Charmian Larke introduces some of the Environment Group’s ideas as they develop policies for the Plan.
Sir David Attenborough recently told the UN Climate Conference (Katowice, Poland, 3 December 2018) that climate change is humanity’s greatest threat in thousands of years. It could, he said, lead to the collapse of civilizations and the extinction of much of the natural world. Time is running out.
The UN International Panel on Climate Change produced their most recent report in October. The panel’s 5,000-plus scientists volunteer their time to assess the state of climate change knowledge every few years. They say we have until 2030 to reduce emissions by half if we are to avoid the most serious dangers of the climate emergency we are heading towards. That gives us eleven years.
The emissions that cause climate change come mostly from burning coal, oil or gas. The main effort therefore is to replace these fossil fuels with clean renewable energy on the local, national and world scale. The scientists say action is required by all governments, businesses, communities and individuals. We all have a part to play.
The Mylor Parish Neighbourhood Development Plan is a world away from national leaders working on plans to avert climate crisis, but it does offer an opportunity for local action through the development of strong environmental policies.
A local energy use assessment has shown that Mylor Parish produces some 36,000 tonnes of CO2 annually, of which 80% is from oil use; half from vehicles and half from oil heating in local buildings. The most effective action to reduce CO2 would be for buildings in the Parish to change their oil or gas heating to, for example, electrically driven heat pumps. These take heat from the local environment into the building in the same way that a fridge takes heat from a small area, and drops it into the room. Although the pumps use some electricity they provide 3 to 5 times more heat.
Transport emissions could be reduced by switching to electric vehicles; something that is being mandated by central government in any case. Most European countries including the UK have stated their intention to ban the sale of fossil fuel vehicles by 2030-2040.
The electricity we use needs to be local renewable energy – such as wind and solar – to provide the necessary climate change benefits. This could entail a small number of installations placed in different locations; not a large wind farm but individual turbines and small clusters. Similarly, solar panels could be distributed in small installations. Most renewable energy sources are built to generate electricity, although solar thermal panels give hot water.
For heating and transport in the winter, wind energy provides the best match of supply to demand. Some three 2MW wind turbines or ten 500kW machines would cover all the demand for electricity in the winter months.
Summer energy needs could be met by installing photovoltaic panels (PV) on local roof tops where they face South East via South to South West. Solar panels can also be ground mounted on strut systems or ‘arrays’. Around 44 acres of ground mounted arrays would provide most summer electricity needs, whilst still allowing farming activities such as sheep grazing or free-range birds.
The all-household NDP survey we ran in March 2018 included a question on attitudes to renewable energy technologies. The results indicated that there is significant support for local renewable energy installations, but also some concerns. For example people were concerned about the appearance and visibility of solar panels in fields. This can be addressed through sensible siting and screening, especially within the Parish where most fields are behind high Cornish hedges, which would minimise visibility.
The highest support of 68% was for community owned projects, with a quarter of respondents expressing no opinion. This bodes well for local action to combat climate change emissions through local renewable energy projects including, potentially, the type of community energy scheme that sells electricity locally. Such schemes mean that money spent on local energy stays in the community for longer, unlike our electricity bill money now which goes mainly to European-owned companies. The surplus from such schemes, after payments to local investors, can be used in the local community, for example to combat fuel poverty and insulate community buildings.
The messages coming through from the survey results suggest that Mylor Parish could move towards reducing emissions in a way that potentially brings income to the community, as well as helping reduce global emissions in the next 11 years. This is what our policies are being designed to enable.
What do you think? How can we respond to these urgent global needs by action locally to also benefit the local community? How best can we integrate renewable energy installations into the Parish?