Monthly Archives: January 2015

Renewable Energy Coops

Chase Community Solar

Chase Community Solar

Many people, like me, share a vision of a very different energy future. A future of low carbon, renewable energy, as far as possible cooperatively owned and controlled by local communities. I’ve written and spoken about this extensively. Despite the snow and ice a good number of people came to hear me talk in Ludlow on Thursday on the subject of ‘Renewables & Resilience’, organised by the wonderful Ludlow 21 group.

There is something of a fight-back by the big six and their political supporters who basically want to continue with ‘business as usual’. Changes are coming to both the tax regime and the legal structures that can be used for community renewables. George Monbiot wrote about these changes in rather alarming terms, and I wrote a blog that I posted and then took off-line 24 hours later. Having checked with Jon Halle at Sharenergy and a few other knowledgeable people, the situation is not as bleak as George suggests. It’s complicated, and still not totally clear, but it looks like community renewable energy will hopefully have a future after the changes. Meanwhile there is something of a surge of new coops launching over the next few weeks to beat the April tax changes.

Chase community solar are working with Cannock Chase Council to put solar panels onto the roofs of low income families and pensioners in Council housing. This will help drastically to reduce both fuel poverty and carbon emissions. The project will start doing 150 roofs and hope soon to expand to 300. Lots of other great projects moving forward, including the Ludlow hydro project: check-out the Sharenergy website for more information.

A couple of years ago I was running some of my evening classes in Ledbury. Out of those sessions an excellent group of local people came together and decided they wanted to start a renewable energy coop in Ledbury. After many trials and tribulations they are at last ready to start. I’m honoured to be speaking at their launch at the Feathers Hotel in Ledbury, 7.00pm, Thursday 5th February. If possible, do come, invest and join the coop: be part of the community renewable energy revolution.

Sharenergy http://www.sharenergy.coop/

The Monbiot article http://www.theguardian.com/environment/georgemonbiot/2015/jan/23/community-energy-companies-big-six-big-society?CMP=EMCENVEML1631

 

 

The Green Surge Goes Exponential!

Green Party canvassing in Leominster

Green Party canvassing in Leominster

In November I blogged about how politics in Britain is changing from a two or three party system to a six or seven party system. I mentioned the declining membership of the three tired old parties and the growth of the so called smaller parties. In December I wrote about the explosive growth of Podemos in Spain, and compared it to our Green Party’s surge in membership.

I’ve been a supporter of the Green Party, and before that the Ecology Party, since way back, pretty much to the founding days in 1973. I only got around to first joining the party in 1983, the year we founded the Herefordshire branch. The party did quite well in the 80’s, membership peaked at about 20,000 before sliding down during the 1990’s to about 5,000 where it stayed until 2003.

Very slowly numbers started to rise, by 2010 we had 10,000 and by 1st January 2014 we had 13,809 members. The rate of increase slowly grew. By the autumn the Green Surge was really building: we passed the 20,000 mark on 3rd October, 24,435 on 4th November, 25,799 on 18th November and 27,618 on 2nd December. That’s when things really started to go crazy. On 12th January we had 32,629 and 35,481 on 15th January. All these figures are just for the Green Party of England and Wales, but of course to compare with other UK parties we should add the numbers from our sister parties in Scotland and Northern Ireland, which have also seen impressive growth. These combined figures give us totals of 42,500 on 14th January, 43,829 on 15th January and 44,713 on 16th January, overtaking UKIP on 14th and the LibDems on 16th! Still a way to go before we overtake the membership of the Conservative and Labour parties, but at the current rate of growth this is possible, perhaps even before the election on 7th May!

Yesterday a couple of dozen of us were out canvassing in Leominster. Such a buzz of excitement! Come and join us. Be a part of the Change!

Economics: Theory & Action

Natalie Bennett of the Green party

Natalie Bennett of the Green party

A couple of days ago there was a Radio 4 programme that revealed how narrow the discipline of economics has become at universities around the world. This is tragic as these students go on to be the key decision makers. The Neo-Classical model is totally broken, yet stuck in their ivory towers, unable to see an alternative and divorced from reality; they continue to teach this planet destroying and socially destructive nonsense.

It reminds me of my travels in communist Eastern Europe in the 1970’s. Most of the critical thinking population could see Marxist theory didn’t fit with perceived reality, yet the tired old politicians kept spouting the same old mantras. I recall a conversation with a judge in East Berlin in 1977 who told me the whole system would come crashing down. It was twelve years before it did, but it was inevitable.

In the 1970’s I frequently discussed politics and economics with my grandfather, who’d been sympathetic to Marxist ideas in his youth, but had mellowed to be a Keynesian Labour party type socialist by the time I knew him. Keynesian economics hit the buffers of stagflation in 1978-79. As Thatcher promoted a revival of the Neo-Classical economics of the 1920’s my grandfather said it would inevitably end in crashes, crisis and chaos. It has. We lurch from crisis to crisis.

Neo-Classical, Marxist, Keynesian, economic grand theories have failed us. We need new economic models rooted in the real world that recognise our utter dependence on a functioning biosphere. Without clean air, unpolluted water, healthy soils, treasured biodiversity and a stable climate we will never have economic stability. Without life there is no economy. Without social justice, political and economic stability is both unlikely and undesirable. Many Green economists have been writing about this over the last forty or fifty years: it is time to bring them centre-stage into the teaching of economics.

Meanwhile we need to take practical steps right now to set the economy moving in the right direction. Here are two practical suggestions. Yesterday Natalie Bennett of the Green Party made the very sensible suggestion to cut rail and bus fares by 10% and to pay for this by scrapping the £15 billion road building programme. Now, with cheap oil and gas prices is the time to introduce a Carbon Tax. In a UK context this could raise £20 billion per year. This could be put into developing and implementing a serious energy demand reduction strategy: building efficient district heating networks, insulating houses and investing in a sophisticated mix of renewable energy infrastructure and legislating to improve energy efficiency of appliances and technologies from kettles to cars, power stations to houses. A huge number of jobs could be created, fuel poverty eliminated and carbon emissions massively reduced, and it might even help economics re-engage with the real world.

BBC Radio 4 on teaching economics http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04svjbj

George Monbiot on economics http://www.monbiot.com/2014/11/18/the-insatiable-god/

Natalie Bennett in the Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/jan/05/green-party-natalie-bennett-10-percent-rail-bus-fare-cut

Lawrence Summers writing in the Financial Times on why now is a good moment to bring in a Carbon Tax http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/10cb1a60-9277-11e4-a1fd-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3Nw3qSDeY