Power To The People: The Case For Community-Owned Renewable Energy
Glyn Turton and James Tod, Features Writers
Rural communities increasingly feel powerless in the face of forces they cannot control - governments, large corporations and extreme weather events. The latter are almost certainly the result of man-made climatic change.
Recent floods in southern England, prolonged arctic conditions in the north-eastern United States, typhoons in the Philippines - all of these demonstrate the actual, and warn of the potential effects of climate change. Those who deny the human contribution to climate change are in retreat as the case for urgent action grows stronger and stronger.
Could rural communities lead the way in harnessing local renewable energy resources and turn round the Yorkshire Dales economy? Wind, solar and hydro resources are all around us. We can exploit them as individuals but how much better to exploit them as communities. History has shown time and again that developing energy resources brings about new enterprise and restores to people a sense of control over their own lives.
Making the transition to a low carbon economy is a priority for humanity. It doesn't take an in-depth consideration of the global consequences of unabated climate change to see that this is above party-politics - it is an issue for the survival of our civilization.
In Germany renewable energy accounts for 25% of electricity generation and is 65% publicly owned through community ownership schemes. In Britain cost increases due to rising gas prices and profiteering on the part of the big energy companies make exploitation of renewable resources a financially attractive alternative.
Exploiting local resources in a logical and well-engineered manner to satisfy local need would contribute to national targets without the need to "blight" the landscape with 100m high wind turbines. The development of sustainable affordable energy supplies would encourage the setting up of small businesses and rural initiatives, improving prospects for young families and stemming or reversing the tide of migration to the cities.
Industries such as IT, higher education and research would provide diversification from the current dependence on tourism and subsidized hill farming, providing alternative skilled employment to attract young families to live and work in a pleasant and safe rural surrounding.
Engineering studies required to establish demand and identify resources and technologies can be funded by the government's Rural Community Energy Fund (RCEF). Feasibility studies undertaken as part of local development plans would avoid hold ups in the planning process.
Putting local communities in charge of their own energy supplies could provide the impetus to revitalize and bring resilience our declining rural population. Ownership and control over local energy supplies would make the countryside a more attractive place to live in, ensuring a sustainable future for village life and preservation of countryside and heritage.
Do we really want to rely on nuclear power plants built by Chinese and Russian state-owned companies, or can we put the hype and hysteria created by large-scale wind farm proposals behind us and open a constructive debate on how best to harness our own resources?
Power To The People: The Case For Community-Owned Renewable Energy, 28th March 2014, 11:30 AM