Calderdale’s Energy Future (CEF) strategy outlines how Calderdale Council aims to achieve ambitious reductions in the area’s energy use and carbon emissions by 2020.
We clearly need to find effective and fair ways of doing this, but the Strategy seems full of spin and short on substance.
However, Calderdale Council’s Environmental Officer, Emma Appleton, has 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’s unanimous vote to adopt the CEF strategy
Calderdale Councillors voted unanimously on 15th February to adopt the strategy, which came into effect on April 1st 2012.
At the Full Council meeting, some of the Councillors were a bit inaudible, but I think a councillor said that last year about one hundred people had attended public consultation meetings about Calderdale’s Energy Future.
This compares to 16,000 signatures on petitions opposing Calderdale Council’s proposal to move Halifax Central Library – a figure quoted in a discussion of that topic and dismissed by a Councillor as an insignificant proportion of the adults in the Borough.
So maybe sauce for Calderdale’s Energy Future’s goose isn’t sauce for the Central Library gander.
But maybe I misheard the figure of one hundred people. Maybe it was nine hundred. Either way, I think it would be A Good Thing if Councillors showed some consistency and clarity about what constitutes a democratic mandate for their decisions.
Ask questions at Calderdale Council Cabinet meetings
If you have questions about Calderdale’s Energy Future, you can ask them at meetings of Calderdale Council Cabinet. You need to turn up 10 minutes early and fill in a form with your question/s, before asking them orally at the start of the Cabinet meeting. You can also ask your Councillor.
Here’s what I think the Calderdale’s Energy Future boils down to.
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.
It seems that Coalition Government cuts to public services and local government spending have determined Calderdale’s Energy Future strategy.
In April 2011, the Coalition Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review cut Leeds City Region local authorities’ budgets for publicly-funded home insulation programmes by 80%. Down from £20 million over three years, to £4 million.
The Coalition Government justifies cutting local government funding for public services on the grounds that this will open up opportunities for private sector businesses, voluntary groups and social enterprises to provide these services instead. Calderdale’s Energy Future strategy seems to accept this theory and work within its terms. But it’s a very questionable policy.
Since Calderdale Council has no money to pay for any of the carbon reduction measures, it will work with banks and businesses.
Key Council “partners”
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 should give priority to measures which reduce carbon emissions the most.
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.
A statement of intent not a set of actions
Calderdale Council commissioned a company called Carbon Descent to identify theoretically possible ways of meeting the targets for reducing Calderdale’s carbon emissions. Carbon Descent number-crunched various theoretically possible measures and concluded that it is possible to achieve 94% of the 2020 carbon emissions reduction target, if the various theoretically possible carbon measures are all successfully carried out on schedule.
Cost/benefit analyses of these measures show that it’s theoretically possible for their benefits to exceed their costs within a few years.
In addition to the targets for reducing the area’s carbon emissions, the Council aims to reduce its own carbon emissions by 40% by 2020, from the 2005 level.
Since “ the required feasibility work has not been delivered”, it’s not clear if it will in fact be possible to reduce carbon emissions by the targetted amount. (Update 2022: Calderdale Council met this target by 2020.)
Particularly since some measures promise very big carbon emissions reductions, but no one knows at this stage if it’ll be possible to carry them out. Like switching to large-scale biomass energy.
These are the main CEF proposals for reducing the area’s carbon emissions and energy use:
- encouraging householders and businesses to pay for energy efficiency improvements in their homes and business premises – mainly through the new Green Deal scheme. 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.
- 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)
Calderdale’s Energy Future strategy for promoting the Green Deal won’t work and it’s socially unfair
Even the government’s own impact assessment and its advisers on the Climate Change Committee say that the Green Deal won’t work – but Calderdale’s Energy Future draft strategy relies on it to reduce household carbon emissions by 25% by 2020, from the 2005 level.
The Green Deal is the coalition government’s way of transferring the costs of reducing carbon emissions away from the energy companies and society as a whole, to individual householders.
The Green Deal replaces publicly funded home energy efficiency improvement schemes. It also reduces the requirement for energy companies to provide their customers with subsidies for for insulation and other home energy efficiency improvements.
If the coalition government tried to do this kind of thing with education or health – as they are – there would be a public outcry – as there is. But because energy policy is so confusing and poorly explained, most of us probably find it hard to figure out what’s going on. Calderdale’s Energy Future doesn’t explain any of these issues.
The energy companies can easily afford to continue current levels of subsidies – or even increase them. The big six energy companies have just announced profits of £15 million for the last year, after racking up energy prices so they really hurt householders.
The government’s adviser, the Committee on Climate Change, has recommended that the coalition government should require energy companies to pay for ALL the cavity wall, loft and solid wall insulation needed to meet 2022 targets for reducing household carbon emissions.
To do this, energy companies would have to stump up much bigger subsidies for their customers than the government requires from them under the Green Deal. The Committee on Climate Change advises that the energy companies should carry out this massive home insulation programme on a “whole house, street by street” basis. The Committee also notes that in the end, households would end up paying for this because energy companies will pas on the costs of the subsidies to customers’ energy bills. This doesn’t seem right.
As well as being unworkable, the Green Deal is also socially unfair. It cuts support for low income households to retrofit their houses and redistributes (reduced) energy company subsidies for customers’ energy efficiency improvements in favour of the better off.
Calderdale’s Energy Future draft 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 – Energy Company Obligation- is the new, lower subsidy that the energy companies will have to provide to customers.)
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 – this looks like a better idea
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 repowered to 25MW, would generate 81MW of electricity. Enough for around 31,154 houses.
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.
Commercial large scale biomass energy
Where’s the fuel coming from? Can biomass energy can really be carbon-neutral by 2020? And how it will avoid pollution nuisance and poor air quality?
The proposals for “opening up the Borough to developers” of large scale commercial and biomass energy generation are so sketchy that it’s impossible to see if they are anything more than spin. Plus, there are real potential problems with the proposals for biomass energy – and biofuels for transport- that the CEF draft strategy overlooks.
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?
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 carbon emissions, 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.
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 the 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. This needs reviewing, in order to prevent any suspicions about pork barrel politics .
A review of Calderdale’s Energy Future draft strategy needs to clarify these points:
- is the Energy Future Working Group (CEF draft strategy p29) the same as the Cross Sector Working Group (p9 and p19)? Both have responsibility for developing an action plan.
- how will the Council select working group members?
- how will the group/s be accountable, and who to?
- how will their operations be transparent to members of the public?
- will group members include what the CEF draft strategy refers to as Calderdale Council’s “strategic partners”?
- will group members be at risk of experiencing conflicts of interest – particularly if they are not just involved in creating the action plan and monitoring its implements, but also involved in carrying out some aspect of it?
- will group members be eligible to receive funding from the proposed revolving loan fund or any other “investment opportunities” that they “access” as part of their work on the group?
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 –
Tidying up the website, I’ve merged into this post a previously separate post – Calderdale’s Energy Future in Plain English. Comments on that post are retained, below
3 THOUGHTS ON “CALDERDALE’S ENERGY FUTURE IN PLAIN ENGLISH”
- Finn Jensen on April 9, 2012 at 6:15 am said: EditI think it is worth recognising that it is a step in the right direction for Calderdale Council to accept the need to reduce Calderdale’s CO2 emissions. How serious the Council is going to take this “statement of intent” is still to be seen. But rather than waiting to see if the Council will fail we should offer our help to the Council making this “statement of intent” a reality and demand action. Then we will know if the Council is serious about it. However, we will also need to have support from the public for such action. Creating such support should take place at the same time as offering to work with the Council and will make it more difficult for the Council to forget its “statement of intent.”
Regarding the banks offering loans for investments: both the Cooperative Bank and the Tridos Bank are willing to give loans (including to community groups) for CO2 reduction measures.Reply ↓
- AnneH on February 23, 2012 at 9:46 am said: EditJenny, I think the part of Emma’s reply which is most relevant to your comments about Energy Future is ‘it’s a statement of intent and not a set of actions’. I did attend the public consultation and I think this was made clear. And I recognise a lot of the comments made at that consultation in the final strategy – pity you didn’t go along too, Jenny.
I understand the strategy to be a framework within which a whole host of actions will be carried out – not all by the council. But the actions will be guided by and referenced to the work already carried out by the mini-stern report and the council’s own modelling work (such as the findings that the most cost effective resources in Calderdale are likely to be biomass and wind). I think it’s too early to surmise what will happen if this or that doesn’t go ahead.
As for financing the various actions – one of the great things about both energy efficiency and renewable energy is that in the longer term they are cost effective because they save on fossil fuels and therefore save money. So the emphasis is probably going to be on investment rather than subsidy.
Of course the council won’t be funding all the activity itself! I’m sure you’d be the first to complain about rises in council tax and the consequent cuts in other services to pay for it!Reply ↓
a) as far as I can see, the Calderdale’s Energy Future document says it has no money to fund any of the measures and its emphasis on investment is pretty clear, which is presumably why the Council wants to work with the banks to encourage them to lend money to businesses (which by and large they’re not doing at the moment)
b) I wouldn’t have a problem with paying higher council tax if the money was going to be used for the greater good of the greatest number of people. I am after all, that old-fashioned thing, a socialist. I think a progressive taxation system is a very good way of making sure that we all have fair access to essential public goods and services, and that in the process we maintain a sense that we all look out for each other.Reply ↓