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Fracking Frustration Versus Community Renewables
Sandy Tod, Features Writer
Windypike
A recently formed local group, Community Energy in Gargrave and Malhamdale (CEGAM) is planning a drop-in event in Gargrave village hall on Tuesday September 8th between 4pm and 9pm. CEGAM intends to investigate energy usage and resources and come up with a strategic plan for implementing a range of appropriately sized renewable energy projects through a Community Interest Company (CIC). The CIC will raise funds through a share issue and owners of properties that host these projects will benefit from free renewable energy generated on their site, while profits made from sale of electricity to the grid will be shared between the community and CEGAM's shareholders.

The government's support for shale gas extraction is clearly working against the wishes of communities whatever the arguments in favour - mainly the potential to replace expensive imports. Opponents to fracking are joined by supporters of renewable energy who see government support for onshore wind waning despite it being competitive with fossil fuel burning power generators. Opponents have a valid argument that shale gas will contribute to rather than reduce green-house gas emissions.

Selkirk solar church roof
Government's response is to encourage gas exploitation with tax breaks and to buy off communities with cash handouts. Any potential financial gain from a shale gas boom will be squandered on hand outs leaving little or no reserve for developing renewable technologies when the boom, if it happens, expires.

Rural communities feel powerless in the face of forces they cannot control - governments, large corporations and extreme weather events. However the advantage of a free market system is that we do have a choice and there is an increasing awareness of the power that choice brings. Hence the opposition to large wind-farms and fracking and demands for community consultation on how our energy supplies are provided.

Solar energy
But with choice comes responsibility. The threat of climate change means that burning fossil fuels is not an option for the long-term. People are beginning to choose smaller, more locally based energy companies over the "Big 6". This trend to favour small local suppliers enables local sources of renewable energy such as wind, solar and hydro to be more effectively exploited at an appropriate scale, without blighting the landscape. In rural areas people now realise that generating their own energy is not only viable and good for the planet but can provide diversification from the current dependence on tourism and subsidized hill farming. Community ownership means that profits benefit the community instead of being exported to absent shareholders. Getting communities involved in this way not only ensures local support for projects but also increases awareness of the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Wind power
The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) provides support for the formation of community owned renewable energy projects through the Rural Community Energy Fund (RCEF). With an end in sight to subsidies for onshore wind farms and reducing Feed-in Tariffs (FITs) for
domestic solar panels, small scale community owned renewable energy schemes are getting more attention.

With national Community Energy Fortnight, organised by the Community Energy Coalition running from September 5th to 20th the focus will be on community ownership of renewable energy developments. The fortnight-long series of events will highlight projects ongoing and in hand, around the country.

Find out more about CEGAM and their plans by visiting their Community Energy Fair in Gargrave Village Hall on Tuesday 8th September between 4m and 9pm or visit their website at www.gamaenergy.co.uk. Other events in the region can be found by visiting the Community Energy Coalition website http://www.ukcec.org/community-energy-fortnight

Fracking Frustration Versus Community Renewables, 27th August 2015, 20:00 PM