ENERGY – addendum

imageYesterday I found myself reading lots of stuff on renewable energy related to the Kent Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) draft management plan and felt the need to write a little more on the subject – to add to my post of earlier in the week.

The draft management plan states: “Local renewable and sustainable energy initiatives will be pursued where they help to conserve and enhance the natural beauty and landscape character of the AONB and bring environmental, social and economic benefits to local people. Proposals will be expected to conform with the Kent Downs AONB Renewable Energy Position Statement.”

So what’s in the Kent AONB Renewable Energy Position Statement?

In the statement, the joint management committee of Kent AONB recognises that climate change is a big threat to the area, saying that over the past ten years 50 weather events have cost the Kent community £440 million.

With that in mind, they support “the need for renewable energy sources as part of the mitigation response to climate change”.

As I suggested in my last post however, commercial wind farms in the AONB are not considered the way to go. Likewise large-scale solar pv arrays (ie. No fields full of pv. They’re OK on people’s roofs).

The document suggests that communities look at biomass boilers to take advantage of the hazel and chestnut coppicing carried out locally.

To quote the document:

imageWoodland accounts for 21% of the AONB landscape, the second largest land use. Almost 70% of this woodland is ancient woodland much of which is coppiced with a predominance of sweet chestnut coppice.

Governments’ wood fuel strategy aims to bring an additional two million tonnes (Mt) of wood into the market, annually, by 2020 saving 400,000 tonnes of carbon every year. (The equivalent of 3.6 million barrels of crude oil and enough to supply 250,000 homes with energy). To achieve this target the focus will be on the potential wood resource available in the 60% of English woodlands that are currently under-managed.

The AONB Partnership considers that the coppice woodland of the Kent Downs is an important target for wood fuel based renewable energy generation and that it is important to intervene to make the most of this opportunity. The near location of two growth areas makes the opportunity for the development of a wood fuel industry, which supports sustainable woodland management, more realistic.

The AONB employs an officer to promote the use of biomass in the area – who has visited Wye a couple of times in the past year to look at possible installations at the College and the hall.

On both occasions the timing wasn’t judged quite right – as there is so much else going on.
That, I feel, is very frustrating. Being bogged down with the big issues that the community is confronting means that we are currently unable to take up opportunities which could benefit not only us in Wye but the wider community.

How are we going to feel when every community around about has a biomass boiler providing heat (and money through the renewable heat incentive)? And we’re still running on gas (and hot air!)?

About jasperbouverie

I am Jasper Bouverie. I have two blogs: which is about promoting sustainability in the village of Wye in Kent (and beyond); and which I will fill with short films dedicated to promoting social and environmental awareness and change. Find me on Twitter: funderfilms and finelinej
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3 Responses to ENERGY – addendum

  1. Cate Parish says:

    Hi Jasper.  I’ve been thinking about your appeal for people who would be willing to do ‘the legwork’ for some kind of local energy production.  While I think investment in alternative energy sources is extremely important, I wonder whether the best way to provide energy for a village the size of Wye would in fact be local production. I also distrust the big suppliers of electricity and gas.  But I buy electricity and gas from Ecotricity, which is constantly investing in wind and solar power, and is currently investigating the siting of biomass gas production units, using biomass derived from the collection of food waste.  (Some of the green gas this company currently contributes to the national gas grid is brought in from Holland.) It seems to me that a large company is in a better position to invest in the infrastructure necessary for energy production, than is a village of amateurs in the matter.  Ecotricity raises money for some of its projects by selling bonds directly to interested people, thereby avoiding dealing with the banks and providing an ethical investment opportunity. 

    You argued against Wyecycle continuing to provide recycling to Wye on similar grounds.

    The brochure on the new recycling program from Ashford Borough Council states that the food waste collected is composted for agricultural use; it doesn’t say what the garden waste is used for.  I wonder if there is enough of this to provide biomass for converting to gas. 

    I have been considering getting one of the new, very efficient wood-burning stoves to heat my home.  If others did this, perhaps this would encourage the renewed coppicing in the Kent AONB to fill demand for wood.  But it would be horrible if logging operations were frequently to disturb the peacefulness of the woods in the Downs.  So I am sceptical about using this wood for a large biomass generator, especially if waste material could be used instead. 

    You mentioned a village environment group that somehow helped individuals to get grants for solar power to their own homes.  It seems to me that people might be interested in being helped to both make their homes greener and to save money, if this were possible under current government schemes.

    Regarding your other post suggesting that the new houses that are planned for Wye be self-built ones rather than built by large developers, I think this is a great idea.  It would be even more great if people who built them would build passive houses.  I guess such people would have to be able to spend more money for a house than those who would buy a house ready-made from a developer.  But if the know-how is there to build houses that use minimal energy, it seems imperative to use it now for new builds.  I suppose this country would be a long way from requiring such standards from the construction industry, so it comes down to individuals deciding to do it–or not. 

    I think it’s great that you keep putting ideas out there, whose time may not yet have come; but if no one brings up the ideas, their time will never come.

    Have you ever thought of the idea of a credit union for Wye, in order to have local finance that is independent of the banks?  That may be tilting at windmills even more than the idea of building a local windmill.  

    yours sincerely,

    Cate Parish


    • Thanks Cate for your comments.
      I would not be suggesting that we do everything ourselves in the village. The idea behind an energy group would be to investigate which options are the most appropriate for Wye – and to find out if your concerns about chestnut coppicing (for example) are justified. Ultimately we would be commissioning tried and trusted companies to carry out any construction work and to actually manage the facilities (as has been done in numerous communities elsewhere – with some facilities no doubt being managed by Ecotricity).
      I haven’t yet looked into the idea of a credit union or local exchange trading scheme for Wye – but am aware of many that have been successfully launched around the country. Do you know of a successful scheme which supports a comparably sized population? (I know of the one in Bristol but that is a much larger community.)
      One thing in your comment that I’d take issue with! I do believe that the time for all the ideas that I’ve highlighted in the blog has come. They have all been found to be successful elsewhere. The only reason why they aren’t being rolled out more generally is because of lack of awareness, bureaucracy and resistance to change. Things will undoubtedly become easier over the next few years as the innovative becomes more standard practice, the oil runs out (or we resolve to keep it in the ground), and we better understand the necessity of approaching things in a different way.

      • Cate Parish says:

        You’re right–the time has come for the ideas you’ve been putting forward. I feel quite supportive of them actually. My comments are in a spirit of enquiry rather than objection; I don’t know myself whether there would be a problem with chestnut coppicing, for instance.

        I read about credit unions in the March/April 2013 issue of Resurgence & the Ecologist magazine. It referenced a website––that lists existing credit unions.

        I am not very knowledgeable about how things are done in government and business, but I am very concerned about preserving the natural environment and trying to live more in harmony with it, so I would take be willing to take part in an environment group for Wye, were one to be set up.

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