It is still early day for the new Government but the early signs are not good for David Cameron's claim that this would be the 'greenest government ever'. There have been several damaging cuts to what were already pretty miniscule programmes to support low carbon technologies. These have destabilised small renewable industry installers particularly with regard to biomass. With the cancellation of the Low Carbon Buildings Programme grants and uncertainty over the Renewable Heat Incentive struggling biomass installers are up against it.
There was hope by some that the Lib Dems would make the Tories green rhetoric a reality but little evidence is forthcoming yet. During the election campaign Friends of the Earth released lots of yellow balloons outiside parliament representing all the Lib Dem candidates who had signed up to their key election asks (and a few blue ones). When I asked them why they hadn't released any Green ones for all the Green Party Candidates who had signed FOEs asks (like me!) they said that they went out to buy green ones but there weren't enough. Hmmm..... with 'friends of the earth' like these who needs enemies.
Cuts to low-carbon technology programmes:
- £12.6m from The Carbon Trust's grant for low carbon technology and business support funding from DECC
- £6.1m 'efficiency savings' and under-spending on programme budgets within DECC
- £4.7m by cancelling final rounds of Bio-Energy Capital Grants Scheme and Bio-Energy Infrastructure Scheme
- £3m by reducing the scope of the Offshore Wind Capital Grants Scheme
- £3m from closing the Low Carbon Buildings Fund early
- £2.9m by reducing the scope of the government's Low Carbon Technology Programme
- £1m cut to funding for development of deep geothermal energy generation
- £700,000 by closing the Energy Saving Trust technology trials early
There is some good news in the Con Dems new approach to Carbon Emission Reduction Targets for energy utilities. There will be a much greater emphasis on insulation schemes with 68% of the funding going on such schemes and they reckon that around 3.5 million homes will be insulated by December 2012. There is also to be less emphasis on gizmos and gadgets, I guess they mean Energy Display Monitors - which might be a mistake if applied too rigorously. There is however still no statement from the government as to whether or not the previous governments target of insulating all homes by 2015 remains a target. So there are still significant questions over the governments ambition but if schemes like the Kirklees Warm Zone are to take effect what should we be looking for in the new CERT regulations? Here's my top 5 'asks'
Area Based Approaches – Area based approaches will be positively encouraged under new CERT arrangements particularly for insulation based schemes. A minimum of 75% of CERT funding, allocated to insulation measures, should be dedicated to area based insulation programmes. Area Based approaches are by their nature more cost effective as more installations can be carried out in a day by crews working in the same street and better prices can be achieved through the tender process. In this way economies of scale can be more easily realised and reduce the cost of carbon saved.
Local Authority linkages - All area based programmes shall be delivered in partnership with local authorities who will be encouraged to link them with with a income maximization advice/benefits advice package to reduce the likelihood of households being in fuel poverty.
‘Free’ Area Based Approaches – It is recognised that take up of insulation measures is much greater in area based schemes where there is no upfront cost or where the offer is free of charge. In Kirklees it has been shown that 3 times more measures are achieved than ‘Able to Pay’ Warm Zones. Priority should be given by utilities to Area Based Approaches where additional funding is offered by partner organisations (such as local authorities) which enable the scheme to be delivered free of charge to all householders. CERT regulations will be adjusted to encourage these initiatives. An alternative to the universally free insulation offers would be a Pay As You Save type arrangement repaid through energy bills but only if this will be feasible for this round of CERT.
Real Time Displays – It is recognised that Real Time Displays have a real role to play in helping householders reduce electricity consumption and raising awareness of energy use. There is however a danger that they could be the new giveaway taking over from CFLs. We propose that RTDs are only given away to householders as part of area based approaches and are installed in the home and demonstrated to the householder by Energy Advisors trained to at least City and Guilds Energy Awareness level.
Energy Advice – This will be credited by CERT but only where it is delivered in the home as part of an Area Based Scheme by trained staff to at least City and Guilds standard.
Where else would you go for the very latest in cutting edge green policies and politics. It is of course this very blog 'Greening Kirklees'. Would I get some momentary satisfaction if I git a high ranking and a big vote in Total Politics Best Blogs awards. Of course I would, I'm a politician.
Lib Dem Voice are one of the sponsors of these awards so we should be expecting a dodgy graph shortly showing how its a 2 horse race between them and the Tories to win!
As human civilisation begins it's planned collapse ( at least north of the home counties) you have no doubt been losing sleep over how the cuts in public spending are going to affect national performance indicator 185. For the benefit of the half dozen people in the UK who don't know, 185 is the measure by which we judge how individual local authorities are doing in terms of reducing carbon emissions resulting from their own operations. This generally means things such as carbon from the vehicle fleets, use of energy in public buildings, powering the councillors free beverage machine in Crown Court buildings etc. With the abolition of the Comprehansive Area Assessment Regime (star ratings for Councils) the whole performance framework and what it's for is thrown into disarray anyway. I mean to say if civilisation is going to collapse and you're the government in charge you don't want anyone actually measuring it do you?
If we are still measuring emissions for national government (I guess we are but must find out) then its just been a good week for 185 in Kirklees. The Environment Unit has just moved out of Estate Buildings on Railway Street and gone into relatively more carbon benign premises in Civic Centre 3. With staff cuts already coming into affect the opportunities to fit more staff in less buildings is finally becoming a reality. Gone are the plug in electric heaters in victorian stone built offices and now into gas heated offices with solar water heating and electricity and the erm... wind turbine, wel the one that's still working anyway. The Environment Unit move is just one example of the reorganisation of the Councils offices and of course reducing costs is a bigger driver right now than reducing carbon emissions. The question has to be asked though as to whether or not this is a good thing? Estate Buildings is still there, it has not had a snazzy eco-refurb with internal insulation and a biomass communal heating system installed. Presumably if someone came along tomorrow and wanted to rent that office from the Council then they would soon be in there using plug in electric heaters.
Reducing Council carbon emissions is of course a good thing, but it should demonstrate an approach which improves the Council's carbon hungry stock or our vehicles not simply discards them to be used by others. Of course that would require money! Difficult things have suddenly become more difficult.
I am a Green Party Councillor on Kirklees Council and have been since May 1999. I was the Green Party Candidate for the General Election in the Huddersfield Parliamentary Constituency. I work in the energy efficiency/microgeneration sector and have done for the last 20 years or so.