Energy Crisis and Communities

Energy crisis and community renewables

Communities around the country are delivering their own alternative local energy strategies to tackle the energy crisis, save money and reduce emissions now. In contrast, the UK government’s Energy Security Strategy, published on 7th April, failed to address the energy crisis and home energy efficiency in the short term. Instead, as the first policy update of its kind in a decade, it set new targets for offshore wind, promised more nuclear power stations and support for green hydrogen. It also follows the latest report by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which has given us just 3 years to reverse the increase in emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Settle’s Action on Climate Emergency (ACE), recently showed a film featuring how a German group took over their local power station and distribution grid. While action as drastic as this is not proposed here, the Settle group plan to engage residents to help develop a Local Area Energy Plan (LAEP). This will be in consultation with our District Network Operators (DNO’s), to tackle the energy crisis by delivering community owned generation projects such as solar, small-scale hydro and wind power. The reaction from those who viewed the film was strongly in favour.

The LAEP process focusses on parish and market town areas, recognising local landscape values as well as the potential for energy generation.  Energy saving, such as home insulation will also be high on the agenda. Sustainable generation from local natural resources using proven technologies will be prioritised and a strategy developed to harness them. Small scale local projects can be delivered relatively quickly. By balancing and levelling local demand the need for expensive infrastructure to cope with short demand peaks will be reduced.  The final plan will be submitted to the Local Authority for adoption in the Local Plan. Once adopted LAEP’s will contribute to an overall regional energy strategy.

Government statistics show that in 2020 Settle, Giggleswick and Langcliffe between them consumed just over 12.25 million kilo-watt hours of electricity and in 2019, 29 million kilo-watt hours of gas, at a combined cost to the community of almost £3.5 million. This money was lost to the district. Recent increases in electricity and gas prices of around 80%, make the picture worse! Our ambition is to generate local energy to power our homes and keep revenue within our communities.

Current increases in energy prices make small-scale projects not only financially viable, but essential. Community ownership means the money we spend running our homes will be kept within the local economy, encouraging job opportunities, and providing resilience to future energy shocks.

In pre-industrial Craven, hydropower drove the local wool industry and we have rain and wind aplenty. Conserving our limestone landscape and wild open spaces is important to our tourist economy, particularly in the National Park. YDNPA actually supports small scale hydro projects, once historic mill sites.

Onshore wind, neglected in the government’s strategy, is currently the cheapest available form of renewable energy. At an appropriate scale, local community turbines have been accepted by planners, where landscapes are not compromised, and the government’s strategy allows for communities that are agreed on a wind power project, to go ahead.

The popularity of solar has driven down prices of panels while improvements in performance make the panels effective on most non-north facing roofs while energy price rises make rooftop solar viable without subsidy. Improved battery technology has enabled innovative ways of storing excess generation, balancing domestic demand and reducing bills.

Community participation is essential to maximising the benefit to individual households and communities. Planning workshops are being held in Settle, the first on Saturday 21st May

Based on a format called Future Energy Landscapes developed by the Campaign to Protect Rural England CPRE and the Centre for Sustainable Energy CSE, two workshops will deal with landscape issues, followed by technologies, in a one-day event. A second short workshop, about a month later, will reflect on community reactions before committing to detail design, financial feasibility studies and planning applications.

We are looking for volunteers, to participate in these events. Technical knowledge is not required, ACE Settle can provide that. Local awareness and community spirit is what we are looking for. If you are interested or want to know more, please contact us by email: acesettleandarea@gmail.com

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