Season’s Greetings to all Transition New Mills supporters! There have been strong signs of hope in what has often been a difficult year. Frequently these have come as a result of ordinary people doing wonderful things for their own communities. New Mills is fortunate to have a good number of active citizens, contributing in their own ways, without whom all our lives would be much poorer – so thanks to you all! Transition is all about local action, and there are some opportunities below. Please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to get involved!
Incredible Edible update
Some progress has been made on the projects mentioned in October’s newsletter, and we hope to be able to bring you some positive results on all three in the New Year:
- New Mills Primary School are working on a funding package for improvements to their edible garden capabilities, including the installation of a greenhouse ,
- a proposal has been tabled for the creation of a series of planters around the town with edible plants
- funding has been committed by New Mills Community Orchard for the creation of a Forest Garden trial; a planting session will be arranged for spring 2017.
These are great practical projects; if you want to get involved, email us at email@example.com
In addition, we are working on a town egg map. This will map the locations where you can buy locally produced eggs, normally using an honesty box. In future, this concept can easily be extended to cover many other locally produced items, ending up with a local directory, maybe something like Falmouth’s. If you know of any locations, or you want to sell eggs or other sustainable local produce yourself, let us know and we can put it on the map.
Discussion Group Next Meeting
The group is tackling the Universal Basic Income as its next topic; an attempt to get away from linking income with work or benefits. Here’s a short introductory video explaining the concept.
Sue will also give a report on her recent visit to Marrakech during COP22. The meeting is on Monday 12th December at 8pm; all are welcome. Please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org for details if you want to go.
New Transition movement website
The Transition Network now have a brand new website! It’s not just a re-design; they have started afresh, making it more readable and accessible, and are introducing new features and lots more specific content. Check it out with this link to our launch blog from Rob Hopkins, where he explains some of the key elements of the new site, and helps you find the things of greatest importance to you.
The Gift of Death
Before you buy any further Christmas presents; just bear in mind the consequences! I’ve recycled one of my favourite George Monbiot articles from a few years back on what does and doesn’t make a good Xmas gift.
How to Save Energy and Be Warmer
Dreading the next fuel bill? A few years ago I participated a Global Action plan project on everyday household sustainable living, and created a series of handy ‘top tips’ guides, with a range of solutions to suit different interests, abilities and pockets. Rather than waste them, we’ll be offering them up in the newsletter at intervals, and putting them on our website. Check out this month’s, topically on energy use, and make it your New Year Resolution to try some out.
Any donations through our Local Giving site will be matched using lottery cash. This offer lasts until April 2017, and could give us up to £500 of free cash! Needless to say, we are very keen to reach this target, and being an environmentally based group there is flexibility over the projects for which we can use the money. Please help us reach this total in a very efficient way by donating as much as you feel comfortable at Transition New Mills | Localgiving
It’s great to hear that Solar PV panels have finally been installed at New Mills School. Electricity generation started on Sunday 18th September from a 21kW array on the Maths and Swinburn Buildings.
In late 2012 the PTA launched the Solar Schools Project at New Mills to raise funds (aim £12,000) to install Solar PV panels. The school and PTA would benefit directly in the form of:
· free electricity generated to the school
· income to the PTA from Government incentive payments (FITs)
Approximately £7,800 was raised by the end of 2013, and Transition New Mills supporters raised over £400 of this through our ‘Clock New Mills’ walking challenge.
The Solar PV (much more than the school previously anticipated) has now been installed by the Schools Energy Co-operative. Although the financial model has changed, the PTA and school will still benefit by:
· electricity generated sold cheaply to the school
· PTA earning an annual interest payment on money invested in the Co-operative
Well done to everyone involved; another step closer to a low-carbon New Mills!
High Peak CVS is looking for volunteers for a project helping vulnerable people in the High Peak to save money on their energy bills.
The project is part of a national government-funded programme running through this Autumn and Winter called the Big Energy Saving Network.
Their brief is to provide outreach workshops, surgeries, 1-1 help and staff/volunteer training to help people switch and / or apply for energy-related benefits and generally save money on their energy bills.
The target audiences include a wide range of people (and support agencies) including those who are ‘off gas grid’ and ‘living in hard-to-heat homes such as solid-wall homes’.
They are looking for people who like talking to and helping people, and who have at least a little experience of using the internet.
You don’t need to have any energy-related knowledge as relevant training will be provided, nor will you be asked to lead workshops or training sessions unless you would like to.
If you are interested in getting involved or would like to find out more, please contact Esther Jones at High Peak CVS via 01663 736 429 or email@example.com as soon as possible.
The full, unedited responses for this question are available in this document: Candidates Responses-Q4.
Recent changes to the registration of co-ops and tax changes have put barriers in the way of community energy schemes. Conversely, George Osborne talks about tax breaks for fracking companies. Which would you prioritise and how?
Stephen Worrall (Liberal Democrats)
Stephen says that “You can rest assured that I would definitely prioritise community energy schemes, those tax breaks would be going to them rather than fracking if it was up to me!” He also says that the Liberal Democrats are committed to supporting new energy cooperatives in the next parliament.
UKIP’s policies on energy include repealing the Climate Change Act 2008, which costs the economy £18bn a year; supporting the development of shale gas with proper safeguards for the local environment; earmarking money from shale gas for lower council taxes or community projects within the local authority; no new subsidies for wind farms and solar arrays; the abolition of green taxes in order to reduce fuel bills.
Andrew Bingham (Conservative)
Andrew says that the Torrs Hydro scheme in New Mills is a “source of pride”. He recalls prior to the last election bringing Conservative Shadow Ministers to see it, as it shows the way to many other parts of the country. He says that how it was conceived, funded and built is a tribute to people in New Mills.
Man-made climate change is a serious threat to this country and the world. Left unchecked it will have far-reaching consequences for our society. Andrew says that this is why his party is taking action to deal with the threat of climate change and ensure Britain’s energy security after “thirteen wasted years from Labour”. This action includes the world’s first Green Investment Bank, support for smaller solar energy projects, and direct or enabling investment of hundreds of billions of pounds for clean, low-carbon energy, supporting up to 250,000 jobs. Renewable electricity has more than doubled and the amount of electricity we get from renewables has risen by 119% over the last four years.
As to the recent controversy over the registration of co-operatives for community energy, Andrew says that the “Financial Conduct Authority has been clear its current policy on the registration of co-operative and community benefit societies has not changed”. However, it has increased its focus on whether a society is a co-operative society or a community benefit society. As a result, some recent applications for registration as a co-operative society have been unable to show the necessary member participation. Andrew says that the FCA has met with societies and advisers to explain their findings.
And as to the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) providing tax relief to incentivise individuals to invest in higher-risk small and growing businesses, the Conservative Party believes that the community purpose underpinning community energy schemes makes accessing risk capital under Social Investment Tax Relief more appropriate than using the other tax-advantaged venture capital schemes that fall under the EIS. Andrew says that, “Even so, I recognise that community energy organisations face particular risks in comparison to commercial projects. As a result they can continue to benefit from tax-relieved investment despite the Government withdrawing eligibility from commercial projects.”
Andrew believes that the incentives are fair and sufficient to encourage investment into community energy organisations and remains committed to the community energy sector more generally.
Charlotte Farrell (Green)
Charlotte says that Greens would maximise the benefit of renewable generation to the local community through local ownership of generators, where possible through co-operatives. This would begin to balance the market domination of the big 6 energy companies. Community-owned renewable energy schemes such as have been successful in Germany allow far greater flexibility and security and must be given priority given the need to rid ourselves of fossil fuels because of climate change.
The Greens also totally oppose tax breaks given to all the fossil fuel companies. Fossil fuel extraction has to be scaled back and renewable energy increased. The Green Party is the only party to totally oppose fracking.
Caitlin Bisknell (Labour)
Caitlin fully supports community energy projects as a way of increasing the provision of cheaper, greener energy and would prioritise this over tax breaks for fracking companies. Labour wants to explore the potential for direct delivery of community owned generation into homes and businesses and ensure the regulatory environment supports the development of this sector.
Caitlin would also like to see local councils building new homes to the highest energy efficiency levels and encouraging other developers to meet those standards too; we also need to look at programmes to retro-fit our homes to make them more energy efficient.
Do you know people or groups in New Mills living in inefficient housing, on low incomes or in fuel poverty, who are struggling to stay warm and healthy in their home and keep their bills affordable?
Transition New Mills is keen to help High Peak CVS deliver free energy advice sessions in New Mills to help people cut their fuel costs. High Peak CVS’s trained and experienced Big Energy Saving team can help people to:
- Switch energy supplier, and tariff or payment method to get a better deal
- Find out if they qualify for a Warm Home Discount worth £140 this Winter
Access grants to improve the energy efficiency of their homes, including insulation and boiler replacement
- Make no and low-cost energy efficiency changes to their home
- Make simple behavioural changes to use less energy and keep warm and healthy
High Peak CVS is offering short training sessions for staff and volunteers who support disadvantaged people, informal chats / awareness raising presentations for community groups and audiences, and 1-1 surgery sessions to help individuals take action to save money and energy.
We’d like your help to reach the people who would most benefit from this initiative. Likely audiences include elderly people, young families, people with disabilities and long-term health problems, those off-gas-grid or on low incomes.
High Peak CVS are already in contact with some groups in New Mills, but we would really like your suggestions as to which groups or organisations can help us reach the people in most need of this help, and how we can best make contact with them.
This offer is time limited, so please make your suggestions by reply or email firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible.
You may remember this blog post posing the question of whether we need more community energy in New Mills. An overwhelming 90% of people thought we did.
There are a number of stages involved in getting community energy up and running. Broadly speaking they are:
- Decide on what type of energy project to develop
- Determine a suitable site
- Put in place the organisational infrastructure
- Raise investment
- Build the power station
- Generate clean, green power, manage the organisation and distribute dividends
- Repeat to reduce carbon emissions, increase energy security and create local jobs!
The good news is that there is now a small team from Transition New Mills working on this. And, having spoken to a number of people, we reckon that generating electricity from solar panels (‘solar PV’) on one or more large roofs is the best way to start. Why is this?
- Lots of other people have done it so we can follow a well-worn path
- The technology these days is fairly standard so it’s not likely to present many technical difficulties
- It’s relatively cheap and provides good financial returns
- There’s usually no need for planning permission
- It’s not usually subject to much controversy.
Of course, none of the stages outlined above are simple and we need help. For some of the practical considerations, we’ve secured the partnership of an experienced and friendly solar installation company, Sustainable Energy Systems, whose involvement is vital in ensuring that sites are suitable and we can address technical issues. Together, we’ve been scouting out potentially suitable sites (i.e. large, broadly south-facing roofs in New Mills!) and approaching the people who look after them. Sometimes, finding the right people to talk to and getting a foot in the door is not always as easy as it might seem. Whilst of course it wouldn’t be right to give details of meetings and conversations we’ve had, I can say that one site that looked initially promising is unfortunately not appropriate. We’re currently engaged in discussions over one other potential site and we’re at the early stages of approaching others.
Also extremely helpful has been Ovesco. This organisation was formed by people from Transition Town Lewes and their first project was an installation of solar panels on the roof of a family-owned Sussex brewery. They have definitely been there, done that and have the contacts and expertise to prove it! Among other very useful pointers, they suggested that whilst our first priority is to realise the initial project, the medium-term game plan should be to operate several community-owned power stations so that we can afford for someone to devote a portion of their time to manage them (and their investors) and to develop further opportunities.
Watch this space for further updates as the project progresses. If you have any suggestions or want to get involved, feel free to get in contact via the usual channels or post a comment below.
Is it time for more community-owned renewable energy in New Mills? There are an increasing number of community energy projects around the UK, with many towns and communities putting a lot of effort into becoming more energy-efficient and generating more green energy. Some examples include:
- Wadebridge in Cornwall, which is aiming to generate 30% of its electricity from local renewable sources by 2015
- Balcombe in Sussex, which was recently the site of exploratory fracking investigations (and a high-profile protest camp) and is now intending to invest £300,000 in solar power
- The South Wales valleys, which has an ongoing share offer to invest in solar power on seven community buildings.
So what about New Mills? Our town is of course home to the UK’s first community-owned hydro-electric scheme, the Torrs Hydro, and there is an ongoing project to raise money to put solar panels on the roof of New Mills School.
But could we be doing more? There is certainly no shortage of options: just downstream from Archie at Torr Vale Mill, another weir could generate more hydro-electricity; we have numerous south-facing roofs where we could put solar panels; we have plenty of wind; and let’s not forget the Renewable Heat Incentive, which makes more viable the installation of community heating schemes. As well as an investment in our future energy security, many of these options could be good financial investments too.
We would like to know what you think. Please take part in our poll and send this to as many of your friends and neighbours as possible to get them to vote too.
And if you would like more community energy and you’d like to help make it happen, contact us.