renewable energy industry under government attack as never before. What can we do about it? For a start, by joining in some of the hundreds of events that are taking place across the UK!
Every single event organised through CEF is both an act of defiance and a statement of positive intent. Every email sent, blog posted, and tweet tweeted, strengthens the case we need to make for renewables and efficiency.
This is the first full week of Community Energy Fortnight. It's the third such fortnight, and by far the most important! And that's because there's a war on.
That may sound a bit over the top, and I know how people in this wonderful green movement of ours dislike militaristic metaphors.
But if you suddenly find yourself in the middle of a war zone, which is absolutely not of your own making, you either get involved, however reluctantly, as a fully signed-up combatant, or you let the bastards walk all over you.
It's as simple as that. This Tory Government has declared war on the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries. There is no rationale (let alone strategic logic) behind this, other than to reinforce the case it is now obsessively making for hydrocarbons (particularly gas, and particularly new fracked gas) and for nuclear.
Public opinion? What public opinion?
The vast majority of people don't want this, are supportive of renewable energy technologies, and would like to see more done about climate change - rather than the opposite.
But the Tories apparently don't care about public opinion on any of these issues. Recent polling carried out on behalf of the Guardian showed that nearly 80% of people wanted the Government to do more to support community energy schemes - schemes owned by, and with profits going back to, communities.
Even UKIP supporters were decidedly in favour of that. And more than two-thirds of people were happy to have such projects sited near their homes, including wind turbines.
Because it's a war, the normal rules of political debate don't apply. Government Ministers regularly and shamelessly lie through their teeth about the so-called "excessive costs" of renewables, and the impact of supporting renewables on our energy bills. Most of our right-wing press happily lap up this crap - though even in those dark places there's mighty little support for fracking.
And that's why Community Energy Fortnight is so important. Every single event organised through CEF is both an act of defiance and a statement of positive intent. Every email sent, blog posted, and tweet tweeted, strengthens the case we need to make for renewables and efficiency.
Every conversation to that effect helps set the tone - and counter the tide of deception and propaganda in which this Government seeks to engulf us. Every event and every intervention contributes to an amazing learning network that is now emerging around the power of community energy to transform our corrupt and dysfunctional energy systems.
Get started here
There's a huge amount of stuff out there (particularly online) to provide people with all the ammunition they need. For starters, I'd just like to make four quick links:
1. CEF15/UK CEC itself. This provides information about meetings, mobilisation opportunities and so on. Use the Search box to find events near you.
2. South West Renewables. ‘Renewables and Bills: the Facts' is brilliant at debunking the lies and myths about costs.
3. Solar Trade Association (STA). Solar is going to be particularly badly hit by this Government's all-out assault on Feed In Tariffs, and it's where we could make the biggest difference fastest.
4. REPOWERBalcombe, aiming to generate the equivalent of 100% of Balcombe'selectricity demand through community-owned, locally-generated renewable energy.
This is a war that can still be won, and it will be won by tens of thousands of people supporting local initiatives that promote community energy, energy efficiency andrenewables. The village of Balcombe found itself at the epicentre of the emerging debate about fracking back in 2013.
Not only did it repel the developers intent onfracking the hell out of the local environment, but they organised themselves in such a way as to demonstrate in practice the viability of the alternatives.
I suspect we may need a thousand Balcombe look-alikes before this war is won, but Community Energy Fortnight 2015 is as good a place to start as any.
Event: Community Energy Fortnight 2015 runs from 5th to 20th Sepember. Use the search box bottom left to select events, by type, region, etc, or enter the name of your city, town or county.
Community Energy Fortnight is coordinated by Forum for the Future on behalf of the Community Energy Coalition (for which FFF provides the Secretariat), and supported by Cooperative Energy.
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