14 Oct 2016
29 September 2016 was a landmark day for the British people. Greg Clark, the newly appointed head of the newly formed department of Business, Energy and Industrial strategy, signed an agreement with EDF, a company owned by the French government and with the Chinese government as a 33% investor, to proceed with the construction of the first new nuclear power plant in the UK in a generation. Despite all the fuss and furore, the dream of Hinkley C in Somerset is poised to become a reality, albeit by 2030. The Government claimed that UK businesses will benefit from 60% of the estimated £18 billion to be spent on the plant, with 26,000 jobs and internships created.
This decision is a disaster for our nation, primarily because it is an extreme waste of taxpayer money, poses a great threat to our country’s energy security, and to the safety and security of future generations.
Extreme waste of taxpayers’ money
60% of 26,000 jobs is no benefit when one considers that over 27,000 jobs have been lost in the past two years by the solar industry, decimated by Government cuts to the Feed in Tariff and by the death of the Green Deal. The EPR technology is not yet proven in the three countries already constructing the new nuclear power plants, causing each of their budgets to skyrocket out of control. The Olkiluoto 3 (OL3) plant in Finland was supposed to be operational in 2010. It is still not running today.
In December 2012, Areva (the nuclear plant supplier), estimated that the full cost of building the Finnish reactor will be about €8.5 billion, or almost three times the original delivery price of €3 billion. Compare this to the estimated price of the UK plant, estimated at between £18 billion to £29 billion. The UK taxpayer is not privy to the reasons why the plant cost more than 3 times the price in Finland. In Flamanville, France, cracks were found in the plant’s construction. Cracks have also been found in the Taishan facility, in China creating delays and mounting fear of radioactive leakage in Hong Kong, just 130 miles away.
If it is ever completed, the Hinkley C plant is expected to account for 7% of our electricity supply, with a capacity of 3.2GW. UK Power Networks has recently revealed that it has applications to install 6GW of energy storage to our electricity network, virtually eliminating the issue with renewable energy intermittency for a fraction of the cost of Hinkley C and a bringing lot more safety.
Dangerous stockpiles of plutonium in Britain
A catalogue of errors that occur unresolved eventually culminates in disaster. On 5 September 2016, the BBC broadcasted a Panorama programme on the serious accident that is likely to happen at Sellafield in Cumbria. It is hard to believe that our government will ensure UK jobs through the nuclear industry when Sellafield does not employ sufficient employees to sustain reliable safe operations.
The Nuclear Management Partnership, a consortium of French, UK and US companies that were running Sellafield was sacked in 2015 because they were spending too much money. The government has taken over control of the management of Sellafield. Since then, alarms are frequently reset without being investigated, creating conditions that pose an intolerable risk according to those who have managed Sellafield.
The Windscale fire on 10 October 1957 ranks 5 out of seven on the International Nuclear Event Scale. While the name has been changed to Sellafield, the severe dangers persist. An accident occurred in November 2013 forcing the plant to close for 11 months because exposure to radioactive dust made it unsafe to work there.
Experts who have worked at Sellafield say that if something happens, the safety team employed there are not equipped to handle it. Many experts believe that an accident is inevitable, because the plant frequently operates at below minimum safety levels. The poor management and run down infrastructure could lead to a fire that would emit a radioactive plume contaminating our air for 150km. Cracks could allow seepage that could expose the radioactive chemicals to the air. To date, no nuclear waste has been removed from a building that won’t last another 25 years.
Sellafield has the largest stockpile of plutonium in the world, more than the United States and Russia combined. Experts estimate that it will cost £162 billion to clean up Sellafield to make it safe. This experience alone makes it very clear that there is no room for new nuclear power generation on our small island home.
National & Energy Security
Concerns about our national security were raised by politicians and energy experts because of a lawsuit in the US against a Chinese investor in their nuclear power station. The concern is that the Chinese are using their position as investor to improve their knowledge of nuclear science that could be threatening to the national security of the host country.
Real energy security comes when our electricity and heat are affordable for everyone. The Hinkley C plant will not create energy security; in fact it is sure to increase our energy prices because of the guaranteed price that has been secured in the energy Capacity Market. The only way to create real affordable energy is for communities to take the power back into their own hands. This is what we at BHESCO believe, and this is what we will ceaselessly work towards until our own dream has become a reality, when the people of the UK will be writing about a new landmark day in our history.
Our government claims that we need fracking in order to provide long-term energy security. They are using fear to convince us that we need to drill beneath our homes and areas of outstanding natural beauty in order to ‘keep the lights on’. This is special interest politics in its most malicious and dangerous form.
Fracking makes zero economic sense for the taxpayer. Climate activist and author of The Winning of the Carbon War, Jeremy Leggett said that it costs $3 to buy $1 worth of gas produced by fracking companies in America.
Lessons from America
You don’t have to be George Osborne to understand that this is not a winning economic model for Britain. Fracking is creating uninhabitable ghost towns all along the Marcellus shale, ground-zero for fracking in Ohio. The water is not fit to drink, you can’t grow anything healthy in the soil, animals can no longer graze without ingesting toxins from the grass, and the air is not fit to breathe. There are reports of increasing numbers of people in the US and Australia who live around fracking sites who are becoming gravely ill.
Fracking also uses a lot of water. The State of California decided that there is no reasonable way of dumping the waste water from offshore drilling, so they decided to dump the 8 billion gallons of contaminated fracking water into the Pacific Ocean. This water becomes poisoned by harmful chemicals such as benzene and chlorine. Fracking companies are not required to disclose the chemical composition of the fluids they use.
Hope Not Lost
We are living in an amazing time with incredible technological capabilities. Today in the UK, there are new business models being developed through partnerships between community energy groups, progressively thinking energy suppliers, renewable energy project developers, and local councils. These business models strive to create local energy generation to serve the communities where they are based, as was the case in the UK in the early 1900s.
For a small island nation the UK is lucky to have such an abundance of alternative energy sources available to us; we have Wind, Solar, Ground Source Heat Pumps, Tidal, Wave, and Anaerobic Digestion, to name a few. Additionally, we have new technologies that can improve the ways that we consume energy, like demand response systems, smart grids and energy efficiency measures.
Community Energy = Real Energy Security
BHESCo is part of a network of 20 Community Energy groups across Sussex and Kent that are devoted to creating local energy generation to provide REAL ENERGY SECURITY. We need to end the idea of short term thinking in our energy network and consider that energy generation projects can provide reliable energy sources for 25 to 30 years and longer.
We need to invest in our electricity grid to create the new distributed energy system that is needed to offer the taxpayer REAL ENERGY SECURITY. Fracking most certainly is not going to provide this in the long term, nor will it reduce prices for the 15,000 people in Brighton & Hove who cannot afford to heat their homes.
The current Government’s energy strategy makes no economic or environmental sense, and we say loud and clear No to Fracking! We want to leave behind a long-term legacy of clean, locally owned renewable energy that serves the community and preserves the environment.
22 Dec 2015
As an amazing year for BHESCo draws to a close, we wanted to take a moment to share some of our proudest successes of the past 12 months, and to look ahead at all we can expect from 2016.
This year, we launched our first ever Share Offer in June, raising nearly £170,000 of investment from our new members. This gave us the tools we need to help local businesses and residents develop renewable energy projects around Brighton and Hove, like solar PV and biomass, as well as investing in energy saving measures like insulation, LED lighting and double-glazing.
With our first wave of projects nearly complete, we now have a number of exciting new projects ready to begin in 2016. Before we tell you about what’s to come, let’s take a quick look back at some of our highlights from this year.
Through BHESCo’s innovative ‘Pay As You Save’ model, we helped this local wood pulp to paper production company to install a biomass boiler on their premises which now provides 100% of heat needs to the manufacturing plant, offices, cottage, and studio. Whilst helping the customer to enjoy an immediate drop in fuel bills for no up front cost, the biomass boiler (which is powered by wood-pellets) also helps to offset the equivalent of 503 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year. We partnered with ‘A Greener Alternative‘ to help us deliver this project.
We are currently installing a 4kW solar PV panel array for Netfuse, which will help save money on electricity bills as well as lowering the company’s carbon footprint. To increase the energy efficiency of the building, BHESCo has engaged Organic Roofs to install a green roof, will install secondary glazing on the windows, and replace all the lights with highly efficient LEDs. The LED are guaranteed to provide office quality lighting for five years.
Solar For Homes, Whitehawk & Moulsecomb
In a joint project with Brighton and Hove City Council and Joju Solar, BHESCo went to the community to support the installation of free solar panels for 25 Council owned properties around the Whitehawk and Moulsecomb areas. While helping to save tenants up to £130 each year on their energy bills (at least 2 months for free for the next 25 years ), we anticipate carbon savings of just over 40 tonnes every year of CO2 equivalent.
The Werks, 45 Church Road, Brighton
The Werks on Church Road is a collaborative work hub for the digital creatives. BHESCo replaced an obsolete, flourescent tube lighting design with a high efficiency LED system. The project was complex, as customer an occupants had their own requirements and preferences. We completed the project to the customer’s satisfaction. We also installed motion sensors to improve energy savings. Annually, Werks Group save over 4200kg CO2 equivalent .
NEW PROJECTS for 2016
Food Waste To Community Energy
In October BHESCo announced to the residents of Hangleton and Knoll our plan to develop an Anaerobic Digester in the area, which would see local food waste diverted from landfill and incineration to be used to create clean renewable energy. We ran two information days and had a great turn out with people showing lots of support. We also heard from residents who had concerns around noise, smell, traffic and the visual impact, and we discussed ways that we will limit these impacts through technology and due care.
This month, working with Brighton Paper Round we have started contacting organisations that produce food waste (including restaurants, hotels, hospitals, schools, care homes, and many others) asking them to commit to separating and recycling their food waste through our scheme. Not only will this divert useful food waste from landfill and create locally produced clean energy but it also makes great financial sense. According to a study conducted by Brighton Paper Round, organisations shifting their food waste from the general waste increase will see a drop in the costs for the collection and disposal of up to 40%.
It’s another win win win created by BHESCo! If you know of, or are part of, an organisation that may be interested in signing up to our food waste collection then get in contact today to find out how we can help to lower your environmental impact, reduce your waste disposal costs and create low cost energy for the community.
BHESCo To Launch New Home Visit Service
We are delighted to announce that we will be launching a new home energy assessment service from January 2016. We aim to provide an affordable and impartial service which enables everyone in the community to receive a complete home energy assessment tailored to their circumstances.
Our friendly and professional Home Energy Advisors will arrange to visit your home to identify how you could save money and stay warm in the winter months. They will also be on hand to provide impartial energy supplier switching advice and can advise on whether you may be eligible for available benefits or grants towards your energy bills.
BHESCo would like show our enormous appreciation to everyone who has invested in the co-operative, or has worked alongside us on our various projects, or has volunteered some of their time to help us along our way. The Co-operative really is more than the sum of its parts and we could not have enjoyed such a fantastic 2015 without the support of you all.
So thank you,
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
The success of two recent events, the decision to reject plans to frack in Lancashire and the recent landmark ruling in the Dutch courts to accelerate action on climate change, symbolise a significant shift towards people being able to have a real impact on decisions being made by policy makers on the environment.
They suggest a move towards a true democracy where the people can mobilise to make a difference in their communities.
Fracking in Lancashire
Local councillors rejected Cuadrilla’s application to frack at Preston New Road, near Blackpool. This decision was made across party lines due to the local councillors’ belief that these plans would have an ‘unacceptable’ impact on the local landscape and residents.
Although this decision could still be overruled at the appeal stage, this is an important event. This represents local councillors taking action which supports local residents in their fight against big companies who are unconcerned with the environmental impact on local people and landscapes.
Case against the Dutch government
Following a recent court case, the Dutch government has been ordered to cut its carbon emissions by at least 25% within the next five years.
Previous to this ruling the only legal requirements for states to take action on climate change were international treaties. This ruling suggests that the state has an obligation to its citizens, not just other states, to have a positive impact on the environment. By framing the case as a human rights issue, the focus is on the impact of climate change on Dutch residents. There is hope that this case could spark similar legal action on climate change in other countries.
Taking action on climate change
There two examples represent ways in which people are taking action on climate change locally. It is becoming increasing clear that people want to have a say in decisions impacting on the future of the environment.
According to a recent study by BHESCo partner Climates, a social network for people taking practical action on climate change, 90% of people want the policy makers to take ambitious action to tackle climate changeat when they meet in Paris for the UNFCCC conference in Paris in December.
Community energy groups, such as BHESCo, are one way to take action with minimal risk involved. Being part of an energy cooperative means being able to have a say in the future of energy generation in your local community. Since half of us believe that it is our individual responsibility to take action, you can become a member of BHESCo to reduce your carbon footprint and tackle climate change.
On the 4th June 2015, the Chancellor, George Osborne announced £4 ½ billion of cuts including £70 million to be cut from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) budget.
The Carbon Brief released a report previous to this on the 3rd June 2015 highlighting the limited scope for cuts within the DECC and the potential impact if cuts did take place.
With the Conservative government promising to decrease public spending, whilst protecting health, pensions and education, unprotected departments such as the DECC are likely to be the focus for cuts.
Impact of cuts
Carbon Brief analysed the 2013/14 budget of the DECC which was £3.4 billion. The money spent on managing the UK’s military nuclear waste and decommissioning legacy accounts for 65% of this budget. The core departmental priorities accounts for the remaining 34%.
The Carbon brief concluded that 87% of the overall budget was essential and would not be eligible for cuts. This 87% is made up of costs relating to the nuclear legacy, international agreements and legal liabilities from formerly nationalised energy industries. Therefore, 13% of the budget could potentially be cut from the DECC’s budget. Currently, 2% (£70 million) of their budget has already been cut.
The impact of these cuts will mean there is less money to dedicate to research on energy and climate change as well as schemes to help people out of fuel poverty.
One example of a scheme which the Carbon Brief suggests is likely to be cut is Green Deal. This a government scheme lead by the DECC which helps people find the best way to pay for energy saving improvements they want to make to their homes including energy grants, like the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund. These improvements can include insulation, heating, double glazing and renewable energy sources which can help reduce long-term energy costs. Without the support of the government, less people will have access to the funding needed to make important improvements to their homes.
Importance of community energy
When the government is demonstrating that they are willing to make cuts to energy and climate change services, the need for community energy projects becomes clear.
Community energy projects which favour renewable energy sources can help to create a more secure energy future for the community in addition to helping reduce the impact of climate change.
Access to cost-efficient local energy benefits all members of the community but is especially essential to people who are living in fuel poverty.