Local energy schemes

In her leader column(£), the MJ’s Heather Jameson highlights the efforts of several local authorities as they develop community energy schemes. These schemes not only provide cheap energy to the fuel poor but also provide income that the community can invest. There have been many small scale schemes already, predominately in rural areas, but the initiative by Cumbria Council, Cornwall Council and others represents a step change.

After many months of uncertainty over government energy strategy such as changes to tariffs and EU legal actions on VAT we have reached a position where at least the degree of uncertainty is clearer. This is probably as good as it is going to get and it does offer the chance to act. Councils know that they can take advantage of the Renewable Heat Incentive to support district heating schemes and the Feed-in Tariff to support solar photovoltaic panels and wind turbines. In addition, City Deals are supporting low carbon solutions as are Structural Funds and LEP strategies, it’s all coming together at last.

The advantages are clear as not only is climate change addressed but also energy security, fuel poverty and even the Big Society. In addition, cheap clean energy providing an income stream acts preventatively and is much more sensible than winter fuel payments to heat cold houses or constant recourse to council tax for any community scheme.

Is there a catch? Will the technology actually work?

Well, it’s lots of investment and can be big infrastructure, but for many cities across mainland Europe it’s hardly revolutionary stuff. The LGIU attended the Rio Earth Summit and found numerous examples where cities have schemes already up and running such as Oslo. In fact I got the distinct impression that just concentrating on energy was a bit passé.

There are many resources flowing through a city that are presently seen as a cost but could be a benefit, waste is the obvious example, but also water. The next big idea is the Productive City, an urban settlement that is not a drain on its surroundings bit actually satisfies it’s own needs and even exports resources back into the countryside.

LGIU would be interested to talk to any local authorities that wish to explore this idea in more detail. Please contact me on andy.johnston@lgiu.org.uk.

photos credit: Ashden Awards via Flickr

Using a thermal imaging camera to check for heat loss on properties.