Thursday, 30 April 2015

An uncertain future for health care in East Devon

There are already concerns about what will happen to care homes and provision for dementia sufferers - with, on the one hand, Sidmouth Victoria Hospital proposing new facilities, and on the other, fears that a 'two-tier' system of care is developing:
Futures Forum: An uncertain future for dementia care in East Devon

Earlier in the year, the consultation on the future of health care was extended:
Futures Forum: The NHS in East Devon>>> CCG's "Transforming Community Services" consultation extended to 24th February

A meeting with stakeholder groups has now been postponed until after the election:

Talks on future of hospitals delayed

12:31 27 April 2015

The smaller of the two new minor injuries rooms. Ref shs 7706-40-14SH Picture: Simon Horn

Health bosses announced this week that talks to decide the future of community hospitals in East Devon will be temporarily suspended.

Representatives from Sidmouth and Ottery St Mary have been involved in stakeholder group meetings to discuss alternatives to proposals from the Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

Under the proposals – which affect five community hospitals in the eastern locality – Sidmouth Hospital could lose its newly-refurbished minor injuries unit (MIU) and Ottery’s inpatient beds and MIU would both go.

The group was due to meet again on Monday (April 20), but this is now to be rescheduled for next month – after upcoming elections on May 7.

The CCG said work will be ongoing in the meantime to prepare a report on the panel’s discussions so far, and cited this as the main reason for delaying the talks.

Preparation of the report is being overseen by the group’s independent chairman, Sir John Evans, and will be discussed at the meeting in May.

But chairman of the Save Our Ottery Hospital (SOOH) campaign, James Goddard, said there was no mention of a report being prepared in earlier meetings. He has accused the CCG of ‘moving the goalposts’. Mr Goddard said: “I am really very cross with the CCG and the whole process.”

SOOH has recently voiced concerns that there is a ‘veil of secrecy’ over the consultation process, but the CCG has said the report is designed to summarise the group talks for concerned parties.

Members of the public will have the opportunity to attend the meeting in May. A date is yet to be confirmed.

Talks on future of hospitals delayed - News - Sidmouth Herald

There is particular alarm in Ottery St Mary:
Proposed cuts to Ottery Hospital slammed as ‘unworkable’ - News - Sidmouth Herald

Similar concerns are being expressed elsewhere in Devon:
Hospital groups combine forces | Tiverton Mid Devon Gazette

And meanwhile, the parliamentary election candidates are making their voices heard on health issues:
Round up: East Devon's election enters final few days | Exeter Express and Echo

Whilst over the preceding months, health issues have been 
Conservative MPs call for rethink on hospital bed closures | Exeter Express and Echo
Proposed NHS bed and minor injuries unit cuts in East Devon under greater scrutiny - Claire Wright.

"Democracy in East Devon is every bit as bad as it is in places like Tower Hamlets."

A scandal seems to be emerging about the way in which postal voters in the District have been misinformed :
Apology issued to East Devon postal voters affected by wrong district council election information | Exeter Express and Echo
Electors sent wrong guidance on number of votes to cast - Election - Exmouth Journal
Pulmans View from Sidmouth - 28/04/2015 digital edition (page 8)

The EDA's chair has just issued a video on YouTube:
"Democracy here is every bit as bad as it is in places like Tower Hamlets. There are tricks played with agendas, with minutes, with people not being invited to the right meetings, with the manipulation of certain committees, with the deliberate placing of very weak chairmen on those committees, which means, in our view, that the whole thing has fallen into disrepute."

Paul Arnott - YouTube
Paul Arnott | East Devon Alliance

See also:
Futures Forum: East Devon District Council elections: what the websites say >>> Conservatives and East Devon Alliance on-line

The East Devon Watch blog made similar references:


28th April 2015

For those of you (like us) who enjoy this sort of thing, here is the 200 page judgment on the corruption and abuse of power that took place in Tower Hamlets recently. In parts it reads like a fiction thriller – if only it were. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/judgment.pdf

This has led to the Electoral Commission promising to have a good hard look at the processes of dealing with corruption in local authorities, and not before time: 
Local Government Lawyer - Electoral Commission to see what lessons can be learned from Tower Hamlets

In particular, it shows that the whole process of postal voting is very open to abuse and needs to be strengthened.

Power corrupts ….. and postal voting helped in Tower Hamlets | East Devon Watch

And there is more analysis here:
Real Zorro: East Devon - one man, three jobs. What can possibly go wrong!

Hustings in Sidmouth: East Devon Parliamentary election >>> meet the candidates >>> report

This blog has covered the hustings organised by the Vision Group these past weeks:
Futures Forum: Election hustings in Sidmouth - a roundup
Futures Forum: Election hustings in East Devon - a roundup

Here is a further report from the East Devon Watch blog:


29th April 2015

The third in the series of hustings organised in Sidmouth (for District, Town and Parliamentary elections, respectively), admirably had all five of the Prospective Parliamentary Candidates (PPCs) there to meet the public face to face.

Andrew Chapman (UKIP), Hugo Swire (Cons) , Stuart Mole (Lib Dem), Claire Wright (Ind) and Steve Race (Labour) gave their views clearly and characteristically, from their various standpoints, showing that politicians are NOT all the same!

The evening began with an element of almost high comedy, as a phalanx of Tory supporters arrived half an hour early, having been informed in an e-mail from the party office of the wrong start time…rather conveniently enabling them to claim the front row seats.

There was not enough time to cover all the questions submitted, but topics were wide-ranging. They included Trident, and defence spending; decarbonising the energy sector; provision of mental health services; and housing figures in East Devon’s latest draft Local Plan.

The audience was clearly strongly divided, but for the most part listened attentively to the speakers,although there were outbreaks of heckling when the Party lines were rolled out, as when Hugo Swire (Con) said repeatedly that Labour + the SNP would make a chaotic combination in government; and UKIP’s Andrew Chapman insisted our housing shortage was caused by EU immigrants. There was also applause, as when Claire Wright declared, in her closing speech, that as an MP she would never belittle people who were poorer than herself.

At the end of the meeting, VgS Chair, Dave Bramley, praised the courage of the five PPCs, for being prepared to stand on their platform in front of the large audience (about 200 people), and answer questions in person. Regrettably, the bulk of the District Councillors representing Sidmouth, sitting in those front row seats last night, had not been so keen to do so themselves, having boycotted the previous two Sidmouth hustings as “too political”, we hear. Last night all that was required of them was to clap in unison, on cue.

Another hustings packed to overflowing last night, this time in Sidmouth | East Devon Watch

With further comment on the Exmouth hustings:
A picture is worth a thousand words … | East Devon Watch

Plus some perspective on parliamentary elections in the South West:
1993 – the last time the old guard was trounced! | East Devon Watch

An uncertain future for dementia care in East Devon

There have been several efforts to make places more 'dementia friendly':
Push for Honiton to be a ‘dementia friendly’ town - News - Midweek Herald
Dementia training boost for Fields staff - News - Sidmouth Herald
Sidmouth students to become ‘Dementia Friends’ - Education - Sidmouth Herald

See also:
Futures Forum: A more dementia-friendly Devon
Futures Forum: "Making our communities more dementia aware"

At this week's parliamentary hustings in Sidmouth, the issue of health care for the elderly was brought up:
Futures Forum: Election hustings in Sidmouth - a roundup

There are concerns that facilities in the District are going to close:
Probable closure for Green Close - News - Sidmouth Herald

This is from an extensive piece looking into care homes from the Express & Echo:

INVESTIGATION: "Two tier" residential care system has led to "crisis situation" say East Devon social care experts

By Exeter Express and Echo | Posted: April 11, 2015 By Fran McElhone

Arthur Roberts in Exeter and Green Close in Sidmouth were among the first homes to close and Davey Court in Exmouth, which specialises in dementia care, is set to close this year. Other homes in the Exeter area which have also closed are Alphin House and Whipton Barton in Exeter, Daw Vale, Dawlish, Orcahrd Lea, Cullompton and St Lawrence, Crediton.

At the time, former Davey Court manager Christine Cheshire warned that in addition to there being a shortage of beds available at other care homes in the town, the majority of other homes only take residents with mild to moderate dementia so residents could struggle to find an equivalent level of care increasing the likelihood of people having to move out of the area making it harder for their families to visit them.

Elsewhere in Exmouth and East Devon, over the last 18 months, Magnolia House residential care home and Park House Residential Home, which both provided for people with dementia, closed, and Moreton Care Home announced its closure in February. Each home had room for 25 – 30 residents.

In addition, due to the national shortage of qualified nurses, Cranford Nursing Home announced last month that it is to change from being a nursing home to a residential home meaning eight out of 26 residents have to find alternative accommodation. Around 30 residents of Angela Court Nursing and Residential Home at Tipton St John, were relocated following safe-guarding concerns and substantial refurbishments to address them. However, Rose Lodge Care Home in Exmouth, which cares for people with dementia, is adding nine beds in a self-contained community, increasing its capacity to 33...

The manager of another Exmouth care home, who also asked for his identity to be protected, said that the cost of providing a bed and associated care is around 50 per cent higher than council funding. He said that home owners have to secure a certain level of profit to maintain quality, make running a home a viable business, and for the banks to continue to lend for improvements. “We already have a two-tier system especially in dementia care that’s been building up over the last five years,” he said. “And the gap is widening between what social services funding and the cost of care. You lose money by having only social services funded residents – so how do you make up for it? Providing rubbish care. There are some homes that are basically warehouses keeping people alive.” ...

The care home owner also criticised the recent trend for large scale, 60-bed care homes where, he said, there is a risk of losing inter-resident and resident-carer relationships and individualised care. “Successful dementia care is about maintaining relationships,” he continued. “These large scale homes do have separate floors, but where the model can break down is when the residents come into the dining room when they suddenly find themselves with people they don’t know and in a bewildering situation.

“It would be easy to blame social services but this is a society thing,” he added. “I’m amazed that more families don’t kick up a stink about the quality in some homes. I’ve walked around homes where the care has been atrocious. We’re in a society where we need to look after people and until we do, it’s only going to get worse.”

Meanwhile, new provision is being made - although, at what expense:

And this week, the Sidmouth Victoria Hospital has launched plans for more provision:

Appeal launched for £400k dementia unit

06:30 27 April 2015 Stephen Sumner stephen.sumner@archant.co.uk

Sidmouth Victoria Hospital Ref shs 3264-50-14AW. Picture: Alex Walton.

Tireless fundraisers this week launched a bid to create a £400,000 dementia centre at Sidmouth Victoria Hospital.

The new project has been announced just months after the health hub’s comforts fund celebrated the completion of a total refurbishment - which saw the community raise millions over 25 years. Residents are now being asked to dig deep once again so a unit can be built in a roof void at the hospital.

The Sid Valley alone has more than 500 known cases of dementia, placing it at the ‘vanguard’ of Britain’s future health needs.

Sidmouth Victoria Hospital Comforts Fund chairman, Graham Vincent, told its annual general meeting: “Just because we’ve finished our massive upgrade doesn’t mean we can sit back – oh no – we must have a challenge, and what better challenge can we have in today’s world than dementia?

“Everyone knows of someone who suffers from this disease. If – or I would like to say, when – we get consent from the [North Devon Healthcare] trust it will be a massive undertaking, but something that is so needed. We’ve got that roof void there. We have to use it. We can’t just sit back and put our feet up.”

The fifth and final phase of the hospital’s £4.5million refurbishment project was completed last year, safeguarding it for the 21st century. Apart from some professional fees, all of the money came from local residents to give Sidmouth ‘one of the best community hospitals in the country’.

But Mr Vincent said comforts fund trustees felt guilty there was an empty space going unused so, hot on the heels of their last project, they set to work on their next challenge. They will need to raise some £400,000 to fund a lift and a staircase into the roof void, as well as windows, doors, utilities and finishes.

Trustees have already discussed the plans with the Sid Valley Memory CafĂ© and other interested parties, and a business case is being compiled for the North Devon Healthcare Trust, which owns the hospital. Once it has given the go-ahead, the comforts fund will finance a feasibility study.

Angela Pedder OBE, the chief executive of the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital Trust, said the town’s age profile is where the rest of the country will be in 2075. “You are our vanguard,” she told the meeting. “We have to find a model of service that works locally. I see this as what a vibrant health future looks like.”

Appeal launched for £400k dementia unit - News - Sidmouth Herald

Sidmouth Sea Fest: Bank Holiday weekend: Friday 1st May - Saturday 2nd May >>> the invitation

Tomorrow night, the Sea Fest kicks off again at the Sidmouth seafront:
Futures Forum: Sidmouth Sea Fest: Bank Holiday weekend: Friday 1st May - Saturday 2nd May >>> the flyer
Futures Forum: Sidmouth Sea Fest: Bank Holiday weekend: Friday 1st May - Saturday 2nd May >>> a community event

Here's the line-up:
Sea Fest Full Line Up | Sidmouth Sea Fest

Here's the video for Saturday night:
Gordie MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys - Promo 2012 - YouTube
Gordie Mackeeman on BBC 6 Music | Sidmouth Sea Fest

Here's the invite for Friday night:

Sidmouth Sea Fest | Coastal Community Celebration

'Development resistance' in East Devon >>> >>> >>> >>> or, how local issues might affect the general election >>>

The District Council has put out its latest draft Local Plan to public consultation:
Futures Forum: District Council draft Local Plan: consultation to 12th June

The housing and employment land proposals are still controversial:
Futures Forum: A history of the East Devon Business Forum, part nine ....... "The local development framework would enable businesses to progress land allocation. It was agreed that the strategy should reflect the Forum’s views."
Neighbourhood Planning East Devon Experience - East Devon

And these issues have had an effect on the Parliamentary election:
Futures Forum: CoVoP Day of Action in Sidmouth >>> further reports
Our Government’s land-grab legacy - Telegraph
MP: Only Local Plan can save Clyst Valley - News - Exmouth Journal
Hugo Swire presses Brandon Lewis on planning | Hugo Swire
EDDC proposes very high housing growth for district - Claire Wright

The question is to what extent 'local issues' will dominate a parliamentary campaign:
Barnstaple's Rodney Cann launches parliamentary campaign | Exeter Express and Echo
East Devon Independent county councillor Claire Wright to stand for constituency | Exeter Express and Echo
Medics bid to unseat MPs over Health Bill | Exeter Express and Echo

This commentary from the East Devon Alliance's candidate for the District Council seat of Seaton looks at how local and national issues have converged in the Parliamentary election:
Martin Shaw Archives | East Devon Alliance

It appeared in the Open Democracy website earlier in the year:

Development resistance threatens election upset in Devon

MARTIN SHAW 23 February 2015

In one seat in the South West, the bookies list the main challenger is an independent. What's going on?

Claire Wright

It is the unlikeliest place to look for evidence of Europe's new political turbulence. Forecasters agree that in South West England, the main issue in the May 7 General Election is between the two Coalition parties. Will the Liberal Democrats manage to cling on to their seats or will David Cameron's Tories take them, offsetting Labour gains elsewhere in England and Wales - which combined with the SNP's capture of Labour seats in Scotland will allow Cameron to remain in Downing Street?

Certainly, the insurgent soft-racist party, UKIP, will advance a little here, but it is nowhere near to capturing seats as it may elsewhere. Likewise the 'Green surge' may conceivably work in regional capital Bristol, but there is no sign that rural constituencies will see strong Green advances. With the Lib Dems the fall guys of the UK's first coalition since the Second World War, sitting Tory MPs must be feeling complacent about their own returns to Westminster, even if the national outcome remains on a knife-edge.

This will undoubtedly have been the case in the East Devon constituency, where the academic site electionforecast.co.uk projects national trends to give the Conservatives 40 per cent, Labour 16, the LibDems and UKIP 15 each and the Greens 7. However the site willingly acknowledges that local constituency-level knowledge is not included in its model, and Lord Ashcroft's programme of constituency polling has also not reached here.

It is therefore understandable that national media have so far overlooked a very English local insurgency which has produced a serious independent candidate, Claire Wright, who aims to oust Tory foreign office minister, Hugo Swire.

Independent MPs are rarely elected in UK general elections, but the rare exceptions are often in safe Tory seats where (as here) both Labour and the Lib Dems are weak. In recent times, Martin Bell (a BBC reporter) toppled 'sleazy' Tory Neil Hamilton (now a leading UKIP figure) in Tatton in 1997, although when Bell stood down in 2001, the seat reverted to the Tories' George Osborne. Consultant Richard Taylor captured Wyre Forest in 2001 on the back of a strong campaign to save Kidderminster’s hospital, holding it until 2010.

Could East Devon be 2015's case? Wright is not a celebrity capitalising on a national scandal, as Bell was, nor does she have a single decision like Kidderminster's hospital closure to rally opposition to local Tory dominance(although local hospital closures are important issues, and Wright is part of a campaign against cuts in the Ottery St. Mary hospital).. It might therefore be thought that her chances are slim. Yet she is building on very broad opposition to the ruling Tories on East Devon District Council (EDDC), widely perceived as a one-party state where developers rule - if not a hotbed of corruption (Tory Graham Brown was forced to resign in 2013 in a ‘councillors for hire’ scandal).

Wright has a broad local base. A youthful district and County councillor, she came to prominence in a mass movement which brought 4,000 people onto the streets of the district capital and seaside resort of Sidmouth (population 14,000) in 2012, in protest against a development on open green space proposed by the EDDC. Already there was a scent of wider anger with a one-party regime on the council (the Tories have ruled for 35 of the last 39 Years). ‘Without the ventilation of change, the council has, some feel, begun to smell’, wrote the editor of Country Life at the time.

Unlike most such protests which quickly fade, Save Our Sidmouth spawned a movement, the East Devon Alliance (EDA), which is now challenging for power on the council. EDA is aiming to contest at least 45 of the 58 council seats and end Tory rule. The election takes place on the same day as the general election and the Lib Dems have no chance of gaining control, while Labour and the Greens will be lucky to gain any seats at all.

Syriza or Podemos, EDA is not. Yet this local movement of mainly middle-aged, middle-class southern English is one of many local resistances to the Tory-led Coalition's National Planning Policy Framework, widely seen as a property developers' charter, who are nationally united in the Community Voice on Planning (COVOP).

Like the London tenants fighting the sale of their estates to developers, EDA contests the increasing bias of the British state towards property developers, local and international. The difference between EDA and other anti-developer resistance is that EDA, including several sitting independent councillors, is now challenging for district power. With implicit backing from the local press, EDA threatens a major upset in this quiet backwater.

Without EDA's challenge to the local council, Wright's independent campaign might seem quixotic. Yet simultaneous local and national elections, with synergies between the campaigns, give her a chance. Bookies now have her ahead of the Lib Dems and Labour, and a respectable second place is clearly possible. Wright's challenge is to persuade Lib Dem, Labour and Green voters who will vote EDA in the local elections to also support her - while at the same time trying to eat away at the Tory vote.

In what has been called Britain's most unpredictable election - as I write, election forecast projects a mere one-seat Labour plurality over the Tories (283-282 in a parliament where 326 seats are needed for a majority) - clearly every seat counts. Experts expect wide variations between constituency outcomes, and East Devon is another to watch. They would also do well to take on board the significance of the local elections: in East Devon on May 8, the most likely change is an end to decades of Tory council rule.

Development resistance threatens election upset in Devon | openDemocracy
February | 2015 | Martin Shaw

See here for some more comment from another EDA candidate:
Localism and campaigning | Sidmouth Independent News

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Election hustings in East Devon - a roundup

The Vision Group reports on its series of election hustings in Sidmouth:
Futures Forum: Election hustings in Sidmouth - a roundup

Here's a look at where the parliamentary candidates are from the Express & Echo:

Round up: East Devon's election enters final few days

By Exeter Express and Echo | Posted: April 28, 2015

Andrew Chapman

Claire Wright

Hugo Swire is defending his East Devon Seat for the Conservatives

Steve Race

Stuart Mole

Hugo Swire is defending East Devon for the Conservatives between his duties in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office where he is involved in the crisis in Nepal following the earthquake. Despite the global emergency he was at the Budleigh Salterton Farmers’ Market canvassing support this week hoping his hefty majority will stay intact.

Stuart Mole for the Lib Dems who is hoping to topple the Government minister retweeted East Devon Watch that the Swire family were 42 in the Sunday Times Rich List. He was campaigning in St Loyes in Exeter this week – one of two areas of the city that lie within East Devon – the other being Topsham.

Mr Mole is expected to be the main challenger to the Conservatives in the election but one candidate begs to differ. Independent Claire Wright continues to insist she could unseat Mr Swire. The West Hill resident and Devon County Councillor is making it personal questioning Mr Swire’s claim he regularly visits local schools and pointing out that pupils in Devon get £270 less funding per head than the national average.

Steve Race for Labour is concerned about fears that Exmouth’s St John’s Court may close while UKIP’s Andrew Chapman says he is dismayed over the uncompetitive EU directives that burden local businesses and even threatens the hospital in Ottery St Mary.

With a week to go there is still plenty to play for with hustings at Westpoint near Exeter on Friday, May 1, where the public can fire questions at the candidates.


Bookies reveal latest Exeter and East Devon election odds

Exeter's General Election battle about to enter its final week as the Conservatives take it down to the wire

Apology issued to East Devon postal voters affected by wrong district council election information

Round up: East Devon's election enters final few days | Exeter Express and Echo

Election hustings in Sidmouth - a roundup

This is from the Vision Group for Sidmouth's website earlier today:

Parliamentary, District and Town hustings were put on by the Vision Group over the past three weeks. Here's an overview.

Weds 29th April

Last night - Tuesday 28th April - saw the last, and busiest, 'meet the candidates' session put on by the Vision Group to enable candidates and electorate to debate the issues.

It was the busiest - attracting capacity crowds - because issues of national importance have naturally figured highest on the media's agenda - and because, again according to the media, everything is open.

The question has certainly been raging as to whether East Devon is a 'safe seat' - a constituency held by the Conservative Party for decades with a very large majority. But this might well be upset, with strong challenges from the country's strongest independent candidate and the presence of a serious UKIP contender.

Having said that, all five candidates at last night's hustings were of excellent calibre - all good public speakers, all in command of their arguments and all ready to take on contentious issues.

It should be an interesting result next Thursday.

The first hustings back on Wedneday 15th April saw candidates for the District Council election gather - and this was perhaps even more contentious, as several of the incumbent candidates declared they were 'unable' to take part.

These local elections have been fired up by the upstart East Devon Alliance, an umbrella group for independent candidates who are seeking to challenge those incumbent councillors.

However, despite the bitterness and rancour behind the scenes and in the media, the hustings were more than civil - and again, the calibre of candidates was very solid indeed on all sides.

The middle hustings on Tuesday 21st April were the least well attended - perhaps it was the tea-time slot or the location - or perhaps it was the fact that the Town Council is too low in most people's radar - which is a pity as this local authority is the closest to the community.

But the fact that this is the first time in almost 20 years that there have been any elections at all for the Town Council is significant - and again, this has created tensions, in that several incumbent councillors said they were 'unable' to attend the hustings.

Nevertheless, the Vision Group is very grateful that so many candidates took part in all three events - showing a real enthusiasm for the democratic process and a real willingness to engage with the electorate.

The VGS will continue to act as an enabler of such meetings, as we look forward to life after 7th May.


See also:

General election:

Futures Forum: Hustings in Sidmouth: East Devon Parliamentary election >>> meet the candidates: Tuesday 28th April

Futures Forum: Climate change: and the views of East Devon's parliamentary candidates

Futures Forum: Rural issues: what the political parties have to say >>> regional hustings @ Westpoint >>> Thursday 23rd April

Futures Forum: Energy round-up: what are the UK parties’ policies?

Futures Forum: Affordable housing: the political parties' policies >>>>>> an overview

District Council election:

Futures Forum: East Devon District Council elections: what the websites say >>> Conservatives and East Devon Alliance on-line

Futures Forum: Streetlife debates the election issues for Sidmouth: part 2

Futures Forum: Streetlife debates the election issues for Sidmouth

Futures Forum: Hustings in Sidmouth: East Devon District Council election Meet the candidates >>> more reports

Futures Forum: East Devon District Council elections >>> latest from Honiton > Axminster > Ottery

Futures Forum: East Devon District Council elections: Meet the candidates: Hustings in Sidmouth >>> 7.30pm Wednesday 15th April >>> and further reports

Town Council election:

Futures Forum: Sidmouth Town Council Election >>> Meet the candidates and councillors >>> reports

Futures Forum: Sidmouth Town Council Election >>> Meet the candidates and councillors >>>>> tomorrow Tuesday 21st April >>> 6pm at the College

Futures Forum: Hustings in Sidmouth: Town Council Election >>>>>>>>> Meet the candidates >>> UPDATE >>> Tuesday 21st April

Vision Group for Sidmouth - Election hustings in Sidmouth - a roundup.

East Devon District Council elections: what the websites say >>> Conservatives and East Devon Alliance on-line

We have the full list of who is standing for the District Council elections in Sidmouth next week:
Futures Forum: The final list of candidates for East Devon District Council election announced
Futures Forum: East Devon District Council elections: latest reports

Going on-line to see what the candidates have to say is both interesting and disappointing.


Looking at the Conservatives, who currently make up all seven District Councillors in Sidmouth...

The East Devon Conservatives website focusses entirely on the parliamentary elections:
East Devon | Conservatives

The information about current Conservative District Councillors on the website are simply links to the District Council's own website:
District Councillors | East Devon

Using these links, the Conservative party candidates for Sidmouth are:

Sidmouth Sidford
Sidmouth Sidford - Cllr Stuart Hughes | East Devon
Ian McKenzie-Edwards (newly-standing)
Sidmouth Sidford - Cllr Graham Troman | East Devon

Sidmouth Town (three seats)
Sidmouth Town - Cllr Sheila Kerridge | East Devon
Sidmouth Town - Cllr Frances Newth | East Devon
Sidmouth Town - Cllr Peter Sullivan | East Devon

Sidmouth Rural
Sidmouth Sidford - Cllr Christine Drew | East Devon

The only Conservative party candidate for a Sidmouth ward with their own website is Stuart Hughes. This is from his homepage:

Towards & Beyond 2017

I shall continue to oppose the relocation of East Devon District Council's HQ from the Knowle and the subsequent loss of 400 local jobs which are vital to our local economy......Having been successful in moving an amendment that saw the proposal for the controversial Business/Retail Park site at Sidford being removed from the Draft Local Plan I shall now continue to champion the designation of a Green Wedge between Sidford and Sidbury which is within the AONB....and continue to campaign for a link to the Alexandria Industrial Estate from the B3176 Station Road which would unlock the provision of further employment opportunities in the Sid Valley, and maximising the full potential of World Heritage Site status (Jurassic Coast) by the re-development of Port Royal including the provision of an Interpretation Centre and lecture theatre. I also support the limited development of further affordable/shared equity housing .

I shall both support and promote measures that will improve the safety, environment and quality of life for residents. The Woolbrook 20mph zone has seen a reduction in vehicle speeds and the new Toucan Crossing on the A375 Sidford Road which I called for as part of the Long Park to the Byes 106 funded Cycleway will benefit ALL cyclists, pedestrians and those with mobility scooters in reaching the Woolbrook Centre and the Byes.

Climate change poses the greatest threat to Sidmouth and further erosion in the vicinity of Pennington Point/Alma Bridge will leave eastern town exposed to flooding from a severe south easterly storm. I shall continue to raise this issue and press for the earliest implementation of a much needed coastal protection scheme through the Beach Management Plan..............I have already given the go ahead for necessary approvals to be sought for the replacement Alma Bridge which is the lifeline for those who live on the east of the Sid and is our Gateway to the Jurassic Coast...... Pedestrianisation (full/partial) and Park and Change are two issues that I shall continue to champion the cause for and which feature in the Vision Groups 'Vision for Sidmouth' document. These two measures go hand in hand towards providing a quality shopping experience for local residence and visitors alike by removing vehicles from the town centre.

Having supported the Stirling work of the Comforts Fund through my locality budget in the provision of new facilities at the Sidmouth Cottage Hospital I am supporting the case for the retention of the Minor Injuries Unit.........I am also working towards Green Close rising from the ashes through the private sector as a Dementia Care Facility for the Sid Valley.

Sharing Your Caring.


This is Stuart Hughes' blog:
www.devonconservative.org.uk - blog

And these are the pages in his role as a District Councillor:
www.devonconservative.org.uk - district

Otherwise, none of the other Conservative candidates for Sidmouth (both previously-sitting and newly-standing) have any substantial web presence.

The only information on-line about these candidates is from other media - for example:
Key roles confirmed at East Devon annual meeting | Exeter Express and Echo

Elsewhere in the District, one of the few Conservative candidates to have any internet presence of her own is Jill Elson, who is defending her ward in Exmouth:
Jill Elson | Jill Elson An East Devon Councillor

Ian Thomas of Trinity also has a website - but as he has been re-elected by default, there is not much activity at present:
Trinitymatters.co.uk website of Cllr Ian Thomas EDDC - Home


Looking at the challengers to the Conservatives, there has been considerable interest in the media - perhaps because this challenge is on such an unprecedented scale:
Independent alliance target Sidmouth  COLYTON TODAY | NEWS | SIDMOUTH: | 2015
Sidmouth Herald: Independents Day for Valley? | East Devon Alliance
EDA in the Press - East Devon Alliance

The framework of the East Devon Alliance is not only providing support for independents - it is also proving quite a presence on-line:
Independents working for you | East Devon Alliance

There is a busy Facebook account:
East Devon Watch | Facebook

The EDA is also on YouTube:

East Devon Alliance - YouTube

This video has just been loaded onto both the EDA website and YouTube:

Published on Apr 26, 2015

Paul is an Independent East Devon Alliance candidate for the Coly Valley ward (with Sheila Smith) in the East Devon District Council elections on 7th May 2015. In this video, Paul speaks about public expectations for democratic transparency, the need for genuinely affordable housing, the effects of a decades-long single-party administration in East Devon, and the opportunity at these elections for voters to enable this change to happen.

Paul Arnott - YouTube
Paul Arnott | East Devon Alliance

Paul Arnott is the Chair of the EDA:
Press Release from Paul Arnott Chair of East Devon Alliance, 12 November 2014 | East Devon Watch

Looking at the independent candidates for Sidmouth:
Sidmouth Wards | East Devon Alliance

Sidmouth Town:
Cathy Gardner | East Devon Alliance
Matt Booth | East Devon Alliance
John Dyson (Independent but endorsed by EDA)

Sidmouth Sidford
Dawn Manley | East Devon Alliance
Deborah Tallis | East Devon Alliance
Marianne Rixson | East Devon Alliance

Sidmouth Rural
David Barratt | East Devon Alliance (Independent but endorsed by EDA)

This is the EDA's own analysis of the list of candidates across the District:

Meanwhile, there are other websites from independent candidates and councillors in the District.

Notably, Claire Wright, who is standing down as a District Councillor for Ottery Rural to stand as a parliamentary candidate, has provided a very active website over the past four years:

Her independent colleague Susie Bond will be contesting the Feniton ward - and has had her own blog since she became a Councillor following the resignation of Cllr Graham Brown:
Susie Bond | Independent District Councillor for Feniton and Buckerell ward, EDDC

Affordable housing in East Devon: lack of building... and lack of transparency...

The South West has a real problem when it comes to providing 'affordable housing', as the Western Daily Press reveals:

Revealed: Just FIVE truly affordable homes available in entire districts of the West

By TristanCork | Posted: April 28, 2015

For a family needing two bedrooms, just one-in-20 homes in the West are affordable.

The shocking extent of the housing crisis engulfing the West has been revealed – there are some parts of the region where only five houses are available to buy that are truly affordable.

Overall, only one in 20 homes on the market for sale today are within the reach of people earning even the average household wage of £30,000 a year, and for families with more than one child barely one in every 100 is affordable.

The report by housing charity Shelter comes as even housing developers warned that the problem of a booming housing market pricing out the average buyer is about to get a lot worse. Barratts Homes said new rules allowing pensioners to 'cash-out' their pensions early is expected to lead to an explosion in more 'buy-to-let' properties as pensioners invest their money in property rather than pensions.

Shelter analysed the housing market in every district in the West, and compared the asking price of every home with the kind of mortgage that an average family buying their first home could afford.

Only six per cent of homes were affordable for a family that only needed two bedrooms. If a family needed three bedrooms, just one per cent were within reach.

The problem is so bad that in some parts of the region, hundreds of people looking to buy their own home are battling for just a handful of affordable properties. In both the Mendip district of Somerset and the Cotswold district in Gloucestershire, there are currently only five homes on the market that an average family could afford. In West Somerset there are six, and in north Dorset, Bath and North East Somerset and Weymouth there are just eight.

Most rural areas of the West, from Stroud and South Gloucestershire to north Devon and west Dorset, there less than four per cent of homes for sale that are affordable.

"Nearly 95 per cent of homes on the market are off limits for a typical family in the West, and this is nothing short of a scandal," said Campbell Robb, the chief executive of Shelter. "Decades of failing to deliver the homes we need is leaving millions trapped in expensive and unstable private renting, or in their childhood bedrooms, with barely a hope of saving for a home of their own. It's no wonder that a week out from election day, affordable housing is a key concern for those heading to the polling booths.

"For the next government, whoever that may be, it's time for the talk to stop and the work to begin. Politicians need to act swiftly to deliver the plan that will build the 250,000 homes a year we need, or millions more people will be forced to kiss their dreams of a stable and affordable place to live goodbye," he added.

The Shelter report looked in detail at what was actually affordable for families taking home the average household income in each of the districts they lived – so the 'affordable' threshold of house prices is actually different in different areas. In most parts of the region, the Shelter methodology considered anything over around £140,000 or £150,000 unaffordable to people on average earnings.

"This methodology is actually generous, because it assumes this average family have somehow managed to save the average deposit of around 17 per cent, and a mortgage lender is prepared to lend them 3.4 times their salary," said a Shelter spokesman. "Affordable doesn't just mean the asking price of a house, but also whether they could afford to repay the monthly mortgage repayments."

The housing crisis has suddenly exploded into life as a key election issue, with all three main parties unveiling new policies aimed at tackling it. The Lib Dems began with a loan for people to afford their first deposit for rented accommodation, then the Tories unveiled a right-to-buy for housing association tenants, and now Labour have unveiled a raft of policies designed to help both first-time buyers and people struggling in rented.

The managing director of Barratt Homes weighed in to the debate yesterday by predicting a rise in the number of buy-to-let investors fuelled by the pension changes which are allowing pensioners to 'cash-out' their pensions early.

Russell Glimstead said his firm has already seen an increase in enquiries from potential buyers looking to invest their pension in property and rent it out. "We have already been seeing investors opting for property rather than savings accounts but this will rise again now that newly retired people can invest in a wide range of products and for many this will be bricks and mortar," he said.

Shelter said this would exacerbate the problem of the lack of affordable homes to buy – because first-time buyers would be in competition with even more newly-minted pensioners.

Revealed: Just FIVE truly affordable homes available in entire districts of the West | Western Daily Press

The East Devon councils are trying to do their bit - but the numbers are minimal and the process is not exactly transparent:

East Devon Council to buy empty buildings on Exmouth site in plan to address affordable housing shortage

By Exeter Express and Echo | Posted: April 28, 2015
Comments (1)

EAST Devon District Council is planning to buy three empty buildings on a site in Exmouth from Devon County Council with a view to addressing the area’s affordable housing shortage.

The district authority has reached agreement in principle to purchase land at Mudbank Lane with the intention of enabling a mixed-use housing development on the site with 50 per cent affordable housing.

The council has been unable to confirm how many houses will be provided or how much the county authority is charging them for the plot.

The land is currently occupied by former residential care facilities, Danby House, the Marjorie Moore Centre and Exebank. The sale will be conditional on obtaining planning approval for a development of mixed tenure new homes, some of which would be sold on the open market while others would be available for rent and shared ownership.

As previously reported by the Echo last summer, Devon County Council has been spending tens of thousands of pounds a year on its disused, empty buildings.

In figures obtained by the Echo through a Freedom of Information request, as of last July the county authority had a total of 19 empty and unused buildings surplus to their requirements and all but one was earmarked to be sold on.

During the last tax year, Exebank care home which has been empty since 2011 when it was mothballed, and Danby House day centre, which has been closed for seven years, cost the council £21,900.

County ward member for Exmouth, Councillor Eileen Wragg said public money is being “wasted” on empty and derelict buildings when the county authority faced millions of pounds of budget cuts.

The new agreement between the two councils means that the district council can now proceed with the purchase of the land with the aim to enter into a partnership agreement with a housing provider to build a range of new homes on the site.

The deal was first mooted in the autumn and discussions took place in commercial confidence at meetings of the district council’s Housing Review Board and Cabinet.

County Hall has now confirmed in writing that it is willing to sell the land and district council cabinet members have approved the purchase going ahead as soon as all the legal formalities can be dealt with.


oldsceptic | April 28 2015, 2:42PM

Not "The council has been unable to confirm how many houses will be provided or how much the county authority is charging them for the plot." for they are perfectly able to do so. As usual its a case of unwilling to be transparent.

East Devon Council to buy empty buildings on Exmouth site in plan to address affordable housing shortage | Exeter Express and Echo

This is the comment from the East Devon Watch blog:


28th April 2015

But remember that “affordable” means 90% of market rent.

Why not a Community Land Teust for 100% affordable housing for lical people as has been done in other areas. And what about self-builds?

And surely these political decisions did not take place behind closed doirs during the Purdah period?

And it will be SO interesting to see which housebuilder they pair with!

EDDC in secret talks with DCC to build (some) affordable housing in Exmouth | East Devon Watch

Energy revolution: “There is growing evidence that some fundamental changes are coming that will over time put a question mark over investments in old energy systems.”

The oil industry insists that their product is the future:
Futures Forum: "Abundant, cheap electricity has been the greatest source of human liberation in the 20th century."

And with the drop in oil prices it does seem that renewables are less attractive:
Futures Forum: Squaring the circle: low oil prices, high renewable prices ... ... and high carbon emissions

Besides, the infrastructure does not seem to be right anyway:
Futures Forum: “There will definitely be a slowdown in the renewable energy sector in the South West. It may, however, drive innovation for new approaches and energy solutions.

However, there are more and more questions being asked about the future of the oil industry:
Futures Forum: Overproduction and the end of Big Oil's business model
Futures Forum: "Exposing the futuristic fantasies deployed by the fossil-fuel companies"

And there are more questions about whether their assets would or should become 'stranded':
Futures Forum: Climate change: keep it in the ground

In the meantime, renewables do seem to be getting more competitive:
Futures Forum: New Economics Foundation: "clean energy gains ground"

More commentators are talking about an 'energy revolution':
China vows to defeat pollution with energy 'revolution' - Telegraph
Nicaragua's Renewable Energy Revolution Picks Up Steam : Parallels : NPR
How island nations can lead the renewable energy revolution - Blue and Green Tomorrow
Clever Interactive Video Encourages Americans to Join Renewable Energy Revolution » EcoWatch
Clean Energy Revolution Is Ahead of Schedule - Bloomberg View

This is from last month's Financial Times:

Can solar transform the energy market ?

  © Getty Images
I have never given much credence to the idea that an international agreement on climate change capable of establishing a global carbon price was likely to be reached – either in Paris this December or anywhere else – anytime soon.
If Europe, which is way ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to climate policy, can’t set its own carbon price, what hope is there that the US, India and all the others will?
As a result I’ve never taken seriously the view that a vast amount of energy investment by the oil and gas companies will be left stranded as carbon-generating fuels are priced out of the market. The argument has always felt like wishful thinking. If everyone obeyed the Ten Commandments there would be no prisons and the police forces of the world would be redundant.
But, and it is a very important qualification, change doesn’t come just through legislation and international treaties. Technology is arguably much more important and there is growing evidence that some fundamental changes are coming that will over time put a question mark over investments in the old energy systems.
Wood Mackenzie, a consulting firm with an impressive track record, recently published a report that said that within 5 years solar would be fully competitive with traditional sources of energy in 19 states in the US. Within a decade the number of states will double. “Fully competitive” means without subsidies. The detail matters – the US is a low cost energy market compared with most of the rest of the world. To be competitive there against coal and gas – without subsidies and without any carbon price – is quite something.
If this forecast is correct (and WoodMac does not tend to exaggerate or hype up its analysis), this is advance notice of a revolutionary development. The revolution might start in the US but if grid parity (the jargon term for competitiveness) can be achieved there, the impact will spread: first across the US because the low-cost solar will enter the grid, then internationally as others take up the technology. As the author of the report Prajit Ghosh, says, the collapse of solar module prices has enabled solar to move from being a niche supplier to being a major regional competitor to both conventional and other renewable technologies and a potential disruptor of the whole power industry.
Solar power that doesn’t require subsidies will be very attractive for many countries, not least those concerned with the dangers of dependence on foreign supplies and those with problems on the balance of payments. Not every country can generate significant amounts of solar power, but many can and will have every incentive to do so. One of the most remarkable features of globalisation is the speed at which technology moves internationally once it is developed. No one struggling 15 or 20 years ago with the early brick-sized mobile phones would have believed that within two decades mobiles with enormous capabilities to carry data, pictures and messages would have penetrated the mass markets of India and Africa.
Falling module prices are very important but they are not the whole story. The next issue is the efficiency of the modules, which is going through a process of continuous improvement. And beyond that come the development and use of new materials such as perovskite and the application of photovoltaics to building materials, glass and paint. Those steps are in general not yet commercial but the direction of change is clear.
Rapidly spreading solar technology could change everything. Solar can be used off the grid and through simple devices that do not require large-scale capital investment. It will be fascinating to see how the business models of solar develop.
Equally interesting will be to see how the existing energy suppliers react. Both existing assets (oil and gas fields for instance, or coal mines) as well as some infrastructure could be redundant. The smartest companies (which probably include some of the oil majors) will transform themselves. They may not be solar pioneers but they have the financial capacity and organisational reach to take second-mover advantage. Others will be left behind – but then that is what happens in a market economy.
The judgment for long-term investors now is about the quality and flexibility of management. In the energy business, the time horizon is typically 40 years – often even longer – which means that judgments being made now will determine how companies are positioned in 2030 and beyond.
Of course, solar remains an intermittent source of supply, as the WoodMac report makes very clear. The sun does not always shine. Until advances in storage can provide a commercial means of capturing the power solar produces, there will be a need for supplies that can fill the gaps. Those supplies will have to be flexible – they have to be capable of being turned on and off, which is a major challenge to the traditional economic model that says power stations are only viable when they operate at something close to maximum capacity at all times.
That is another revolutionary change, but I don’t believe the challenge is insurmountable and the economics of the generating sector will be assisted by the inevitable fall in fossil fuel prices if solar starts to take a growing share of the market.
I spoke last week to two groups of students – one the Energy Society at University College London, the other the graduating Masters class in Energy and Environmental Studies at Bocconi University in Milan. It was striking that in contrast to the general attitude in some parts of the energy industry, which is deeply conservative about potential advances and about anything that might transform the status quo, the students who have grown up surrounded by ever advancing communications technology expect and welcome continuous change on every dimension.

Can solar transform the energy market ? | Nick Butler

This is from last week's Nation magazine:

2015 Could Be the Start of a Green Energy Revolution

Solar panels
Solar photovoltaic panels in Las Vegas, Nevada (Reuters/Steve Marcus)
This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.com.
Don’t hold your breath, but future historians may look back on 2015 as the year that the renewable energy ascendancy began, the moment when the world started to move decisively away from its reliance on fossil fuels. Those fuels—oil, natural gas, and coal—will, of course, continue to dominate the energy landscape for years to come, adding billions of tons of heat-trapping carbon to the atmosphere. For the first time, however, it appears that a shift to renewable energy sources is gaining momentum. If sustained, it will have momentous implications for the world economy—as profound as the shift from wood to coal or coal to oil in previous centuries.
Global economic growth has, of course, long been powered by an increasing supply of fossil fuels, especially petroleum. Beginning with the United States, countries that succeeded in mastering the extraction and utilization of oil gained immense economic and political power, while countries with huge reserves of oil to exploit and sell, like Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, became fabulously wealthy. The giant oil companies that engineered the rise of petroleum made legendary profits, accumulated vast wealth, and grew immensely powerful. Not surprisingly, the oil states and those energy corporations continue to dream of a future in which they will play a dominant role.
“Fossil fuels are our most enduring energy source,” said Ali Al-Naimi, Saudi Arabia’s minister of petroleum and mineral resources, in April 2013. “They are the driving force of economic development in the United States, Saudi Arabia, and for much of the developed and developing world [and] they have the capacity to sustain us well into the future.”
But new developments, including a surprising surge in wind and solar installations, suggest that oil’s dominance may not prove as “enduring” as imagined. “Rapidly spreading solar technology could change everything,” energy analyst Nick Butler recently wrote in theFinancial Times. “There is growing evidence that some fundamental changes are coming that will over time put a question mark over investments in old energy systems.”
Normally, transitions from one energy system to another take many decades. According toVaclav Smil of the University of Manitoba, the shift from wood to coal and coal to oil each took 50 years. The same length of time, he has argued, will be needed to complete the transition to renewables, which would leave any green energy era in the distant future. “The slow pace of this energy transition is not surprising,” he wrote in Scientific American. “In fact, it is expected.”
Smil’s analysis, however, assumes two things: first, that a business-as-usual environment in which decisions about energy investments will largely be made within the same profit-seeking outlook as in the past will continue to prevail; and second, that it will take decades for renewables to best fossil fuels in terms of cost and practicality. Both assumptions, however, appear increasingly flawed. Concern over climate change is already altering the political and regulatory landscape, while improvements in wind and solar technology are occurring at an extraordinary rate, rapidly eliminating the price advantage of fossil fuels. “The direction of change is clear,” Butler writes. With the cost of renewable installations falling, solar power has moved “from being a niche supplier to being a major regional competitor [to fossil fuels].”
Experts largely agree that renewables will claim a larger share of the global energy budget in the years ahead. Nevertheless, most mainstream analysts continue to believe that fossil fuels will be the dominant form of energy for decades to come. The US Department of Energy (DoE) typically predictsthat the share of world energy provided by renewables, nuclear, and hydro combined will climb from 17% in 2015 to a mere 22% in 2040—hardly change on a scale that would threaten the predominance of fossil fuels. There are, however, four key trends that could speed the transition to renewables in striking ways: the world’s growing determination to put a brake on the advance of climate change; a sea change in China’s stance on growth and the environment; the increasing embrace of green energy in the developing world; and the growing affordability of renewable energy.
Taking Climate Change Seriously
Resistance to progress on climate change is widespread and well entrenched. As Naomi Klein documents in her latest book, This Changes Everything, the major fossil fuel companies have mounted well-financed campaigns for years to sow doubt about the reality of climate change, while politicians, often in their pay, have obstructed efforts to place restraints on carbon emissions. At the same time, many ordinary people have been reluctant to acknowledge what’s happening and so to consider steps to bring it under control (a phenomenon examined by George Marshall in Don’t Even Think About It). As the devastating effects of extreme weather, including droughts, floods, and ever more powerful storms, gain greater prominence in everyday life, however, all of this is clearly in flux.
Considerable evidence can be assembled to support this assessment, including recent polling data, but perhaps the most impressive indication of this shift can be found in the carbon-reduction plans major nations are now submitting to U.N. authorities in preparation for a global climate summit to be held this December in Paris. Under a measure adoptedby delegates to the most recent summit, held last December in Lima, Peru, all parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are obliged to submit detailed action plans known as “intended nationally determined contributions” (INDCs) to the global climate effort. These plans, for the most part, have proven to be impressively tough and ambitious. More important yet, the numbers being offered when it comes to carbon reduction would have been inconceivable only a few years ago.
The US plan, for example, promises that national carbon emissions will drop 26%-28% below 2005 levels by 2025, which represents a substantial reduction. There are, of course, many obstacles to achieving this goal, most notably the diehard resistance of Republican legislators with strong ties to the fossil fuel industry. The White House insists, however, that many of the measures included in the INDC can be achieved through executive branch action, including curbs on carbon emissions from coal plants and mandated improvements in the fuel efficiency of cars and trucks.
Other countries have submitted similarly ambitious INDCs. Mexico, for example, has pledgedto cap its carbon emissions by 2026, and to achieve a 22% reduction in greenhouse gas levels by 2030. Its commitment is considered especially significant, since it’s the first such pledge by a major developing nation. “Mexico is setting an example for the rest of the world by submitting an INDC that is timely, clear, ambitious, and supported by robust, unconditional policy commitments,” the Obama White House noted in a congratulatory statement.
No one can predict the outcome of the December climate summit, but few observers expect the measures it may endorse to be tough enough to keep future increases in global temperatures below two degrees Celsius, themaximum amount most scientists believe the planet can absorb without incurring climate disasters far beyond anything seen to date. Nevertheless, implementation of the INDCs, or even a significant portion of them, would at least produce a significant reduction in fossil fuel consumption and point the way to a different future.
A Sea Change in Chinese Energy Behavior
Of equal importance is China’s evident determination to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels—a critical change in stance, given its projected energy needs in the decades to come. According to the DoE, China’s share of world energy consumption is expected to jump from an already impressive 19% in 2010 to 27% in 2040, with most of its added energy coming from fossil fuels. Should this indeed occur, China would consume another 88 quadrillion British thermal units of such energy over the next 30 years, or 43% of all added fossil fuel consumption worldwide. So any significant moves by China to reduce its reliance on those energy sources, as now being promised by senior government officials, would have an outsized impact on the global energy equation.
China has not yet submitted its INDC, but its plan is expected to incorporate the commitments made by President Xi Jinping in a meeting with President Obama in Beijing last November. Xipromised to cap China’s carbon emissions by 2030 and increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 20% by that time. He also agreed to work with the United States “to make sure international climate change negotiations will reach agreement as scheduled at the Paris conference in 2015.”
Although the Chinese plan allows for continued growth in carbon emissions for another 15 years, it substantially reduces the amount of new energy that will be derived from fossil fuels. According to a White House statement, “It will require China to deploy an additional 800–1,000 gigawatts of nuclear, wind, solar, and other zero-emission generation capacity by 2030—more than all the coal-fired power plants that exist in China today.”
It appears, moreover, that Chinese leaders are preparing to move even faster than their pledge would require in transitioning away from fossil fuels. Under pressure from urban residents to reduce punishing levels of smog, the authorities have announced ambitious plans to lessen reliance on coal for electricity generation and rely instead on hydropower, nuclear, wind, and solar power, as well as natural gas. “We will strive for zero-growth in the consumption of coal in key areas of the country,” Premier Li Keqiang told the National People’s Congress, China’s legislature, this March.
As in the United States, the Chinese leadership will face opposition from entrenched fossil fuel interests, as well as local government structures. However, their evident determination to reduce reliance on oil and coal represents a real change of mood and thinking. It’s likely to result in a far different energy landscape than the one laid out by the Department of Energy and, until recently, most other experts. Despite repeated predictions of ever-increasing coal consumption, for instance, China actually burned less coal in 2014 than in the previous year, the first such decline in decades. At the same time, it increased its spending on renewable forms of energy by an impressive 33 percent in 2014, investing a total of $83.3 billion—the most ever spent by a single country in one year—to a renewable future. If China leads the way globally and such trends continue, the transition from fossil fuels to renewables will occur far sooner than expected.
Green Goes Global
The giant oil companies have long acknowledged that the most advanced countries, led by the United States, Japan, and Europe, would eventually transition from fossil fuels to renewables, but they continue to insist that developing nations—eager to expand their economies but too poor to invest in alternative energy—will continue to rely on fossil fuels in a big way. This outlook led ExxonMobil and other oil firms to make massive investments in new refineries, pipelines, and other infrastructure aimed at satisfying anticipated demand from the Global South. But surprise, surprise: those countries are also showing every sign of turning to renewables in their drive to expand energy output.
The Global South’s surprisingly enthusiastic embrace of renewables is impressively documented in Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2015, a recent collaboration between the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management and the U.N. Environment Programme. It reports that the developing countries, excluding China, spent $30 billion on renewables in 2014, a substantial rise over the previous year. Together with China, investment in renewables in the developing world totaled nearly as much as that spent by the developed countries that year. Significant increases in spending on renewables were registered by Brazil (for a total of $7.6 billion), India ($7.4 billion), and South Africa ($5.5 billion); investments of $1 billion or more were posted by Chile, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, and Turkey. Given how little such countries were devoting to a renewable future just a few years ago, consider this a sign of changing times.
No less striking is the degree to which oil-producing countries are beginning to embrace green energy. In January, for example, the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority awarded a contract to Saudi Arabia’s ACWA Power International to build a 200-megawatt, $330 million solar electricity plant. The deal received widespread attention, as ACWA promised to deliver electricity from the plant for $58.50 per megawatt-hour, one-third less than the cost of natural gas-fired generation.
“This is a major breakthrough in the oil-fired Emirates and a clear demonstration of the ongoing global energy transition,” suggested Mark Lewis of Kepler Cheuvreux, a European financial services company. “We think this is a landmark deal both in terms of the extremely competitive cost at which the project will generate power and the potential for a much greater take-up of renewables in countries that have so far been slow to embrace them.”
The Falling Price of Renewables
As the Dubai deal indicates, price is playing a crucial role in the shift from fossil fuels to renewables. Listen to the apostles of coal and oil and you’d think that poor countries had no choice but to rely on their chosen form of energy because of its low cost compared to other fuels. “There are still hundreds of millions, billions of people living in abject poverty around the world,” said Rex Tillerson, the CEO and Chairman of ExxonMobil. “They need electricity they can count on, that they can afford… They’d love to burn fossil fuels because their quality of life would rise immeasurably, and their quality of health and the health of their children and their future would rise immeasurably.”
Until recently, this would have been gospel among mainstream energy experts, but the cost of renewables, especially solar power, is dropping so rapidly that, even in a moment when the price of oil has been halved, the news on the horizon couldn’t be clearer: fossil fuels are no longer guaranteed a price advantage in delivering energy to developing countries. Among the harbingers of this change: the cost of solar photovoltaic cells (PVs) hasplunged by 75 percent since 2009 and the cost of electricity generated by solar PVs has fallen globally by 50 percent since 2010. In other words, solar is now becoming competitive with oil and natural gas, even at their currently depressed prices. “Cost is no longer a reason not to proceed with renewables,” concluded a report released by the National Bank of Abu Dhabi in March. SaysLewis of Kepler Cheuvreux: “Over time, as renewable-technology costs continue to come down and economies of scale continue to increase, the relative competitiveness of renewables in the global energy mix will only increase further.”
Keep in mind as well that developing nations have a powerful reason to favor renewables over fossil energy that has nothing to do with price and everything to do with costs of another sort. As the most recent reports from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) make clear, poor countries in the Global South will suffer more (and sooner) from the ravages of climate change than countries in the Global North. This is so because these countries are expected to experience some of the sharpest declines in rainfall and so the most droughts, endangering the food supply for hundreds of millions of people. Combine such concerns with the plunging prices of renewable energy, and it appears that the transition away from fossil fuels will occur faster than predicted in the very regions that the oil companies were counting on for their future profits.
A New World’s A-Coming
Add up these factors, all relatively unexpected, and one conclusion seems self-evident: we are witnessing the start of a global energy transition that could turn expectations upside down, politically, environmentally, and economically. This transformation won’t happen overnight and it will face fierce opposition from powerful and entrenched fossil fuel interests. Even so, it shows every sign of accelerating, which means that while we may be talking decades, the half-century horizon previously offered by experts like Vaclav Smil is probably no longer in the cards. Fossil fuels—and the companies, politicians, and petro-states they have long enriched—will lose their dominant status and be overtaken by the purveyors of renewable energy far more quickly than that.
Even with the quickening of investment in green technology, the likelihood that world temperatures will be held at a 2 degrees Celsius rise, that all-important threshold for catastrophic damage, is unfortunately vanishingly small. Which means that our children and grandchildren will live in a distinctly less inviting world. But as the destructive effects of climate change become more pronounced and more embedded in daily life across the planet, the impetus to slow the warming phenomenon will only intensify. This means that the urge to impose strict curbs on fossil fuel consumption and the companies that promote it will grow, too.
We’re talking, in other words, about the building of genuine momentum for an energy transition which, in turn, means that the majority of people alive on the planet today will experience the ascendancy of renewables. As with previous energy transitions, this shift is going to produce both winners and losers. Countries and companies that assume early leadership in the development and installation of advanced green technologies are likely to prosper in the years ahead, while those committed to the perpetuation of fossil energy will see their wealth and power decline or disappear. For the planet as a whole, such a transition can’t come soon enough.

2015 Could Be the Start of a Green Energy Revolution | The Nation