Saturday, 8 March 2014

Powering Hampshire with community-owned energy

Guest blogger Martin Heath of Hampshire Renewable Energy Co-operative is on a mission to turn Hampshire into a county powered by community-owned energy. And he’s made a great start.

 

Hampshire – blessed with clean renewables

 

Hampshire is an exceptional place. After Cornwall it is the sunniest county in the UK; it is the most wooded county in England; off our southern coast it has some of the best tidal resources in Europe.  Hampshire’s downlands and coastal waters are windier than average. We are blessed with renewable energy sources.

But hooked on dirty fossil fuel and reliant on others


Yet it is a county that spends £2 billion a year on imported energy; nearly all on fossil fuels. We ship in oil for our cars, gas for heating our homes and coal, gas and uranium to run power plants.  We have some of the highest per head carbon emissions in Europe; but at least Hampshire has shut all but one of its last remaining fossil fuel power stations.

Excellent you might say; but this means Hampshire now relies on everyone else in the country to produce its electricity. We in Hampshire use the electricity but everyone else gets the pollution. Hardly fair I hear you say.  We agree.

We have loads of clean renewables on our doorstep yet we choose to use old dirty, expensive and imported fossil fuels. What a wasted opportunity!

But it’s all about to change


Well - that is until now. Six months ago a group of us formed Hampshire Renewable Energy Co-op.  Our aim is simple – to build a network of local, community owned renewable energy projects across Hampshire.  And what a six months we’ve had!

We are about to agree to buy a 10% stake in the Bullington Cross Wind Farm, we are in negotiation to build a 100% community-owned solar farm in Winchester and  over 1,400 people across the country have already supported our aims.

We’ve held workshops; we’ve campaigned on high streets, in shopping malls and village halls. We’ve taken councillors and council officials to solar and wind farms.  And our support continues to grow. Over the next three years we dream of weaning our county off its expensive obsession with dirty, expensive imported fossil fuels and moving it onto a diet of clean, community owned, local produced renewable energy.

Why a community co-operative?


As well as huge benefits, renewables have costs. Costs that are often borne by the local communities that host renewable projects.   But shouldn’t these benefits flow to the local communities and not just to multi-national developers, the big 6 energy companies and global banks?

We think so; and the way to do this is via community ownership.  Ideally we’d like to see 100% ownership but we are realistic enough to know that we will have to work in partnership with the energy industry and with the financiers – for now! That’s why we have secured agreement with EDF Energy that 10% of a wind farm proposed at Bullington Cross will be community owned. This would be 14 turbines, capable of powering around 14,000 homes which could offset the annual release of 26,000 tonnes of Carbon Dioxide.

Support community energy in Hampshire


The majority of people in the UK want wind farms; but often it is the minority that shout the loudest.  We need to make our voice heard. A very big thank you to the 1,000 people caring enough to give Hampshire Renewable Energy Co-operative a chance. They have already written to or emailed their local council expressing their support for community energy. 

But now we need even more people to support our planning application for a community owned wind farm.  Just click on the link and you can email your support for community ownership in the wind farm at Bullington Cross.

Let’s make Hampshire Greener; let’s make the UK greener.  Thanks for your help. 

 

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