Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Small-scale, locally-controlled power generation

There have been several reports of late on the dominance of 'big energy' in the UK:
Critics fear competition probe risks letting grid firms off hook | Mail Online
Competition watchdog to investigate energy prices - FT.com
Small Talk: Slow progress on curbing the power of energy giants – but small businesses can do more to help themselves - SME - Business - The Independent

Meanwhile, the large-scale development of power generation excites a lot of opposition:
Futures Forum: The aesthetics of development: power plants and windfarms

The Sid Valley has had its own battles over a proposed development of a solar farm:
Futures Forum: Solar Plan for Sidmouth: second application fails

With the SidEnergy group having to make it clear that it is not a large-scale international developer:
Futures Forum: SidEnergy latest: share issue: energy switching: openhomes

Perhaps a way ahead is small-scale, locally-controlled power generation:
Futures Forum: Balcombe: making a community self-sufficient in electricity

With 'decentralisation' as a key idea:
Futures Forum: Solar, wind, fracking: "We seem simultaneously to be mismanaging the exploitation of three key decentralised energy sources."

As opposed to allowing the large-scale international energy companies a rather free reign: 
Futures Forum: "Allowing fracking companies to drill on private land without first requiring a landowner’s permission."... or... "Neighborhood Environmentalism: Toward Democratic Energy"
Center for a Stateless Society » On “Consent of the Governed” and Other Frauds
Center for a Stateless Society » Climate Change and Corporate Welfare

The UK could look to Germany:

More support for Germany’s renewable energy sector as new law gets go-ahead

Thursday, July 24th, 2014 By Jemma Collins

A publication by ResPublica released today says the UK should learn from Germany in its energy framework and policy.

The essay explains how it is currently too difficult in the UK for small businesses to become energy suppliers and the current market is monopolised by the ‘big six’. This is compared to Germany who has 1,100 electricity suppliers and households can choose from about 72 energy suppliers – most of which are local.

The think tank says the UK government should set up a ‘Help to Supply’ scheme aimed to help new suppliers enter the energy market through the government simplifying requirements.

They say locally governed infrastructure could help reduce complaints to energy companies, create transparency and lower household bills.

Lord Smith, chairman of the Environment Agency, said, “This essay shows very clearly how Germany has succeeded – where we have so far failed – in creating a bottom-up revolution in energy supply and distribution.

“Property-level renewable installation, community energy companies, small-scale local schemes: these have been the way forward for German electricity production, and it’s been a big success. We could learn some serious lessons here.”

More support for Germany’s renewable energy sector as new law gets go-ahead - Blue and Green Tomorrow

An alternative is the cooperative: 

Creating resilient communities – putting power in the hands of local people

Article by Barbara Hammond 24 July 2014

One solution to enhance the resilience of communities against challenges such as these is community energy. This involves neighbourhoods coming together to take control of the energy they use, either through community-owned clean energy generation, joining forces to make their homes more energy efficient or sharing energy-saving advice.

Our experience at the Low Carbon Hub, a social enterprise championing community energy in Oxfordshire, is that the benefits from a community resilience perspective are huge. Having already facilitated a wave of community benefit solar PV and hydro schemes, our ambition is for the whole of Oxfordshire to be powered by smart grids centred around small scale, community-controlled renewable energy schemes. This transformation of our energy system would bring not only environmental, but also social and economic benefits. The Oxfordshire Low Carbon Economy Report we are currently working on with Oxford University has identified some surprising data that shows how much this shift is to our economic advantage:

> As a county we spend £1.5bn on energy every year, all of which flows out of the local economy;
> But we also already make £1.2bn every year out of low carbon business sectors and these already support over 8,000 jobs, over twice the number of jobs supported by the BMW car plant at Cowley in Oxford, the largest local employer;
> A combination of business development and infrastructure investment could generate an extra £800m per year and an extra 10,000 jobs by 2030.

Creating resilient communities – putting power in the hands of local people
Renewable energy co-ops: the power to transform | Red Pepper
The ownership revolution that Britain needs — World Future Council
House of Commons - Energy and Climate Change: Written evidence submitted by Co-operatives UK

The P2P idea has been around for some time, though:
Center for a Stateless Society » New Tech as a Force Multiplier and Equalizer: Bootstrapping the Alternative Economy
P2P Foundation » Blog Archive » Proposal: A Cooperative Strategy for Distributed Renewable Energy (1)
Towards a Cooperative, Small scale, Local, P2P Production Future
All About Power – Part Two – Free Information, Freedom from the Grid, and Peer-to-Peer Bio-Innovation « how to save the world

A lot of these initiatives are linked to the issue of climate change:
How Companies Anonymously Influence Climate Policy | Oil Change InternationalOil Change International
By the Way, Your Home Is On Fire | The Nation

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