December 4, 2011

UK: Pioneering town to drive green policy

A town whose energy-efficiency projects have caught the attention of ministers has been asked to help shape national policy for "the greenest Government ever".

Professor Stephen Frankel, on behalf of the Wadebridge Renewable Energy Network (WREN) in North Cornwall, will meet with eight officials from other communities across the country to advise ministers as part of the Community Energy Contact Group.

Minister Greg Barker wrote to Mr Frankel in recognition of the town's relentless pursuit of green opportunities which have continued despite the cutbacks in Government incentives for renewables. Wadebridge residents have installed solar panels on many local roofs and plan to use tidal power from the River Camel.

Mr Frankel, whose vociferous lobbying of the Government has brought particular attention to the plight of community groups' in the South West, said: "I really do think energy ministers and the Prime Minister are being truthful when they say that they want a greener, low-carbon Britain, and that they want to help communities take control of their own demand for and generation of energy. The fact most of their actions prevent us from doing that is a reflection of the fact it is also difficult for them to change the basic arrangements for energy generation and distribution.

"I am very hopeful this group will add to the groundswell of opinion that must lead us away from a centralised energy system to one where communities can themselves create those wise solutions that will not emerge if we carry on as we are."

The advisory body, which will meet for the first time in London on December 15, will help Department for Energy and Climate Change "design and deliver with communities in mind".

In a letter new group members Mr Barker, the minister for energy and climate change, wrote: "This Coalition is committed to being 'the greenest Government ever' and we believe that local communities are key allies in achieving our ambition of a greener, low-carbon Britain."

The new group will ensure local views are heard, and help Government identify – and remove – the barriers to community energy delivering its full potential.

An obvious starting point is the Feed-in Tariff, a once-generous subsidy offered for renewable energy producers including schools and community groups, which has been sliced in half in recent weeks, to the dismay of many businesses and campaigners in the South West.

Spokesman for DECC Peter Wilson said: "The work of the Wadebridge Renewable Energy Network, and Stephen Frankel in particular, in harnessing renewables for the community and driving a low carbon economy in Cornwall make this a natural selection for the new group."


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