Calderdale’s Energy Future & the Green Deal

Written in 2012, updated in 2013 and now re-posted. Sorry comments have been lost in the process.

Calderdale’s Energy Future (CEF) strategy expects householders to cut 25% of their carbon emissions by 2020, based on 2005 levels. To achieve this target, the Council will encourage households to buy in to the Green Deal.

This is despite the fact that even the government’s own advisers on the Climate Change Committee have calculated that the Green Deal won’t work, and recommend instead that the Big Six energy companies should pay for insulating homes across the country, on a street by street basis.

The other main CEF strategy for reducing the area’s carbon emissions is to open up the Borough to developers of large scale commercial wind farms and biomass energy generation (ie energy from burning wood, energy crops and a variety of waste products)

Calderdale’s Energy Future strategy for promoting the Green Deal won’t work and it’s socially unfair

The Green Deal is a Coalition government scheme for householders to pay for improvements to their home energy efficiency by taking out loans. The “golden rule” is that they will repay the loans out of savings on their energy bills, over the lifetime of the energy efficiency measures – 25 years.

The measures will be things like installing insulation, upgrading to more energy efficient domestic appliances and installing micro-renewables.

Calderdale’s Energy Future cost/benefit analysis,  carried out by Leeds University and funded by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, shows that Calderdale households’ savings on energy bills would more than repay the  energy efficiency investments within a few years. But that assumes that the Green Deal arithmetic adds up, and the evidence is that it doesn’t.

The Green Deal is supposed to make up for the Coalition government’s withdrawal of Councils’ subsidy schemes for home energy efficiency retrofits like insulation. This funding cut was carried out as part of its swingeing public spending cuts in the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR).

This cut 80% of Leeds City Region local authorities’ £20m/year funding for domestic energy efficiency improvements and carbon emissions reduction.

Unlike the Green Deal proposals, which are likely to benefit better off households, the publicly-funded means-tested home insulation programmes benefit low income households. These programmes are due to be phased out by the autumn of 2012.

Calderdale’s Energy Future strategy admits on p20 that the Green Deal isn’t going to be much help to the estimated 24% of Calderdale households who live in fuel poverty, because they can’t afford to pay for energy efficiency improvements.

But on p 29 it apparently contradicts itself, by saying that Calderdale’s Energy Future draft strategy will “eliminate fuel poverty” by focussing “schemes such as the Green Deal and ECO, outreach and other”, on fuel poor and low income communities.

(ECO – the Energy Company Obligation- is the new, lower subsidy that the energy companies will have to provide to customers. Until the Green Deal came along, the energy companies had to offer bigger subsidies through the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target scheme.)

Green Deal will lead to less insulation

The Committee on Climate Change, which advises the UK government, has said that entirely market-based schemes like the Green Deal haven’t worked anywhere else in the world and it isn’t likely to work here either.

And the government’s own initial impact assessment in December 2011 predicted that the Green Deal won’t work. The June 2012 revised version of the impact assessment doesn’t substantially change the picture.

The original impact assessment was that with the Green Deal, loft insulation would fall from just over 1million a year, as carried out by current government schemes like Warm Front, to 70,000 a year. This is a 93% reduction. 2 million a year are needed to meet climate targets.

Cavity wall insulation would fall from the current 510,000/year to 170,000 – far below the Green Deal target of 1.4 million/year. The initial impact assessment estimated that solid wall insulation will increase through the Green Deal, but not to levels that will cancel out the reductions in loft and cavity wall insulation.









Then in June 2012, the government’s recent revision of its Green Deal impact assessment predicted that the Green Deal would only reduce the the number of loft insulations by about 83%, from about 900,000 in 2012 to 150,000 in 2013.

This is better than initial impact assessment. But it’s still pretty disastrous.

The revised Green Deal impact assessment also predicts less of a fall in cavity wall insulations following the introduction of the Green Deal, than the initial impact assessment’s predicted 67% fall. The revised assessment predicts a fall of merely 43%.

Energy Company Obligation subsidies

The revised impact assessment follows government changes to the original Green Deal proposals, following widespread criticism.  The Coalition government has now allowed some additional lofts and cavity walls in low-income areas to become eligible for the new, Energy Company Obligation (ECO) subsidies.

The ECO is a new requirement that the government is placing on energy companies, to spend some of the money they receive from customers paying their gas and electricity bills, on subsidised energy efficiency/carbon reduction measures for fuel poor households and those in old stone houses which are expensive to retrofit (also called hard to treat houses).

ECOs will replace, at a lower level, the current energy efficiency subsidies to customers that energy companies have to provide through the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target programme.

So ECOs will reduce the amount that the big six energy companies have to give back to customers to help them improve their energy efficiency – at a time when the big six energy companies are profiting from scandalously high energy prices to customers.

The Climate Change Committee has recommended that the government should require the energy companies to pay for all the home energy efficiency improvements needed to meet the 2022 target for reducing household carbon emissions. The CCC says that home energy efficiency retrofits should be carried out street-by-street, on a whole house basis – in other words, that each house should be thoroughly retrofitted in line with its individual requirements.

But the government’s not taking any notice. It’s not about to pass up the opportunity to create a bonanza for the financial sector.

As an alternative to the Green Deal, the Energy Bill Revolution Alliance is calling on the government to use carbon taxes to pay for insulating the UK’s homes.

The government’s not taking any notice of this either.

Plain Speaker invited Calderdale Councillor Barry Collins to comment on Calderdale’s Energy Future’s reliance on the Green Deal as the way for householders to reduce their carbon emissions. Councillor Collins said,

“It wouldn’t be useful for me to be involved in a debate which has already become polarised. Our position as the Council has been openly agreed in an open Cabinet meeting, and prior to that in public consultation meetings.”

Around one hundred people attended the public consultation meetings.

Need to reduce carbon emissions

We need to improve the energy efficiency of the UK’s notoriously leaky homes and workplace buildings. In 2011, an estimated 6.4m UK households were living in fuel poverty.

And carbon emissions  from burning fossil fuels in order to heat, light and power our homes and other buildings are extremely high.

“A quarter of the UK’s carbon emissions comes from the energy we use to heat our homes, and a similar amount comes from our businesses, industry and workplaces.”
(Department of Energy and Climate Change)

In addition to the Green Deal, Calderdale’s Energy Future (CEF) strategy explains that Calderdale Council aims to achieve ambitious reductions in the area’s energy use and carbon emissions by 2020 through opening up the Borough to developers of large scale commercial wind farms and biomass energy generation (ie energy from burning wood, energy crops and a variety of waste products).

And for the Council itself to reduce its own carbon emissions by 40% by 2020, from the 2005 level.

But the Strategy seems full of spin and short on substance.(Quite apart from its reliance on the dodgy Green Deal – part of the Coalition Government’s ideological agenda of cutting public spending and outsourcing public services to the private sector, creating a bonanza for the bankers.)

However, Calderdale Council’s Environmental Officer, Emma Appleton, clarified in an email that Calderdale’s Energy Future strategy is only a “statement of intent”, not a “set of actions.”

She says,

“Required feasibility work has not been delivered.”

Which I guess means that no one’s yet worked out whether or not it’s possible to carry out the various measures for reducing carbon emissions that Calderdale’s Energy Future envisages.

Calderdale Council is relying on the market to reduce carbon emissions and climate change

Over the next ten years, Calderdale’s Energy Future  aspires to stimulate around £320 million worth of investment in Calderdale, in measures like insulation, solar pv and improved transport efficiency, plus an apparently unspecified amount in community projects and the development of large scale commercial wind farms and biomass energy.

The Council itself has no money to spend on any of these measures, so it will work with banks and businesses.

The Council will convene a working group of businesses and third sector organisations. Once the working group knows which measures are feasible, it will create an action plan and monitor its implementation.

It’s not clear how the Council will select members of the Working Group, although members will  represent organisations that are “key partners” with the Council in carrying out Calderdale’s Energy Future. How the Council will make sure the Working Group is democratically accountable and open to public scrutiny is also unclear.

Since Calderdale Council adopted Calderdale’s Energy Future as a vision of possible ways of reducing  Calderdale’s carbon emissions – not a set of actions – it will be interesting to see if Calderdale Council will consult the public, in the event that it ends up committing to any potentially contentious carbon reduction measures, such as large scale commercial wind farms and biomass energy.

Commercial large scale biomass energy

Carbon Descent, the company that did the carbon reduction calculations for CEF, estimated that switching to large-scale biomass energy would give nearly one fifth of the targetted reductions, but Emma Appleton has clarified that there is no ”agreed pathway for biomass” in the Strategy.

Where’s the fuel coming from?

The Scenario report shows potentially available biomass resources (Table 7), but it’s not clear where these resources are available from. Calderdale’s Energy Future draft strategy says that providing wood fuel for biomass plants requires improving local woodlands and the route to market (p16). This in turn needs a woodland management plan (p 18).

But before 2020 – the date for achieving the carbon emissions reduction target – can a woodland management plan provide enough wood fuel for large scale biomass energy, and also regrow trees or coppices to maturity in order to fully absorb the carbon emissions from burning the wood?

And can biomass energy can really be carbon-neutral by 2020? There is well-founded evidence that the carbon debt from burning wood to replace energy from fossil fuels has a very long payback time – around 150–230 years. This is because when wood is burned it creates carbon dioxide. And it takes a long time for enough new trees to grow and absorb all that carbon dioxide from burning the wood.

And how will burning biomass avoid pollution nuisance and poor air quality? Where are the likely locations of biomass combined heat and power and biomass energy generation plants? Presumably they need to be near towns.

But burning biomass creates not only carbon emissions, but nitrogen dioxide, particulates (PM10 and PM 2.5), polyaromatic hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide. Biomass and Air Quality Guidance for Local Authorities states,

“Nuisance issues can…arise from the use of biomass, with the most common issues arising from smoke and odour.”

So siting these plants is going to be an issue. I can’t imagine many people will want to live near one.

Large scale commercial wind farms

Calderdale Energy Future Summary of engagement events-public and business says that a 2011 study (Low Carbon and Renewable Energy Capacity in Yorkshire and Humber) identifies that Calderdale could generate 110 mw from wind, using current technology, if all suitable landscape was utilised. This could be achieved by the approval of 20 more commercial scale turbines.

Calderdale has already approved three commercial wind farms, at:

  • Crook Hill
  • Todmorden Moor
  • Ovenden Moor

Together, they can generate 39.2MW.

Calderdale is also considering an application to re-power Ovenden Moor by reducing the number of turbines from 23 to 10 and increasing the power output from 9.2MW to 25MW. This would give Calderdale 55MW of wind energy by 2021.

Community-owned wind farms

The CEF Summary of Engagement events points out that four community owned wind farms, each with five x 1.3mw  turbines would together generate enough energy for  10,000 homes, producing 26 mw electricity.

The four community owned windfarms and the existing commercial wind farms, with Ovenden re-powered to 25MW, would generate 81MW of electricity. Enough for around 31,154 houses.

Community groups

There are promises of support for community groups to carry out various social and environmental activities, including community renewable energy schemes – although the CEF documents show that these are marginal, in terms of achieving the targets for reducing carbon emissions, energy use and costs.

Biofuels for transport

Calderdale’s Energy Future proposes to reduce carbon emissions by using some biofuels for transport. But a new report finds that biofuels would increase carbon emissions, not reduce them. The EU Climate Commissioner says that EU policy that European transport fuel must include 10% sourced from biofuels is out of date, based on now-discredited information. Also, transport biofuel crops compete for land with food production, driving up food prices and depriving people of access to land for farming.

Need to clarify proposals for the Working Group/s that will plan and oversee the implementation of the Strategy

There is a lack of clarity in Calderdale’s Energy Future draft strategy proposals for a working group or groups that will prepare the Strategy’s action plan and monitor its implementation – particularly over accountability, transparency and group members’ potential conflicts of interest.

Not just reducing carbon emissions, but solving lots of other problems too

Calderdale’s Energy Future intends that measures to reduce Calderdale’s carbon emissions will also:

  • help to create and support local low carbon businesses, jobs and income
  • help improve people’s health and wellbeing
  • look after the landscape
  • involve everyone

Updated 18 August 2013 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.