Energy ideas and debates

Last night I joined a Green Party webinar on ‘Overcoming the Energy Crisis’. It was chaired by Green Peer Natalie Bennett in conversation with co-leader Adrian Ramsay, Martin Farley, Tax and Fiscal Policy Working Group, Tony Firkins, Secretary, Energy Policy Working Group and Nadine Storey, Convener, Climate Economics Working Group. It was generally a very good discussion, and all these people are very much more in touch with the UK political parties’ policies than I am. However a couple of key words did not get mentioned: co-operatives and agrivoltaics. As anyone who has read my book ‘System Change Now!’ will recall, these are two key areas with huge potential benefits.

I am a member of seven small local renewable energy co-operatives. They are all great, but have their limitations. There is a need to go bigger, to increase the ambition of projects, to allow for greater professionalism, and to draw on a greater range of volunteers. On 19th November ‘The Big Solar Co-op’ had a gathering in Shrewsbury. (More on The Big Solar Co-op, Investment, the gathering)

A vast number of large roofs suitable for solar have been identified, and are now being investigated to see which will make the most workable projects. The Big Solar Co-op currently has a share-offer open, with the aim of raising sufficient funds to install 100MW of solar. I know supporting renewable energy co-operatives has long been a policy of the Green Party, so it was a pity it did not get mentioned last night. My book takes the idea of community ownership of energy a whole lot further, sketching out how all 8 billion of us could own and control most, if not all, of the global energy supply.

On the Green Party webinar Tony Firkins made the point that solar power should be on roofs, and not on good agricultural land. Adrian Ramsey made the point that in his view some solar would also need to be field scale. Some mention was made that having solar panels on a field need not be bad for biodiversity or stop food production. The word agrivoltaics implies the optimal combination of field scale solar with enhancing biodiversity and also food production, all off the same land, and it is a pity this could not have been better debated last night. It is a concept that has truly vast potential. I write a lot about it in the book, and have blogged about it. (More on: definition, a great project in USA, and some trials of new panels in Holland)

The Green Party webinar was advertised to be one hour long, and Natalie Bennett chaired it so that it did draw to a close exactly to the minute of one hour, which was great. So it is not surprising that energy co-operatives or agrivoltaics were not discussed. Other more immediately pressing aspects of our current energy crisis were focused upon. I would however love to contribute to a debate on energy that did focus more on these two aspects, co-operatives and agrivoltaics, which have such great potential.

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