Tuesday 9 November 2010

Green Drinks, Tuesday 16th November at the Green Dragon, Bungay from 7:30pm

This month's theme is energy and communities

After the great success of last month's economics and livelihoods themed Green Drinks evening (you can read about it here) we've invited not one but two excellent guest conversationalists to bring their expertise and insights to our second evening. Simon Weeks is a member of Cookpole Energy Action, a community group that plans to set up its own wind power scheme - the only one in this part of the country. John Taylor is the Community Advisor for the Suffolk Climate Change Partnership where he advises communities on energy saving and generation schemes. John and Simon will speak for a few minutes each before we open the floor to questions and then devolve into the more relaxed conversational style that makes Green Drinks evenings so enjoyable.

We'd love you to join us too and bring your thoughts and questions about energy (generation, saving and efficiency) and how communities like ours can take more control and reap more of the benefits.

The timing of this evening couldn't be better.

Not only is there a surge of interest and confusion around feed in tariffs (whereby small generators are paid a fee for the energy they produce), but the Government is about to introduce a new energy bill (The Energy Security and Green Economy Bill). Once law this will provide a new financing framework to enable the provision of energy efficiency measures to all households funded by a charge on energy bills (rather than up-front payments). It could make it much easier for people to invest in a range of energy saving measures - from better windows and draft exclusion to loft and cavity wall insulation - but does it really go far enough?

Last week Sustainable Bungay, as part of the Big Climate Connection, sent a team to lobby Peter Aldous (MP) and raised some of the issues that will undoubtedly come up on the 16th. Peter's response was very positive (you can read more here), but the pressure needs to be kept up because grassroots initiatives and low-carbon communities in general need greater backing from government and ideally the creation of an infrastructure with secured resources to implement projects - without these neither top-down government, nor bottom-up initiatives will get very far.

One of the guiding principles of Green Drinks is that the evenings should go where they want... But I imagine we might find ourselves talking about: insulation schemes for Bungay; community owned energy generation using wind, solar or bio-mass; energy reduction ideas; the sustainability of schemes like the feed-in tariff; the drivers for changes in energy use and generation; the implications of a less energy secure future...

This month our guests will be:

Simon Weeks of Cookpole Energy Action

Cookpole Energy Action (CEA) is a not-for-profit organisation formed in July 2009 by residents of the parishes of Cookley and Walpole in north east Suffolk. While recognising that individual households and businesses can do a lot to reduce their carbon footprints and that many have already begun, CEA believes that action at the level of the community is important - in their case that is a community of around 150 households. At the moment CEA is developing a community wind power scheme.

They intend to install two medium sized wind turbines in the parish and all the electricity generated will be fed into the grid. The community will receive an income for this electricity according to the ‘feed-in’ tariff, which came into force in April 2010. The income will be spent on carbon reduction projects in the community. The whole scheme will be managed by a charitable Trust, or similar not-for-profit organisation.

Simon will talk to us about the progress of the project - what's been easy and the difficulties they've encountered so far.

John Taylor, Community Advisor, Suffolk Climate Change Partnership

Suffolk County Council is working with other key organisations as part of the Suffolk Climate Change Partnership to develop a comprehensive action plan to mitigate and adapt to climate change. The Partnership wants householders and local businesses to get involved to make their pledges to help reduce their CO2 emissions and to help save energy, it provides free hands on advice to small and medium sized businesses in Suffolk who want to cut their carbon emissions, save money and stay ahead of the competition.

John has an MSc in Sustainable Architecture from the Centre for Alternative Technology and his work focuses on supporting communities and helping them to help themselves. He's given advice and support to many groups - including Cookpole Energy Action and Sustainable Bungay - and has a wealth of knowledge about energy generation (especially small scale renewables) and energy saving. He's also an active member of Transition Ipswich.