Monthly Archives: May 2014

Greens make progress, slowly…

molly-scott-Cato

Molly Scott-Cato

Looking at the European and local election results there are real reasons both to celebrate and to worry. The rise of both the Eurosceptic right and the Neo Nazi far right throughout Europe is worrying. UKIP offers little in the way of constructive engagement with any of the real issues facing the UK or Europe, let alone humanity and the biosphere. The rise of Golden Dawn in Greece and Jobbik in Hungary represents something altogether scarier.

However in England & Wales we can at least celebrate the election of three Green Party MEPs. Previously there were just two, I’d hoped for five or six, but three is still better than two. Keith Taylor in the South East Region, and Jean Lambert in London, were both re-elected. Molly Scott Cato is our new MEP, the first ever Green MEP to represent the South West Region, and a leading green economist. She will be a great asset to the European Parliament, and a great voice for the people of the South West of England. Well done Molly and all who helped her and voted for her!

Here in the West Midlands Will Duckworth failed to get elected as our Green MEP despite getting 71,000 votes. Thanks to all who voted for him. However the Green Party in the West Midlands continues to make steady progress at the level of local councils. In 2009 we had just three councillors on three councils, now we have twenty-three councillors on nine councils: five straight years of steady increase. In Solihull the Greens have ten seats and are now the official opposition.

Overall, for the Green Party in England and Wales, this is slower progress than I’d like, of course, but still worth a bit of a celebration! 

For a different, and very interesting, angle on the UK part of the Euro elections see  http://makewealthhistory.org/2014/05/27/is-britain-a-post-democracy/

 

Vote Green this Thursday!

Will Duckworth

It’s only 48 hours till polling day. For me the anticipation is palpable. These Euro elections are really important, yet apathy, disengagement and anger seem to be the dominant public response. Turnout is predicted to be very low and the Tories, LibDems and Labour are all predicted to do pretty badly. UKIP are riding high, exploiting pubic fears and anxieties about immigration and economic woes. The Greens are also predicted to do pretty well.

These elections are fought under a system of proportional representation, so there is more reason than ever to vote Green: we do stand a very good chance of getting some very good people elected to the European Parliament, and Europe does matter hugely to us all. If we are to tackle the vast problems facing humanity we simply must get supranational organisations to function better than they currently do and the Greens are active in helping do this.

I’ve voted Green, or for the Ecology Party as the Greens were once called, at every election since the mid 1970’s. I’ve been a member of the party on and off. I am now, and would urge my readers not only to vote Green, but also join the party. For those of us committed to working for a more ecologically sustainable and socially just future they really are the only party worth voting for. In a way if UKIP is the party of fear, the Greens are the party of hope.

Alex Andreou wrote a very good piece in the Guardian about why he’ll be voting Green, and for him the anti immigrant rhetoric that UKIP has drawn all the other parties into espousing is the key issue. For me it is about Climate Change, Social Justice and a host of other big issues. For some people it is specific things, like the Green Party’s commitment to the NHS or to the Railways, or to opposing the latest trade deal that favours corporations over local communities. There really are a lot of issues on which the Greens simply do have better policies.

Here in Herefordshire we are part of the West Midlands Region which will elect seven MEPs on Thursday 22nd May. The lead candidate for the Greens is Will Duckworth, a stalwart campaigner on issues of social justice, who’d make a great MEP. Please do get out and vote, and help him get elected. Currently the Green Party of England and Wales has just two MEPs, with luck, hard work and your vote we could end up with half a dozen after Thursdays vote, including Will. That would be something to celebrate!

Alex Andreou in the Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/may/08/voting-green-european-elections-why

West Midlands Euro-elections http://www.birmingham.gov.uk/euroelections2014

Green Party in the West Midlands http://greenparty.org.uk/elections/west-midlands.html

 

Waitrose & Employee Ownership

Last week I looked at the way disruptive change is happening in the electricity supply industry. Today it’s time to look at supermarkets. Here in Herefordshire the new Cattle Market development has just opened. I had been very much against it. The last thing Hereford needs is yet more shops, especially when there are so many empty ones already. We need to wean ourselves off identifying ourselves as consumers and off our debt fuelled excessive and wasteful consumption patterns. That said one of the new stores is a branch of Waitrose, which operates under a different business model from the big four; Tesco, Asda, Sainsburys and Morrisons.

Waitrose doesn’t have shareholders. It is part of the John Lewis Partnership and all its staff are partners in the business, sharing in the profits via an annual bonus paid as an equal percentage of salary. This means that the 91,000 people who work for the group should in theory be much more motivated, engaged and enjoy their work more than staff in other supermarkets. Looking at carbon emissions and other sustainability criteria, Waitrose out-performs the big four, but not Marks & Spencer or the Coop. Next time I go shopping I’ll pop into Waitrose and see if I can have a chat to one or two of the staff in our new store and see what they think about all of this.

It seems important to me that we need alternatives to the shareholder-driven profit-maximization principle behind our big companies, be they supermarkets or electricity suppliers. We want organisations that are more ethical, more concerned to help reduce their environmental footprint, more concerned to help put funds into charitable causes and into treating their staff well and not into the endless greed of shareholders. I and many others are switching our purchasing power to reflect these preferences. I see Waitrose’s market share has risen pretty steadily over the last 20 years, and is now just under 5% of the UK grocery spend: plenty of scope for them to grow, and for more ethical and innovative new entrants to the market.

Displacing the big incumbents in the supermarket sector may prove a slower process than in the electricity supply sector…but disruptive change is coming. Let’s work to make it as positive as possible!

Breaking the Power of the Big Six

Stephen Fitzpatrick

Stephen Fitzpatrick, founder of Ovo Energy

The UK electricity market is currently dominated by six very large companies, who in general are very little trusted by energy consumers and who have been slow to embrace the challenges and opportunities that climate change and fears over energy security present them with. In Germany there were just four big incumbents. Things are changing. First in Germany, and now in the UK, we are seeing the emergence of a great abundance of innovative new players, most of whom have a very different ethos and business model from the old monolithic companies. In the UK the big six still control 95% of the market. I would expect their market share to plummet over the next few years.

Jeremy Williams, who writes the excellent Make Wealth History blog, wrote a good piece about this recently, titled ‘The four ages of electricity supply’, showing how from the 1880’s to the 1920’s we had up to 600 decentralized companies, which in 1948 were nationalized, reducing the figure to one, then following privatization in 1989 the current big six emerged. Jeremy predicts that by 2030 the UK might be back at 600. I think it may well be many more and much sooner, but it all depends on what you call an energy supplier. Thousands of households now supply rooftop solar to the grid, hundreds of renewable energy coops are being established and a few really innovative companies are challenging the power of the big six.

Ovo energy is one of the most extraordinary new kids on the block. Stephen Fitzpatrick started the company in 2009 and it has grown exponentially over these five years. They aim to be cheaper, greener, more efficient and helpful than the big six. Key differences are that they welcome more competition and are keen to work with a plethora of micro suppliers. They’ve recently published a 31 page Community Energy White Paper which is well worth a read.

Boris Johnson declaring that London should generate 25% of its own electricity by 2025 is welcome news. Creating Energy for London to buy energy from municipally controlled generators and sell it to Transport for London and the Metropolitan Police is similar to the situation in Germany, where many municipal authorities generate and sell energy, often with a wider range of social and environmental aims, rather than just profit maximization.

We buy our electricity and gas from Good Energy, who buy 100% renewable electricity from over 500 suppliers and have just opened the four turbine, 8.2 MW, Hampole Wind Farm near Doncaster. Good Energy, like Energy for London and Ovo Energy are all expanding and biting into the market share of the big six. Good luck to them!

Jeremy Williams’ blog http://makewealthhistory.org/2014/05/06/the-four-ages-of-electricity-supply/

Ovo’s Community Energy White Paper http://www.ovoenergy.com/uploadedFiles/Content/Different_Approach/Community_Energy/community_energy_whitepaper.pdf

BBC on Ovo http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-27112467

Boris’s plan http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/apr/25/mayor-boris-johnson-london-energy-independence

Energy for London http://www.energyforlondon.org/

Good Energy http://www.goodenergy.co.uk/our-wind-and-solar-farms/hampole-wind-farm