New impetus for community energy

The Financial Times reports that the falling cost of renewables, advances in battery storage and the prospect of selling electricity locally are giving new impetus to community energy projects.

Community energy projects, set up to generate renewable energy, are reinvesting the proceeds from the sale of electricity into the locality. Sylvia Pfeifer describes them as part of a wider trend towards “distributed energy” as the industry moves away from the traditional model of large power stations that send electricity through central transmission networks, to one that is dominated by smaller-scale, often renewable, plants.

Residents form a co-operative society, which owns the local scheme and raises money through share and bond offers to develop a project; any profits are fed back into local causes

It is, increasingly, an investment proposition for socially conscious investors

“Everyone realises our energy is changing,” said Emma Bridge, chief executive at Community Energy England, the organisation that represents the sector. “The public want more local involvement and to take practical action on climate change.”

Several policy changes and cuts to government subsidies and tax incentives which helped to promote investment in small-scale renewable projects from 2010 led to a steep drop in new schemes. However, the falling cost of renewables, advances in battery storage and the prospect of selling electricity locally are giving new impetus to community energy projects.

Last year research by Community Energy England identified 222 organisations in England, Wales and Northern Ireland with active local schemes operating wind, solar or hydro. They had raised £190m of investment. Together with the Scottish sector, community energy projects have 188MW of generation capacity installed — enough to power about 130,000 homes.

Accessing funding requires a degree of knowledge. Mongoose Energy helps to develop and finance schemes. Its projects are funded through a combination of bank loans, funding from social capital providers and community fundraisers. Mark Kenber, Mongoose chief executive, said he believed investor appetite was growing. “More and more people are now investing as they see renewables such as wind and solar as tried and tested technologies and the returns on offer are predictable,” he added. “People are looking at it as a reasonably low-risk return.” Consumers take charge

The sector may be small but supporters said it was part of a future in which consumers increasingly take charge of their energy usage. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said it had made £100m of funding available for small scale renewables between 2016 and 2019. It is currently “considering options” for its approach beyond next year.

Believed to be the first major funding by a local authority in community-owned energy infra

Westmill Solar Cooperative raised more than £20 million for 5 wind turbines and a ground-mounted solar array. Members receive an average of 8% return on their investment. The balance of funding required was raised by a debt bond arranged with the Lancashire County Council Pension Fund, in what was believed to be the first major funding by a local authority in community-owned energy infrastructure.

As yet, any electricity produced locally by a community energy project is not bought directly by local residents for their own usage. Richard Benwell, a director of Westmill, the UK’s first community-owned solar farm, says,

“The really exciting thing will be when schemes can sell locally produced energy to members of the co-operative society that owns a community energy project. With lower distribution costs real savings can be made”.

 

 

 

 

 

Join Local Futures at Earth, Culture, Economy

25th-29th June | Schumacher College, Totnes, UK

 

What would the world look like if humans lived harmoniously with nature rather than creating environmental mayhem?

What strategies can be employed to overcome the entrenched power of big business, big banks, and big government?

We’ll dig into these questions in Earth, Culture, Economy, an open course at Schumacher College led by Helena Norberg-Hodge, Stephan Harding, and Satish Kumar. Our approach will be broad and holistic and we will consider a range of themes from the perspective of both the global North and South, including:

• How to measure real progress • Putting food and farming at the center of the local economy • Tackling climate change through localising trade • The balance between urban and rural • The spiritual and psychological benefits of connecting to nature and community • Healthcare in a life-based economy • Resolving the roots of racial, ethnic and religious conflict • Restoring democracy through localisation

~RESERVE A PLACE~

We also have two other events coming up in the UK this summer:

Localisation, Degrowth, and Wellbeing

An evening of discussion and Q&A with Helena Norberg-Hodge and Jason Hickel

19th June | London, UK

Co-creating Wellbeing Economies

A how-to course on big picture activism

13th-17th July | 42 Acres, Frome, UK

 

These events will present a global perspective on localisation and equip you with practical strategies for supporting genuine social, ecological, and economic renewal wherever you may be. We look forward to seeing you there!

 

 

 

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Localise – in New Zealand

Localise  is about sharing ideas, networking creative visionaries, resourcing, providing tools and bringing people together in a collaborative way for the betterment of our community – specifically here in Northland, Aotearoa New Zealand. 

We are trying to achieve community well-being – a combination of economic, social and spiritual factors. A strong social fabric based around shared values and joint responsibility lies at the heart of this. The term ‘economy’ has been co-opted to the pursuit of individualism and materialism – sharing and caring has been forgotten.

Often specialisation and the desire for efficiency has enabled us to forget the reason for an economy – that all in the “household” will be provided for. All we do economically should be filtered in terms of well-being and the sustainability of our community and land for future generations.

Working with others including from Transition Whangarei a discussion document has been developed that proposes a major re-development of the food system for Northland – from producer, to distribution, to processing, to consumer, including collaboration with a wide cross-section of stakeholders. Visit the site to see the Local Food Northland video. Projects include:

Networking Software

Our plan is to develop an interactive database of businesses and organisations in Northland that are rated by their “Local” status – how they rank in terms of local inputs – materials, ownership, financing, energy usage, and other services. This will then be a place to look for people to deal with who wish to promote the idea of keeping resources and ownership local, to build up our community well-being and provide meaningful work for future generations.

Going Local – Ideas for Northland Project

This is about developing a whole paradigm shift away from reliance on the global economy to rebuilding local resilience that then provides a base from which exports and tourism may begin to flourish without jeopardising our natural environment, our communities and the vulnerable. There is a brief summary of the concept on a blog post,  parts in much greater detail are here, and parts are in process via online collaboration.

 We are starting to realise that:

  • The story of infinite GDP growth at any cost equalling a better life for all isn’t working.
  • Cheap abundant energy was a temporary state and our binging is soon to be replaced with a very serious hangover.
  • Adversarial economics harms and collaboration and open-source economics works.
  • As Martin Luther King Jr said, the ultimate measure of a society is how it treats it’s most powerless members.
  • What we pay in terms of currency doesn’t necessarily represent the true cost – “externalised” costs such as exploitive labour and environmental practices sour the sweetness of our imported trinkets.
  • There is a connection between “cheap” imports and the social disasters that occur when our own people have no work, low-wage unskilled work, or having to accrue student debt – still with no guarantee of actual work at the end.
  • We are starting to realise that ta good life cannot be bought – we have gained the world but lost our souls on so many levels.

So let’s learn to focus on what we can change.

What could a more localised future look like?

Go to our blog page to start browsing articles around local Food, Fabrics, Energy, Community, Events, Housing, Engineering and more.

This is an expanding collaborative project so please sign up to receive emails and join us on this journey. We also have a Facebook page.

Join in the conversation on our Slack chat!

We want to join with others interested in our goals to foster diverse and creative ways to facilitate this. Please pass this on to others who may be interested in exploring this. 

 

 

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Cargonomia: shrinking the distance between producers and consumers 

Planet Local, which highlights examples of localization in action all over the planet, is a project of Economics of Happiness/Local Futures/The International Alliance for Localization. In March thumbnail sketches of three ethical local banks were published here.

The local food movement is about growing food and also shrinking the distance between producers and consumers — and a new initiative in Hungary is doing just that.

In Budapest, an organic vegetable farm, a do-it-yourself bicycle cooperative and a self-managed bike delivery company teamed up to create Cargonomia, an urban food distribution hub which uses locally-manufactured cargo bikes to deliver locally-grown food across the entire city. And the project continues to grow: Two local bakeries have joined Cargonomia which now delivers bread across the city as well as vegetables.

Read more about this one-of-a-kind collaboration here. Within the team of partners, there is expertise in designing and constructing different types of cargo bikes and trailers.

It’s a business model which utilises each partner’s strengths: vegetable deliveries from Zsamboki Biokert are coordinated by Kantaa’s distribution experts and made using Cyclonomia’s bikes. In this way, Cargonomia goes beyond ‘local food’ to encompass the entire local economy. It aims to help local food producers: organic food producers, vineries, apiaries.

It hosts a community centre where local residents can borrow, rent, or buy their own cargo bikes, organise or attend activities focusing on the transition to a local-scale economy and events to connect with other social and environmental initiatives in the city.

Localise West Midlands is a member of IAL, a cross-cultural network of thinkers, activists and NGOs from 58 different countries.

 

 

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Localising new-build housing

Architect and writer Clive Aslet (left) writes about a development of 4,000 houses on 500 acres – houses, small apartment blocks, schools, surgeries, mixed income housing, shops, business premises and leisure facilities and green spaces – on the edge of Newquay. There is an emphasis on local labour, materials and procurement.

“How society chooses to house people is every bit as important as how it chooses to feed people,” says Tim Gray, estate surveyor and chief of operations “If you can get those two things right, you will be happier, healthier and better able to engage socially. the ambition is to build community and engender civic pride, to live so that you can meet your daily needs conveniently on foot, not to differentiate between homes of different tenures, and to be connected socially with the adjacent settlements — this should provide good foundations for deciding how the nation should build homes in the future. There really is an alternative.”

Aslet describes a number of features:

  • a core commitment to spend the money in Cornwall, using local labour and materials and a pattern book with typical Cornish vernacular details, e.g. roofs are made from Cornish slate from a nearby quarry
  • The plans include setting up a town farm in some listed buildings to provide food for residents of the development.
  • There will be mixed-use neighbourhoods, in which the car is subservient to the pedestrian.
  • There will be a community orchard, allotments and ‘edible gardens’.
  • Low-cost rented homes are scattered among the more expensive owner-occupied ones 30% of the housing is affordable.

The area has been given a new lease of life. The quarry provides jobs, and so do the builders responsible for the work — all firms are from the southwest, whose work not only requires local labour, but also helps to establish local supply chains. They form what Gray calls a “consortium” a method that ensures the architecture is practical and appropriate for the local market.

Newquay is poor and homes are particularly needed by young people. Judging from conversations with a number of people in their twenties and thirties and young families met in the area, they like the designs, the edible gardens (herbs and fruit bushes are planted next to houses), espaliered pear trees and bee bricks (bricks with holes laid into the eaves of houses to welcome threatened bee populations), they’re all part of the philosophy — as well as local style, local materials and local employment . . . local food.

This is symbolised by the community orchard. seven acres of land that has been turned into allotments. “Trespassers will be composted”, reads one of the signs. Orchard and allotments are visible signs of the local food web that is being encouraged. They’re also somewhere that people from the new housing can meet long-time Newquay residents.

As Tim Gray said, this should provide a good foundation for deciding how the nation should build homes in the future. There really is an alternative: Aslet sees it as the beginning of a movement that made Britain better to live in.

 

 

 

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A regenerative ‘Circular Economy’ includes more localisation of economic activity

The Circular Economy is advocated to replace and address the social and environmental damage done by the current ‘Linear Economy’ with its ‘take, make, dispose’ model, depleting finite reserves to create products that end up in landfill or in incinerators. It achieves its objectives through long-lasting design, maintenance, repair, reuse, remanufacturing, refurbishing, and recycling – reducing waste to zero. Some examples of such practice are presented on the website of the World Economic Forum.

The idea of circular material flows as a model for the economy was presented in 1966 by an economist, Professor Kenneth Boulding, in his paper The Economics of the Coming Spaceship Earth.

In the 70s, Walter R. Stahel, architect, economist and a founding father of industrial sustainability, worked on developing a “closed loop” approach to production processes. He co-founded the Product-Life Institute in Geneva; its main goals are product-life extension, long-life goods, reconditioning activities, waste prevention, advocating “more localisation of economic activity”.

With Genevieve Reday, he outlined the vision of an economy in loops (or circular economy) and its impact on job creation, economic competitiveness, resource savings, and waste prevention. Their Hannah Reekman research report to the European Commission, “The Potential for Substituting Manpower for Energy” (1976) was published in 1982 as a book (left) Jobs for Tomorrow: The Potential for Substituting Manpower for Energy. 

The Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) a charity, which receives funding from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Northern Ireland Executive, Zero Waste Scotland, the Welsh Government and the European Union was set up in 2000.  From its headquarters in Banbury it works with businesses, individuals and communities to achieve a circular economy through helping them to reduce waste, develop sustainable products and use resources in an efficient way. Below: the header for its March report:

On 17 December 2012, the European Commission published a document entitled Manifesto for a Resource Efficient Europe. This manifesto clearly stated that “In a world with growing pressures on resources and the environment, the EU has no choice but to go for the transition to a resource-efficient and ultimately regenerative circular economy” and outlined potential pathways to a circular economy, in innovation and investment, regulation, tackling harmful subsidies, increasing opportunities for new business models, and setting clear targets.

‘Resource’, the first large scale event for the circular economy was held In March 2014 and Walter Stahel joined the programme of 100 business leaders and experts. Many major stakeholders and visitors from across the globe attended. An annual large scale event is now increasing the uptake of circular economy principles. Circular Economy Examples may be seen on the website of the World Economic Forum and there are indications that some multinational companies may be cherry-picking related ideas which cut costs and increase profits.

Some will have reservations about the involvement of McKinsey & Company, which has issued two reports on the subject – one commissioned by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

Peter Day explored the work of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and its associates on radio (In Business) on 23rd April 2015 – listen again here.

Ellen established this independent charity in 2010 and eloquently outlines the economic opportunity of a circular economy, giving the concept wide exposure and appeal.

 

 

 

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Event: launch of post Brexit & Trump report commissioned by MEP

The Brexit vote and the election of Trump have been hailed as marking the reversal of the long trend towards increased globalisation.

These changes possibly also mark the end of neoliberalism as the dominant ideology of our times. For opponents of what globalisation and neoliberalism have meant in practice these developments might be seen as welcome. Yet at the same time Brexit and Trump seem highly problematic for anyone concerned with social justice and ecological sustainability.

green house header

A new report by Green House authors Victor Anderson and Rupert Read, commissioned by MEP Molly Scott Cato will be launched on Tuesday 28 March from 14.00 – 16.30 at Europe House in central London.

The report considers the impact of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU on trading practices and the opportunity to move to a less globalised and more localised economy. It emphasises that there are many different versions of Brexit, and aims to put a green version firmly on the political agenda.

Note: Panel discussion with Nick Dearden (Global Justice Now) and Helena Norberg-Hodge (Local Futures and International Alliance for Localisation of which Localise West Midlands is a member). Helena’s contribution will be by pre-recorded video due to prior commitments.

 

Register and get full details here.

 

 

 

Storing food in a localised low carbon system

 

Traditional methods of storing food include preservation of food in ice brought from the mountains and kept inside caves & icehouses, low-tech bottling and jam-making, drying of meat & fruit and underground storage at lower temperatures in hot countries.

On Monday Mark Shapiro, a Californian reader, sent this link to information about another method: fermentation, a localised probiotic food system which has significant economic, social and health benefits.

aaronAaron Vansintjan reflects that it’s easy to get the impression that we live in a world of scarcity, where there just isn’t enough food to go around, and food production all around the world is limited by technological backwardness.

On the other hand, there is an increasing problem of food waste in Western food systems. Though a range of expensive and complex technologies protects our fresh food supply against spoilage, a large proportion food produced is thrown away.

Aaron has a background in Natural Resource Sciences and is currently conducting research into food related issues, including marginalized communities access to food. He has observed the Vietnamese practice of fermentation, embedded within people’s livelihoods, local agricultural systems, food safety practices, forming a fundamental component of a sustainable food system. With the rise of the local food and food sovereignty movements, many are realising that we need food systems that could support everyone: from small farmers to low-income families. In a localised food system food needs to be stored for long periods. Fermentation makes that possible. He comments:

“Unlike many high-tech proposals like ‘smart’ food recycling apps, highly efficient logistics systems, and food packaging innovations, fermentation is both low-tech and democratic—anyone can do it. It has low energy inputs, brings people together, is hygienic and healthy, and can reduce food waste”.

vietnam market

In Vietnam there are wholesale night markets, mobile street vendors, covered markets, food baskets organized by office workers with family connections to farmers, guerilla gardening on vacant land. Food is grown, sold, and bought all over the place, and supermarkets are just a small (albeit growing) node in the complex latticework. Most people still get food at the market, but many also source their food from family connections. With this easy access to wholesale produce, many can turn to small-scale fermentation to complement their income—or spend less on food at the market.

The article goes into great detail about various recipes for fermented food Some call for water and salt: “At just a 1:50 ratio (2%) of salt to food, an environment is created in which bad bacteria doesn’t flourish and good bacteria is encouraged”.

the most popular fermented dishes in Vietnam

From left to right: Nem chua (fermented sausage), Thịt lợn chua (sour fermented pork), Com me (sour rice with fermented paste), Dưa chua/dưa muối (fermented fruit or vegetable), Mắm chua (sour fermented fish paste),Tôm chua (fermented shrimp), Nước mắm or Nước chấm (fish sauce),Tương (fermented soybean paste)

Vietnamese street vendors know the rules of hygiene and food safety, and, because they have to be careful with their money, they know exactly what kinds of food will go bad, and what kinds of food can be preserved. In doing so, they practice a food culture that has been passed down through generations—to a time before fridges, a global food system powered by container shipping, factory trawlers, and produce delivered to far-off markets by airplane.

Because of its low investment costs, fermentation lends itself well to supporting small businesses, allowing them to take advantage of seasonality while practicing a time-tested low-tech method of food preparation. Fermented food doesn’t depend on high inputs of fossil fuel energy to preserve food, high waste, and high-tech. It has to be produced locally: transporting it will risk explosions on the high seas

Aaron ends; “With increasing concern over the health side effects of common chemicals such as BPA (Bisphenol A, a  polycarbonate plastic) found in almost all cans and pasta sauce jars, people are looking to safer kinds of preservation, which aren’t killing them and their families slowly. In a world facing climate change, we need a low-impact food system, and fast”.

(Ed: some links and pictures added)

 

 

MUFP: 100 city regions hope to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by changing the food system

urban-food-policy-pact

In 2015, led by Milan, a coalition of 100 cities from all continents signed a Milan Urban Food Policy Pact (MUFP) in Milan’s Palazzo Reale and presented it to Ban-Ki Moon, UN Secretary General, in New York on World Food Day, October 16. To read the latest news go to its website.

They now recognise that their food systems are having high health and environmental impacts. As Professor Tim Lang comments in ‘Food Research’: “Aspirations for cheap food have become hard-wired into consumer expectations. Waste is rampant. Governments bow too much to giant food companies selling sugary, salty, fatty, ultra-processed food. Marketing budgets dwarf food education. No-one seems to be in overall control”.

He continues: “Cities are powerhouses of work but parasitic on cheap labour on the land. Their budgets are squeezed but their diet-related costs are rising. Their dense populations could be energy and food efficient but require huge infrastructure and change to be so . . . A new urban politics is emerging, gradually recognising the need to move beyond the neoliberal era’s commitment to cheap and plentiful food which has only spawned an horrendous new set of challenges which it cannot resolve . . .  Waste. The new food poor. Rising obesity. Street litter. Inequalities. Low waged food work”.

17sd-2-g-goals

Though the 17 Sustainable Development Goals are translated as 169 targets, 70 of which involve food, as Lang says: “New techno-imperialists whisper sweet nothings into politicians’ ears, offering another bout of technical intensification to keep this show on the road. This is not just genetic modification, which is already in trouble, yoked as so much is with use of glyphosate, the herbicide previously deemed benign but now in trouble as a probable carcinogen. There’s a raft of new technical sectors offering food fixes: robotics, nanotechnology (putting minute particles into food); synthetic biology; Big Data and the information revolutions; the promise of personalised healthcare applying life science wizardry. Underpinning them all is continued reliance on but nervousness about oil-based fertilisers. It was they who kept the food wheels turning at the last big moment of reflection in the mid 1970s”.

tim-langLang says, “Now we need another package. But which is it to be? Is it more Big Farming or more horticulture? And what sort? Plants not animals are the key to the new metric: how to feed people from declining available growing space”.

He calls for strong political voice and says that the positive news about a sustainable future needs to be grasped: closer foodways, better jobs, healthier populations instead of cheap food, overflowing hospitals and denuded nature.

 

 

 

Localisation/swadeshi: a programme for long-term survival

 

Swadeshi has been described by Satish Kumar, founder and Director of Schumacher College in Devon as a programme for long term survival.

It is the principle of preferring the neighbouring to the remote.

It relates to need-based lives, ruling out unlimited consumption.

It is not autarky; but a needs-based global alternative.

Economic swadeshi was shaped by Gandhi, who advocated the production and use of indigenous food and goods. In 1956, the Khadi and Village Industries Commission was established in by Act of Parliament.

 

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Active today, a list of its SMEs may be read here. 

 

Swadeshi practices economics according to its original definition of good household management, seeking to preserve natural wealth and promote the balanced development of all regions and society as a whole.

It regards the market as an instrument, not as master; the swadeshi global view is “let a thousand markets bloom – and not merge into one global market”.