Monday 19 October 2015

A Belper microgrid ............ Tory energy policy kills it stone dead

This third post on energy should have been easy to write ............ and would have been if it had been written just a few months ago. Sadly, a Tory energy policy has emerged that sucks billions out of the sustainable energy sector and at the same time favours the traditional carbon producing and nuclear methods of powering the UK. You don't have to take my word for it: BBC article - UN highlight UK cuts in renewables subsidies, coupled with tax breaks for oil and gas, sends a worrying signal to the coming UN climate summit in Paris.

The Telegraph applauds this move: Oil and gas industry bolstered by reduction in tax rates and new investment allowances worth £1.3bn over five years. These tax benefits, when compared with the billions taken away from the renewable energy sector (Belperstuff - from August 2015 renewables will no longer receive climate change levy exemption certificates, costing the industry £3.9 billion over five years) gives a clear signal of what the Tories intend.

So how does this affect Belper?

Belper was on the brink of taking that first step towards developing its own microgrid. The formation of the "Amber and Derwent Valley Community Energy (ADVyCE) Limited", an initiative aimed at reviving the Ambergate Hydroelectric plant was a key step and was in the process of negotiating startup funding. This was a propitious time because battery technology has now advanced to a point where energy produced by such a facility can be cheaply stored when demand is low (in the middle of the night) and made available for peak use in the morning. If we than added solar power to the mix then those same batteries could be recharged during the day using a combination of Hydro/Solar to provide power in the evenings. Success of the scheme would have made it much easier to fund further initiatives which, following just a few years of investment could have resulted in the Belper area becoming a recognisable microgrid, exporting surplus energy to the national grid whilst becoming net importers during overcast days. A further element would have been a commitment to reduce the amount of energy needed by a program of buildings insulation and the adoption of low power and energy efficient appliances. We must also remember that there are existing commercial  hydro plants in Belper and Milford which could also be a future addition to the microgrid. -  - - - Ambergate Weir

All that is now at a standstill because of the Tory reversal of strategy with schemes such as the Ambergate Hydro finding that their business startup model has just become unworkable.

So we turn to our local MP for guidance and what does Pauline Latham say: 

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I agree with the Government that the new goals must be people-centred and planet-sensitive. Environmental and development agendas have often been looked at separately, so this new change in approach is important. It helps tackle a criticism of millennium development goal 7—on ensuring environmental sustainability—which was ineffective because it was not mainstreamed into the rest of the framework. The Government are rightly aiming to ensure that environmental sustainability is mainstreamed right through the post-2015 framework.

Yes Pauline, you don't seem to know what you are talking about and we are finding it difficult to follow your logic. A "framework" that rewards carbon 
emission production over sustainable, renewable, planet friendly methods in no way can be referred to with these words: "central theme of the new sustainable development goals is prosperity; ensuring that human beings can enjoy prosperous and fulfilling lives and that economic progress occurs in harmony with nature", (all quotes highlighted in blue are Pauline Latham's own words, delivered to parliament in September 2015 - follow this link if you want more). Pauline was speaking in a debate on the sustainable development goals to be agreed this month at the United Nations.

There is no doubt that the reversal of the Labour sustainable energy policy has been unpicked and now reversed by this Tory government. This directly harms Belper. We fear that government policy may now harm the wonderful initiative of Derbyshire County Council to promote solar power sites within Derbyshire: (link to results of DCC consultation on Solar Farm sites). 

At the start of this post we referred to the "disappointment" over the change in UK government policy and it seems appropriate to return to this ............. with the words of the UN scientist Jacquie McGlade: 

"What's disappointing is when we see countries such as the United Kingdom that have really been in the lead in terms of getting their renewable energy up and going - we see subsidies being withdrawn and the fossil fuel industry being enhanced."

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