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Calderdale's Energy Future

From Jenny Shepherd

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Calderdale's Energy Future draft strategy is on the agenda for Calderdale Council approval on Wednesday 15th Feb. The draft strategy sets an ambitious target for reducing the area's carbon emissions by 2020 (higher than the national target). Its key proposals for reducing carbon emissions are for the Council to:

  • stimulate the market for energy efficiency improvements in homes and business buildings, and in transport
  • open up the Borough to developers of large scale commercial wind farms and biomass energy generation

So Calderdale's Energy Future draft strategy assumes that:

  • the reason carbon emissions are too high is because the markets for renewable energy generation and for energy efficiency improvements in buildings and transport aren't working properly
  • the solution is for local government to make the local markets work better

But the idea that the market is the solution to our problems, and that the role of government is to make the market work, is pretty open to question these days.

Public goods - like health, education, affordable warmth and an unpolluted atmosphere - are likely to be most effectively and fairly provided by the public sector. There is such a thing as society. Not everything should be charged to individuals - or treated as a fit source of profit, either.

This principle underpins the NHS - which provides better value for money than the American private sector health care system. Energy (affordable warmth) and a pollution-free atmosphere are as much universal needs as health care, and maybe we should start thinking about energy and carbon emissions reduction in these terms.

But this isn't how Calderdale's Energy Future draft strategy sees things. The market is the solution, as long as the Council can make it work.

For questions about whether Calderdale's Energy Future draft strategy is workable and socially fair, please have a look at this page on the Energy Royd website and see what you think.

I hope Calderdale Councillors send Calderdale's Energy Future draft back for a thorough rethink. The market hasn't been performing too brilliantly - even with massive government support, for example, in the financial services market. So maybe, best not to rely on Council stimulation of the markets for renewable energy and energy efficiency, as a way of reducing carbon emissions, energy use, and the fuel poverty which besets around a quarter of Calderdale households?

From Anthony Rae

Monday, 13 February 2012

In her posting Jenny Shepherd says: "For questions about whether Calderdale's Energy Future draft strategy is workable and socially fair, please have a look at this page on the Energy Royd website and see what you think."

In my response to that article, in my capacity as coordinator of Calderdale Friends of the Earth, I start with this: "The comments in this article are variously inaccurate, ill informed and ill advised. They completely misrepresent the contents, process and intent of Calderdale's new climate change reduction strategy. I completely endorse its expertise and integrity and urge everyone concerned about the threat of climate change to support it. And therefore to ignore all the mistaken things that 'Energy Royd' has to say about it."

And so on. Jenny has responded to that, and I in turn. However in my second posting I point out that I have no intention of engaging in an artificially created debate about this critical environmental strategy on a website which has been grant aided in order to 'create a debate about climate change'. Sorry - I'm not going to fall for that one; and secondly I'm too busy, for example, in contributing to the development of the action plan that will start to put Calderdale's carbon reduction strategy into effect - at last!

The same comments that I made about the Energy Royd article apply equally to this posting on Hebweb. Its claims about what the Council strategy is calling for are a gross misrepresentation and fabrication.

So I would advise readers to take a relatively sophisticated view as to what is being engineered and intended here. Notice that Jenny is publicly campaigning for a climate change reduction strategy not to be approved. Now, what do you normally call people who adopt such a position?

But above all read the strategy yourself (available as a direct download here) and make up your own mind. And also read the 'Mini-Stern review for Calderdale' undertaken by the Leeds University's Professor Andy Gouldson for the Centre for Low Carbon Futures which demonstrates with expert modelling the huge environmental, economic and social benefits that will result from implementing the Council strategy.

There's not a moment to lose.


From Anthony Rae

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

In my HebWeb posting yesterday I said: "Jenny has responded to (my comments on her Energy Royd article), and I in turn". But some 36 hours after it was submitted my second comment has yet to appear on the ER site; it's still 'awaiting moderation'. It can't be that Jenny was away somewhere, because she herself was uploading material yesterday at 4.30pm.

The purpose of the ER site was apparently to have a 'debate around climate change' and yet when comments are made that aren't favourable to its content then they seem to get lost. How odd.


From David Telford

Thursday, 16 February 2012

I don't think "affordable warmth" is a public good at all and unlikely to be most effectively and fairly provided by the public sector. Without the continual need for efficiency, there will be a contradiction in the aim for "an unpolluted atmosphere".

Efficient heating is best achieved where there is scarcity or a high cost. We've seen in hte car industry in the 1970's and more recently in the past few years, a race for smaller eficient cars as the cost of fuel rises.

Heating is the biggest poluter but only when the price is higher will conumers feel the need to reduce the temerpatures in their homes and turn off the heating when they are not using it. I would say that a market solution is precisely the best way to achieve an unpolluted atmosphere.

We can provide incentives, demolishing inefficiet stone terraces and replacing them with modern buildings is one solution but we need to weigh up the cost of demolishion and rebuild with the savings made in haveing an efficient home.

Small families are also a problem, having individual people living in larger spaces is not the best way to get an efficient energy policy. Perhaps we should encourage co-abitation by offering tax breaks for married couples who statistically stay together for longer and this tends to have a more settled effect on children too.

I think the answer is not to have a centrally planned system but to use taxation to encourage certain energy consumption behaviour.

From Graham Barker

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Having skimmed through Calderdale's Energy Future and the Mini-Stern Review for Calderdale, what baffles me is why anybody bothered to write them at all. (Except for the money, of course - how much did CMBC shell out for them?)

This is academia at its worst. There is nothing remotely useful or enlightening in either document. Both are stuffed with data probably just pulled off the internet and adjusted for Calderdale's tally of households and businesses. The projected savings data are untestable and all the recommended strategies are either blindingly obvious (switch things off, turn things down, walk more, buy energy efficient appliances...) or, when it comes to what CMBC should do, so woolly and pious as to be meaningless.

Whether CMBC approves Calderdale's Energy Future or not won't make a blind bit of difference. We will only get reductions in carbon if we each use less energy. And we know that already.

From Anthony Rae

Thursday, 23 February 2012

A response to the two last comments. David believes we should obtain domestic emissions reductions by driving the price of energy ever upwards but not help those households who can't afford to invest in energy efficiency measures. Presumably they can just remain cold and poor. Given that the price of energy is already fairly high, and will remain so - thus providing a basic price constraint - a more sensible approach would be to assist all families achieve the necessary 'affordable warmth' by an appropriate combination of policy framework and market interventions. Which is what the strategy intends.

Graham - it shows that you only 'skimmed' the reports because I'm afraid you've understood neither their methodology or purpose. The pioneering modelling of the Mini-Stern Review (MSR) has prepared detailed marginal abatement curves for hundreds individual measures in order to rank them in cost effective and carbon reduction order, localise them to Calderdale, and quantify overall achievability and benefits. These are all critical outputs for decision-makers if they are to be sufficiently reassured to proceed with long-term investment planning.

Calderdale Energy's Future (CEF) is only a framework strategy, setting direction and targets - the essential first step. 'What CMBC should do' in detail can now be worked up – that's in the section 'From vision to action' if you want to reread it.

Then there's the usual cynical dig about public money being leached or wasted. Calderdale Council essentially paid nothing for either strategy: the Mini-Stern was funded by DECC - with the Leeds University team working beyond their contracted hours, particularly to help the Calderdale study – and the process that produced CEF by Calderdale Sustainability Forum.

CEF was approved unanimously by all councillors last Wednesday (15th), which means that Calderdale can now take its place at the top table when the Leeds City Region Low Carbon Economy strategy is prepared, for an area with an aggregated critical mass of 3 million population. Without it we would just be left on the outside looking in as the rest of LCR sought to attract the very large inward investment flows and competitive advantage that will flow from it.

And it's been interesting to see that apart from the online (but not the editorial) comments at the Halifax Courier the only criticism of CEF that I've noted has come from Hebden Bridge. After the tirade against street charity collectors, another dent to the town's 'progressive' reputation?


From Graham Barker

Friday, 24 February 2012

Anthony suggests that I reread the ‘From Vision to Action’ section of Calderdale's Energy Future. I have done, several times. I still think it’s complete twaddle; the kind of thing people write when they have nothing useful to say but don’t want to end up with a self-importance deficit.

Ultimately, carbon reduction will depend on the end-user choices of individuals, households and businesses. Most choices will be determined variously by cost, legislation, new technology or customer demand. Any influence CMBC, or any local authority, can exert will be at best marginal. But that won’t stop them forming steering groups, cross sector groups, local development frameworks or whatever to pretend otherwise.

So that others can judge whether ‘From Vision to Action’ is talking-shop nonsense or a blueprint vital to the energy future of Calderdale, here it is in full:

This strategy sets out a basic framework for action to secure our energy needs, improve the economic future and combat climate change. More detailed work will be needed to deliver an implementation plan:

Clarify a more detailed programme of work - This strategy identifies the priority areas for action arising from the initial modelling work. These priority actions need to be developed into a detailed programme of works with lead implementers identified. Evidence from preliminary modelling reveals that carbon reduction measures are cost effective and will attract investment and growth into the Borough. The next step will set project timescales and provide a detailed cost analysis.

Set up a strong and influential Cross Sector Group to monitor progress and steer direction - This ambitious strategy can only be met through the co-ordinating action of organisations and individuals across the Borough. A steering group will ensure that the carbon agenda is embedded throughout key organisations and will also ensure that progress is monitored. This group will be able to respond to national opportunities and channel funding into Calderdale.

Alignment with policy and budget setting - All key strategies and new work delivery must be aligned with the priority actions set out in the strategy. The Local Development Framework has already adopted the overall carbon reduction target as part of its evidence base. However further work is required to align regional strategies.

Ongoing engagement with communities and business - This document has been strongly influenced by a business and public engagement process, however there is more to be done to engage residents, small to medium size businesses and other stakeholders. To ensure that the actions outlined in this strategy provide maximum opportunities for all business and individuals across the Borough, it is paramount that all are given the opportunity to be engaged at every stage.

Adapt to change - This strategy sets a framework for us to increase the pace of change for carbon reduction; as national policies change, more detailed work will be needed to develop the strategy further. When Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRCEES) guidelines are amended, the Green Deal comes into play and more officers embed the low carbon agenda into their work, the strategy will need to grow with these changes. Successive action plans will need to keep pace with progress and adapt to policy changes and opportunities as they arise.


From Anthony Rae

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Graham's argument is that this particular section of the strategy is empty of content; he describes it disparagingly as 'twaddle' and written by 'people with nothing useful to say' but also a 'self-importance deficit' (it's so easy, isn't it, to be abusive about council officers who can't answer back). So let's test that claim against each of the five sections:

Clarify a more detailed programme of work: As I said in my previous post, what we have so far is a framework strategy, but dealing with issues of great complexity over the timescale of a decade. Consequently the next stage has to be to prepare a more detailed implementation or 'action' plan: to start to put the strategy into effect. The Council needed to be told this - presumably the scrutiny panel will be looking out for the plan in a few months' time - so that's what this section does.

Set up an influential Cross Sector Group to monitor progress and steer direction: Although the Council has shown leadership in preparing this first strategy, actual implementation will be undertaken over the long term by a wide range of partners. The Council cannot however direct their actions. This section recognises that reality and turns it into an implementation opportunity. Particularly important sectors like business and housing need to be encouraged to get on in their way, within a coordinated approach.

Alignment with policy and budget setting: An important understanding for both public and private sector organisations is the need to integrate carbon and financial budgeting, saving energy and money. And when Friends of the Earth commented on the LDF core strategy some nine months ago we pointed to the danger that its development tendencies might go in one direction, and the requirement to reduce carbon in the opposite, so they would need to be aligned. Both these points are recognised here.

Ongoing engagement with communities and business: Fundamental strategies like this one require both 'leadership' and 'ownership', but in the right sequence. Now that we've finally got the Council to show the essential initial leadership, we can more convincingly ask a whole range of other partners to get involved. This will be one of the first actions in the next few months.

Adapt to change: So many aspects of climate change and the response to it - the science, global to local regulatory framework, prices within the energy mix, etc - are changing so fast that the Calderdale strategy will need to be regularly updated. The Council needed to understand that it would be a 'living strategy'.

Personally I think that all these five points, communicated in 360 words, are essential for the strategy's future success and governance. What unites David and Graham's core position is that they don't apparently believe that we can or should take effective local action here in Calderdale to respond to the threat of climate change. David thinks we should just leave it all to market forces (and therefore both the policy response and individual households at the mercy of price volatility); Graham that carbon reduction activity will be organised and take place anywhere except locally. Both of them presumably believe we should simply sit on our hands and watch it all get worse.

From Anthony Rae

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Just so we're absolutely clear - since facts and my words are being twisted in another place - the clause at the end of paragraph 4 of my posting of 23rd February should read: "and the consultation process that produced CEF by Calderdale Sustainability Forum".

From Claire M

Monday, 27 February 2012

I have not read all of the posts but can I make a suggestion?

Brown's Yard, the thorn in Hebden's side at the minute. A lot of folks do not want new housing there, others do not want it left as it is. In fact it's becoming a bit of a litter dumping ground.

So I have an idea - what about turning the land into an electric car charging point?