The old arguments that battery operated cars were slow, expensive, unattractive and most of all didn’t go very far before the battery ran out, have now all been laid to rest. The Tesla Model 3 is testament to the fact that all-electric vehicles are superior to internal combustion engines (ICE) in every way. They are fast, accelerate smoothly, very safe, quieter and smoother with superior road holding, extremely good looking, easier to maintain and less expensive to run. The model 3 has a range of between 215 and 300 miles (depending on the model). The Tesla rapid charging points are being reinforced in preparation for the first cars delivered to the UK in 2018. The price of the 3 in America starts at $35,000 before government incentives for ultra low emission cars. At present exchange rates that means the car will start at £27,000 in the UK, although it will probably be more like £30,000 before government incentives. That seems excellent value for a luxury car that can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 5.6 secs and that is superior to ICE equivalents in every other way. Like the future of electrical generation, the future of transportation clearly and demonstrably lies in non-polluting technology. The only question now is how fast will the change from gasoline and diesel to electric take. The consensus of opinion seems be that the 2020’s will see a complete transformation and by 2030 it will be as hard to see a fossil fuel car is it is to see an electric car now. At the present rate of uptake (global sales doubling every 2 years) there will be 2 million electric vehicles in the UK by 2020, which represents about 7% of the total, whilst global sales will be more like 10%. That is expected to be a tipping point when investment in ICE cars will dry up.
To make this revolution of transportation possible, at least three things have to happen. The sooner they happen, the faster the transformation.
- The car using public need assurance that there is a charging infrastructure which will ensure that the car battery will not run out whilst on a journey. It is true that most of the charging will be done at home or at work but for those longer journeys, drivers need to be confident that they can top up their battery on the road. This means a hassle free charging network needs to be set up quickly.
- Electric cars will have to compete with fossil fuel cars on price. At the moment, electric cars are more expensive to buy, even with the government grant for ultra-low emission vehicles. The rate at which prices drop will be dependent on battery cost reductions and the increase in volume production of electric cars.
- The realisation that electric cars are not just fossil fuel cars with a different engine but a new and novel driving experience that is most enjoyable. People who drive an electric car for the first time comment how different the driving experience is. Most drivers appreciate the quieter, smoother, more responsive acceleration and superior road- holding. It goes without saying that the reduction in running costs is greatly appreciated by most people, as is the convenience of charging at home or work, with no more queuing at filling stations. Once drivers experience the many advantages of electric vehicles, the transformation from fossil fuel vehicles could be very quick indeed.
Instead of viewing a car as a mechanical machine, in the future they will increasingly viewed as computers on wheels. Just like the cell phone, cars will be transformed into something that is principally operated by a computer. Just like smart phones, it will be the power of computing and software that will drive innovation in personal transport. Self driving cars are already here and in the near future expect your new all electric car to safely drive you around whilst you sit and relax doing whatever takes your fancy.
Learning how to work well together
People often look at the great projects that come out of Transition: community energy projects; local currencies; ambitious food projects and so on, and they assume they happen by magic. But central to any project being successful is a healthy group. Creating healthy groups is something we aren’t taught in school, or in most work settings. It requires a set of skills and tools that we may well not have. So over the last 10 years we have created various resources that will support you to co-create a group culture based on the trusting, caring and compassionate relationships needed to make decisions effectively, run nourishing and successful meetings and events, avoid burnout, navigate conflict healthily and maintain members in the longer term
People often look at the great projects that come out of Transition: community energy projects; local currencies; ambitious food projects and so on, and they assume they happen by magic. But central to any project being successful is a healthy group. Creating healthy groups is something we aren’t taught in school, or in most work settings. It requires a set of skills and tools that we may well not have. So we have created a number of resources about healthy groups that will give you a clear understanding of how groups develop, the ability to make decisions, the ability to run successful meetings, keep people in your group, document what you’re doing and manage conflict.
“When we get together, it’s like everyone is feeding everyone else. There’s this atmosphere of ‘I tell you… you tell me’. Everyone listens, then someone comes up with another idea. It’s like collective excitement, collective inspiration, collective knowledge, coming together for the profit of the group. You can feel the thrill”
Your first meeting
Your first meeting is really important. It will set the tone, and the culture, of how your group will work together. The aim is to get your group off to a good start, agreeing what you’re all here to do, finding out about each other, establishing how you will work together, becoming friends. Some groups try to get on with doing things really fast, but often come unstuck later so let these early stages take a bit of time. This will give you a solid foundation to build on.
There are a few things you’ll need to do in advance of the meeting:
• Invite those who are going to attend: give some thought to who should be there, and, so far as it’s possible, try to get as much of your community’s diversity in the room as you can
• Choose a venue: somewhere comfortable, that doesn’t exclude anyone (whether through accessibility, religious or cultural reasons, or inaccessibility for those dependent on public transport)
• Appoint a facilitator: it’s important to get into the habit of having a facilitator. This role can rotate, but for the first meeting, make sure someone knows they will be taking the role
One of the keys to good meetings is to open and close them successfully. So here are some ideas for your first meeting, as well as some suggestions for how to open and close them well.
Start with a check-in. Start your meeting with a go-round where everyone speaks, uninterrupted, for a couple of minutes. They should introduce themselves, talk about how they are, what’s happening in their life. You could also ask everyone, once they’ve done that, to reflect briefly on something they are grateful for at the moment or something they love about living in this place. Starting in this way sets the culture that we meet as friends who care about each other rather than as colleagues with an agenda to speed through. It really makes a difference.
The body of the meeting:
You could do all sorts of things during the meeting itself:
• Get to know each other, find out more about why each person is here and their hopes for the Transition group
• Develop a shared understanding of Transition
• Decide what area you want your Initiative to cover
• Find out what skills people have and other groups they may be linked to
• Understand each other’s ways of dealing with stress: see our activity at https://transitionnetwork.org/resources/become-stress-busting-experts-innertransition-activity/
• If you have a programme of events planned, involve people in helping with these – it’s good to do some things together to find out how you work as a team
• Actively develop the group, its relationships, understanding and ways of working
Take time to get to know each other. It is the relationships that you form that are a key part of what is going to keep you going through the rough patches, when there are disagreement and things maybe aren’t going very well.
Our activity sheet ‘Inner Transition activities for meetings’ has some great practical exercises for bringing depth and energy to your meetings you can find it here: https://transitionnetwork.org/resources/inner-transition-activities-meetings/
Closing: Make time to reflect on the meeting
It is good to get into the habit of making time at the end of your meeting to reflect on how it went and what worked, as well as what didn’t work? What could be done better next time? Without it, there is no way to pick up if people are feeling excluded, frustrated or confused. It also creates a space to thank those whose good work made the meeting go well (see ‘Stages of Group Life’ above).
You might also need:
Tea, biscuits/cake, flipchart paper and pens, a laptop for taking notes, some way of keeping time.
Here are some principles which guide what we do:
We respect resource limits and create resilience: the urgent need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, greatly reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and make wise use of precious resources is at the forefront of everything we do.
We promote inclusivity and social justice: the most disadvantaged and powerless people in our societies are likely to be worst affected by rising fuel and food prices, resource shortages and extreme weather events. We want to increase the chances of all groups in society to live well, healthily and with sustainable livelihoods.
We adopt subsidiarity: self-organisation and decision making at the appropriate level. The intention of the Transition model is not to centralise or control decision making, but rather to work with everyone so that it is practiced at the most appropriate, practical and empowering level
We pay attention to balance: in responding to urgent, global challenges, individuals and groups can end up feeling stressed, closed or driven rather than open, connected and creative. We create space for reflection, celebration and rest to balance the times when we’re busily getting things done. We explore different ways of working which engage our heads, hands and hearts and enable us to develop collaborative and trusting relationships.
We are part of an experimental, learning network: Transition is a real-life, real-time global social experiment. Being part of a network means we can create change more quickly and more effectively, drawing on each other’s experiences and insights. We want to acknowledge and learn from failure as well as success – if we’re going to be bold and find new ways of living and working, we won’t always get it right first time. We will be open about our processes and will actively seek and respond positively to feedback.
We freely share ideas and power: Transition is a grassroots movement, where ideas can be taken up rapidly, widely and effectively because each community takes ownership of the process themselves. Transition looks different in different places and we want to encourage rather than unhelpfully constrain that diversity.
We collaborate and look for synergies: the Transition approach is to work together as a community, unleashing our collective genius to have a greater impact together than we can as individuals. We will look for opportunities to build creative and powerful partnerships across and beyond the Transition movement and develop a collaborative culture, finding links between projects, creating open decision-making processes and designing events and activities that help people make connections.
We foster positive visioning and creativity: our primary focus is not on being against things, but on developing and promoting positive possibilities. We believe in using creative ways to engage and involve people, encouraging them to imagine the future they want to inhabit. The generation of new stories is central to this visioning work, as is having fun and celebrating success.
People get involved with Transition for all sorts of reasons:
• To get to know their neighbours
• To feel that they are making a difference in the world, both now, and for future generations
• To overcome the sense of disconnection they feel from self, others and from the nature around them because the world’s huge challenges feel more manageable if addressed at the local scale
• To catalyse all manner of new projects, enterprises and investment opportunities
• To learn new skills
• To feel like they are creating a more life enhancing story for their place
• To feel connected to other people, the natural world, and to something historic and exciting happening around them
• Because they feel it is “the right thing to do”
• Because they feel disenfranchised by politics and want to be able to take back a sense that they can influence the world around them
The Voice of the Community Sector
Community Energy England was established in 2014 as a not for profit organisation, set up to provide a voice for the community energy sector and help create the conditions within which community energy can flourish.
Community Energy England Conference 2017
The conference was well attended with lots of enthusiastic and knowledgeable speakers and delegates. I will circulate links to the session presentations when I receive them or see them on the CEE website. I also have some handouts which I will circulate. Meanwhile a few bullet points from the sessions and people I met.
David Bird gave a presentation on the energy supplier established by The Midcounties Co-operative. They are keen to enter PPA’s with community energy groups, offering simpler and longer agreements.
Community Energy England State of the Sector Report
- We contributed to the survey on which the report was based.
- 222 organisations with 121 MW capacity and 265 GWh of electricity generated.
- £190m invested in 269 projects and £620k community benefit distributed.
- 127 staff employed.
Renewable Energy Association
Nina Skorupska gave an interesting scene-setting address.
- Carbon reduction and renewable programme driven by Climate Change Act 2008 (aims for 57% reduction in CO2 output by 2030) and EU Renewable Energy Directive (15% renewable energy by 2020) but concerns about direction of UK Govt policy and impact of Brexit.
- Progress being made in reaching target for electricity generation but much more progress needed on buildings and transport.
- 125,000 people employed in renewable energy sector in UK.
- BEIS and Ofgem support the idea of a smarter more flexible approach to energy generation and distribution, but much clearer strategy needed for creation of a decentralised energy distribution network and market reform to reduce the power of the large energy supply companies.
Carbon Co-op Manchester
- Involved in Nobel Grid, a Europe wide study aimed at encouraging clean energy generation, fair distribution of the benefits of electricity distribution, and smart meter and smart grid technologies.
- Activities in Greater Manchester include Bury Community Hydro (with local network), Biomass Energy Co-op (using coffee grounds) and their own energy efficiency programme.
- Encouraged that Centrica are pulling out of large scale electricity generation, and the dynamism and collective approach of the Community Energy Movement.
- Every Home Matters (the Bonfield Review into energy efficiency in homes) delayed by lack of direction by government. Statistics show that the number of UK households being helped by government to improve their energy use fell 75 per cent since 2012.
Network Innovation for Communities
This Ofgem funded programme for engaging community groups in looking at new ways to encourage consumers to reduce and change pattern of energy use was widely criticised by delegates for for lack of focus and clear outcomes, and wasting the time of CE groups, particularly as new renewable schemes often end up funding network improvements to allow schemes to be connected to the grid. More effective to target large industrial users to change patterns of use and to invest in a programme of network reinforcements and storage.
Raising Finance for Community Energy
- Josh Brewer of Ethex, an ethical investment company spoke about some of the projects they have raised finance for and their research “understanding the positive investor”.
- 19.5 m people in the uk interested in positive investment.
- 58% of investment in renewables comes from local area.
- Need to keep investors informed and be realistic about returns.
- Jonathon Hick of Social and Sustainable Capital spoke about their role in providing gap funding for renewable projects: short term up front funding or as part of a broad mix of funding.
- Opportunities in projects with PPA with host building, battery storage and community buyouts of commercial solar farms.
- Challenge in declining wholesale energy prices.
Brighton Energy C-op
Very active group with many large projects and full time staff. Will Cottrell gave one of the closing addresses and I also spoke to Matt Brown on his work on large scale solar projects with Genfit. Amongst other things Will spoke about their project to power electric buses from solar panels on the roof of the bus station (the solar panels funded by a combination of crowd-funding and m+s grant; buses funded by £250k bond issue) and the work on issue of solar panel kits and arranging solar workshops at a local anti-fracking camp
BHA Hydro Network 2017-06-26
Conference on 29th June, but £275 to attend.
Met someone from Durham County Council who has run projects on this and I will email him for more informnation.
Stephen Savory Chester Community Energy 26/06/17
A new environmental/sustainability group has been set up as a result of the Labour Party and the Green Party collaborating in the last general election. The two parties agreed that the Green Party would not stand a candidate so that Chris Matheson would benefit from the majority of green votes in the constituency of Chester. This collaboration is to continue with the establishment of the Chester Sustainability Forum Chester.
The objective of the group is that representatives from environmental groups, businesses, political parties and CWAC officers, collaborate with a common purpose to improve the environmental sustainability of Chester and its surrounding area. The loose geographical area that will be covered is the boundary of the City of Chester Constituency.
The forum will have five formal meetings a year. Each formal meeting will have a theme agreed at the previous Forum. The meetings will be held on a Thursday evening at a date to best fit with the Annual Council Agenda. Prior to each meeting, a one paragraph report will be required from each group to keep everyone abreast of what is going on, and to make the meeting as efficient as possible given the limited time available. The meetings will be action oriented, and a log of the actions will be maintained by the Secretary.
The Chairing of the meetings are expected to be shared between Chris Matheson MP and Colin Watson. CW&C will be represented by cabinet member for the environment – Karen Shore. The Secretary is Colin Watson.
Members are the Conservative Party – being arranged, Labour Party – Matt Bryan, Liberal Party – Paul Roberts, CW&C Officers – Peter Bulmer, Chester Community Energy – Steve Savory, Chester Cycle Campaign – Simon Brown, Chester Transition – Graham Booth, Chester University (Carbon Reduction Unit) – Colin to arrange, Chester Weir Hydroelectric Scheme – Niall Mafadyen, Cheshire Waste Reduction Volunteers – Margaret Warren, CPRE – Jim Cameron, Friends of North Chester Greenbelt – Andy Scargill, FoE – Pete Benson, Frack Free Upton – Phil Combe, Sustainable Solutions Ltd – Sue Lightfoot, TravelWatch NW – Daniel Gordon, Businesses – Colin to arrange,
The first meeting was held on the 13 July2017 and the second is scheduled for 28 September 2017.
Supertrees are the name that has been coined for the metal structures in the Gardens by the Bay project in Singapore that are used to support climbing plants to increase biodiversity in the largely man-made environment of Singapore. The prefabricated metal vertical gardens are between 25 and 50 metres in height and it is the brain child of Steve Hughes to bring supertrees to Chester, albeit on a less grand scale. Steve’s inspiration from the Singapore gardens has set him on a course to bring supertrees to Chester and his plans to make it happen are already well developed. The aim of the project would be to raise awareness and initiate a conversation of how the city of Chester can improve its commitment to environmental issues, including biodiversity, reducing air pollution and improving city landscapes. It would be a community based project, funded by Steve himself, local businesses, community groups and individuals.
The metal structures provide visual impact and act as support for a variety of climbing plants. The cost estimate for the purchase of 3 supertrees, 3 – 5m in height, is around £7,000. Steve has run many marathons and to raise funds for the scheme is going to run 7 marathons in 7 days in 7 countries starting on the 7th of July this year. The company he works for has indicated that they will match fund the money he can raise.
Steve has already attracted interested parties to the project including CWAC, Chester Zoo, Mersey Forest and community groups in and around Chester. He has been in promising talks with others to site his project within the large roundabout near the new bus station at Gorse Stacks. This site is in need of regeneration and it would be timely to introduce the supertrees into an updated landscaping scheme for the site.
If you would like to support this imaginative and inspiring project you can do so by donating at the “justgiving” website at
and you can contact Steve on firstname.lastname@example.org.
CCEL installed its first solar pv project on the roof of the Northgate Arena. The project had a shaky start in the early spring of 2016 when CWAC did not approve finance for a replacing the roof where the panels were being installed. After a delay of 4 – 5 weeks the finance problem was resolved and roof repair works were give a high priority. During the summer months CCEL appointed Genfit as the installation contractor and raised the necessary £60,000 for the capital cost by way of a share offer. Shares were offered to the public from the 13 July to the 19 August and reached the required capital in that 6 week period. The panels were installed in just three days and the system completed on the 20 September 2016. The signing of legal documents has been delayed for several months since installation. It is expected that the roof lease and power purchase agreement will be signed WC 13th March 2017. The final written confirmation of registering the project with Ofgem at the higher FIT rate has still not been received. This is expected by the end of March 2017. The electricity generated by the panels can be monitored in real time by members from their smart devices.
Garden Quarter Project
TC was a partner in a joint project to identify and potentially help mitigate problems of fuel poverty in the Garden Quarter of Chester. Initiated by TC member Arnold Wilkes, the project was motivated by New Homes Bonus funding being offered in the ward by CWAC. In the early summer of 2016, 800 leaflets were posted to mainly terraced houses with a questionnaire to try to identify the most vulnerable homes. Only 5 replies were received. This was followed shortly by Chester University students carrying out an investigation into the thermal efficiency of terrace housing in the ward using a thermal imaging camera. By July, Energy Projects Plus (EPP) had become involved in the project and using their own funding source they initiated another leafletting campaign followed by home visits giving advice to residents. By the end of September, 1800 leaflets had been delivered and eventually 50 homes visits were made. In parallel with the leafleting campaign, a public awareness event was being planned for the autumn entitled “Save Energy, Save Money”. This event took place on the 29 October at the Bluecoats Primary School with 15 charities and organisations giving information and practical advice and help on a range of issues relating to saving energy in the home and saving money on energy use.
The following events were organised or supported by TC/CCEL:
1 CCEL share offer evening on the 13 July 2016
2 TC supported the Community Energy Conference on the 15 October 2016
3 TC supported the Save Energy, Save Money awareness day on 29 October, 2016
4 TC organised a presentation to the public given by Diana & Simon on their tandem journey from Chester to Istanbul.
5 Stephen attended the Community Energy Think Tank event on the 17/18 January 2017 and wrote a report which is posted on the website
6 Members met on the evening of the 16 February to prune fruit bushes in Alexandra Park and the Narrows in Hoole.
A talk and slide presentation was given by Chris Copeman on passive house design principles and the work he did to his own home retrofitting measures to make his home carbon neutral.
A new Transition Chester website was brought online in April 2016 with facilities for membership, contacting and booking the apple press. The site gets about 3 – 4 visits a day.
Suma Wholefood Co-operative
Arnold continued to run the monthly Suma orders for members, generating funds for the group from the 5% charge members pay on each order.
Simon hired out the apple press 21 times in 2016 and collected £210 for Transition funds. The hires were for the following categories:
6 March 2017
Community Energy Thinktank Trafford Hall 17/18th January 2017
Session 1 :Community Energy and Government Strategy
Becky Willis (Lancaster Uni and Green Alliance)-
- Need to engage people in carbon reduction
- Future of energy- networked, local
Patrick Allcorn (Dept of Business Energy Industry and Science)
- Govt priority is secure, affordable, clean energy
- Does not think CE has added significantly to energy generation, but has a role in local demand reduction
- Funds available: £400m from European fund and £640m from ECO.
Dave Gittins (Severn on Wye Energy based in Wales)
- More support for renewable in Wales: loans and grants available through Local Energy Support Network; Wellbeing of Future Generations Act.
- Hydro scheme in Bethesda North Wales selling energy direct to local residents.
Emma Bridge (Community Energy England)
- Optimistic about future for CE: currently 150MW capacity installed and £100m community investment raised.
- Sector becoming more diverse: pilot studies being done on electricity storage and LED lighting.
- Survey of CE organisations being launched later this year.
- Lots of info available on the Community Energy Hub
- Community Energy Fortnight starts 24th June
AREAS OF DISCUSSION
Energy Efficiency/ Fuel Poverty
There was a lot of discussion around the work that CE organisations are doing and can do to encourage households to reduce energy use and to help those affected by fuel poverty. It was recognised that these are related fields but with different goals, as those in fuel poverty with a fixed amount to spend on fuel may benefit from having a warmer home rather than reduced energy use.
Carbon Co-op in Greater Manchester aim to achieve comprehensive retrofit measures which will result in 50% plus energy savings, however they charge £500 for an assessment and measures can cost £10,000 plus so limited to those with strong interest and access to capital or loan, unless grants are available (they have found ECO funding difficult to access). Other groups and organisations are working with local communities and Housing Associations to address issues of Fuel Poverty, often through Home Energy Visits resulting in simpler measures such as energy advice, switching supplier, loft insulation or a new boiler.
- Carbon Co-op did not find area based leafleting successful; prefer wider publicity eg through local radio to reach those who want to do something.
- Those in greatest fuel poverty are often vulnerable households who have other support needs.
- Behaviour change can result in significant energy savings but can be difficult to achieve sustained improvements.
- Need to establish householder motivation: carbon saving/ comfort/ health benefits/ fuel cost savings.
- Locally based “Energy Champions” are most effective but need appropriate training.
- Ashton Heyes achieved 25% reduction in energy use mainly through education
- Householders may have specific agenda eg help with repairs or boiler controls or understanding energy bills. Need to resolve these first.
- Some groups and organisations are working with other charities and organisations eg Age Concern, CAB, GP’s. Other partners may include local Housing Associations and Universities.
- Potential to work with faith groups, schools, groups such as WI to publicise and encourage discussion of energy issues.
- Strict focus on energy may turn people off but can combine with other things they may be interested in eg growing food, healthy cooking/ eating, health and wellbeing.
- Private rented property the worst insulated but hard to reach. In Wales, and I think in London, there is a plan for registration of private landlords where by 2018 they would have to meet a minimum EPC energy rating. Needed elsewhere!
Funding for Energy Efficiency measures/ Energy Advice
- ECO funding through power companies but hard to access.
- Distribution companies (SPEN in our area) and energy suppliers may have an interest in funding demand reduction initiatives.
- Local authority initiatives in Oldham and elsewhere have been funded through health service (CCG) .
- Islington Council has carbon offset funding from new developments.
- Pay as You Save: funding work from savings on fuel bills. Nationwide is now offering mortgages for energy efficiency work. Triodos Bank also offer unsecured energy efficiency loans.
- List of other funding opportunities in resource pack which I will circulate.
- Local Authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships may be able to provide funding.
- Some European funding still available and government have guaranteed funding for any grants approved before we leave the EU.
Renewables and Electricity Generation
Not as much discussion on this compared with Energy Efficiency. Many groups had experience of installing Solar PV on schools and other community buildings, however a key focus for the future is the prospect of battery storage to allow the building users to maximise use of the energy generated.
Two groups described their experience of developing Hydro-electric schemes, however the general feedback was that such schemes are technically difficult and expensive.
More information is available in the resource pack which I will circulate.
Other Initiatives/ Issues
- One organisation in Manchester is developing a proposal for recycling coffee grounds which can be made into fuel pellets!
- Robin Lawler of Northwards HA emphasised the importance of carbon literacy training which they are delivering to their own staff and residents but also more widely to local businesses and organisations, to help people make more informed choices.
- The issue of business rates for non- residential properties with solar PV or other renewable installations being increased was raised as an issue. This forms part of the current review of business rates. Ironically private schools are charities so would be exempt while state schools will be affected.
- A significant issue for the future is the electricity distribution network which is not suited to a more decentralised model of energy generation.
- The Carbon Trust is working with local authorities and Housing Associations on heat networks/ district heating schemes which can be effective where waste heat is generated by a nearby industrial use. Can also work with combined heat and power generation.
- The DECC energy calculator and the Guardian National Carbon Calculator are interesting tools for looking at national energy strategy.