People's Charter on Renewable Energy report


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This report was produced by Conor. It is a compilation of the input from the many conversations held on the day.

It includes output from the exercise that Chris started the day with - identifying what issues people have with our energy system and their administration.

Table of Contents
Renewable Energy
 – Production, Distribution & Conservation
  Introduction 3
  Flagging the Issues   4
  Solutions to the Issues 4
  Technologies 5
  Duncan Stewarts Speech 6
  Conservation 6
  Distribution 7
  Motivation 9

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People's Charter on Renewable Energy report

  1. 1.       Renewable  Energy  –  Production,  Distribution   &  Conservation     Creating  a  People’s  Charter  for  Renewable  Energy  
  2. 2. Table  of  Contents   Renewable  Energy  –  Production,  Distribution  &  Conservation   Introduction   Flagging  the  Issues   Solutions  to  the  Issues   Technologies   Duncan  Stewarts  Speech   Conservation   Distribution   Motivation       3   4   4   5   6   6   7   9  
  3. 3. Introduction     Laois  Environmental  Action  Forum  (LEAF)  and  Claiming  Our  Future  (COF),   hosted  the  renewable  energy  event,  “Renewable  Energy  –  Production,   Distribution  and  Conservation”  on  November  9th.  It  was  designed  to  encourage   communities  to  participate  in  the  planning  of  our  transition  away  from  fossil   fuel.       The  event  was  based  on  four  simple  assumptions:     1. Communities  must  be  involved     2. Renewable   energy   needs   to   be   developed   to   reduce   our   dependency   on   fossil  fuels   3. Fuel  poverty  needs  to  be  addressed,  guided  by  the  principles  of  equality     4. Climate  change  must  be  addressed     Proposals  for  wind  farms,  fracking  and  drilling  for  oil  near  Irish  coasts  have  led   to  energy  becoming  a  contentious  and  divisive  issue  for  many.  Ideas  about  solar   power,  storage  and  transmission  abound.  So  many  people  have  ideas  about  what   we   must   do.   We   believe   it   is   possible   to   have   creative   conversations   on   these   subjects  while  focusing  on  the  four  assumptions  above.     The  day  was  broken  into  three  sessions  based  on  three  topics,  energy  generation,   distribution,   and   conservation.   Before   each   session   the   "experts"   introduced   themselves  briefly,  2  minutes  max,  and  let  people  know  their  area  of  expertise.       This  event  was  being  independently  facilitated.  Most  conversations  were  held  in   small   groups   to   ensure   full   participation   for   all   involved.   It   is   hoped   that   this   event  is  the  start  of  a  process  where  the  end  result  we  are  aiming  for  is  a  people’s   charter  to  deliver  to  our  government,  showing  what  the  people  want  and  giving  a   roadmap  for  how  progress  can  be  made,  collaboratively.                                      
  4. 4.       Flagging  the  Issues     The  analogy  that  we  were  all  outsiders  was  used  in  order  to  have  people  exam   the   problems   from   a   detached   viewpoint.   For   this,   participants   imagined   themselves   as   aliens   orbiting   the   Earth,   observing   from   a   distance.   Outlined   below  are  issues  identified  by  each  group.     Many  tables  identified  greed  as  the  driving  force  behind  many  of  the  issues  we   face   today.   Businesses   are   driven   by   profit   and   see   the   environment   as   the   source   of   that   profit   without   understanding   the   long-­‐term   consequences.   This   shortsightedness  was  picked  up  a  number  of  other  groups.  People  identified  that   politics   have   a   short-­‐term   outlook   to   a   long-­‐term   problem.   There   is   no   holistic   vision   of   the   current   energy   system.   Communities   need   to   get   involved   and   air   their  grievances  and  be  listened  to.   There   needs   to   be   more   transparency   regarding   the   problems   associated   with   climate   change.   Simply   knowing   there   is   a   problem   is   not   enough.   Action   is   required!   There   is   a   lack   of   local   ownership,   which   may   stem   from   the   government   not   engaging   with   public   regarding   the   problems   and   options   available.   Commercial   interests   and   not   social   interests   drive   energy   development.  We  persist  with  the  use  of  fossil  fuels  rather  than  identifying  viable   options  that  are  sustainable  and  long  lasting.     Solutions  to  the  Issues   Once  the  issues  were  identified  or  “Flagged”,  viable  options  available  were  listed   by  each  table.  Some  of  these  options  or  ideas  are  outlined  below.     • Integrated  understanding  (Governance).     o At  a  local/national  and  EU.   • Bring  all  sides  together  starting  with  local  communities.   • Co-­‐ownership  of  energy  solutions  to  empower  local  communities.   • Communication  and  work  ethic.   • Carbon  budget  for  Ireland.     • Conserving  consumption.     • Global  solidarity  against  fossil  fuels.   • Listening  to  communities.     • Stop  fighting  and  work  together.     • Move  to  cooperatives.     • New  economy.       • Strive  for  energy  independence.     • Close  to  source  consumption.   • Projects  with  no  environmental  impact.  
  5. 5. Technologies   Next  on  the  agenda,  we  discussed  various  technological  options.  Each  table  was   assigned  to  discuss  a  certain  topic/technology  and  people  were  free  to  join  and   leave  tables  as  they  pleased.  The  topics  discussed  at  each  table  were  the   following:       • Energy  Co-­‐Operatives   • Eirgrid   • Combined  Heat  and  Power   • Solar  Energy     • Wind  Energy     • Subsidies  and  Carbon  Tax         The  Energy  Co-­‐Operative  table  discussed  the  need  for  community  cooperatives   around  Ireland.  There  is  the  possibility  to  create  local  micro-­‐grids  to  supply  and   balance  energy  requirements.  Also  discussed  was  how  Ireland  is  following  the   UK’s  model,  which  was  identified  as  being  unsustainable  for  Ireland.  We  need  to   look  at  similar  economies,  such  as  Denmark  and  Austria.  Ireland’s  Eirgrid  pillons   were  also  discussed  and  it  was  noted  at  this  table  that  a  systems  thinking   approach  to  renewable  energy  and  other  resource  use.     The  table  debating  Combined  Heat  and  Power  identified  the  benefits  of  efficient   fuel  use  as  well  as  the  flexibility  of  Sterling  Engine  CHP’s  that  can  run  on  many   types  of  fuels.  The  cost  of  installation  became  an  issue  and  CHP  installations   were  not  recommended  for  retrofits.  With  accurate  sizing,  a  unit  can  be  paid   back  within  2-­‐3  years.   Solar  and  wind  energy  were  also  discussed  to  those  who  wished  to  learn  more.   Questions  around  Wind  energy’s  efficiency  and  how  the  industry  is  regulated   were  raised.  However  there  was  interest  in  community  owned  wind  farms  and   with  the  right  expertise,  funding  and  structures,  it  was  seen  as  a  viable  option  in   the  Laois  area.  Solar  energy  is  technically  feasibility  in  Ireland,  but  with  the  lake   of  policy  to  stimulate  the  deployment  of  this  technology  will  remain  low.  There   are  10,000  installations  in  Ireland  at  present  and  the  growth  will  continue  to   remain  slow  unless  there  is  an  access  to  capital.     Finally  the  last  table  discussed  subsidies  and  a  carbon  tax.  The  energy  subsidies   supporting  fossil  fuels  were  identified  as  inhibitors  to  the  deployment  of   renewable  energy  technologies.  These  subsidies  must  be  removed  if  we  are  to   move  away  from  dirty  fuels.  The  carbon  tax  was  also  debated  and  the  consensus   was  that  there  is  a  need  for  a  fair  carbon  tax  at  all  levels.  The  capital  gained  by   these  taxes  must  be  invested  in  a  mix  of  renewables,  as  it  will  not  be  one   technology  that  will  solve  Ireland’s  dependence  on  fossil  fuel  imports.   Participants  were  urged  to  become  more  active  and  realize  that  they  have   options.            
  6. 6. Duncan  Stewarts  Speech   Duncan  Stewart  had  just  15  minutes  to  impart  some  words  of  wisdom  and  advice   to  all  at  the  event.  Duncan  made  it  clear  that  we  can  no  longer  wait  for  change  to   happen,  communities  need  to  be  the  drivers.  People  must  become  organized  and   actively  involved.  In  order  to  do  this  though,  citizens  need  options,  both   technological  and  financial.  Duncan  reiterated  the  importance  of  immediate   action  and  how  dependent  we  are  as  an  island  on  imported  fuels.  We  are  at  the   mercy  of  the  global  market  and  we  should  be  striving  for  energy  independence.   Duncan’s  rousing  speech  gave  hope  to  many  of  the  event’s  guest  and  gave   impotence  to  the  group  to  continue  the  discussion.     Conservation   Following  Duncan’s  speech,  we  were  again  divided  into  various  tables  to  discuss   a  number  of  topics  with  our  “Experts”.  The  table  topics  are  listed  below:     • Media’s  Role   • Aarhuis   • District  Heating     • Transition  Ireland  and  Northern  Ireland   • Energy  Monitoring  and  Management     • Air  Tightness  and  Heat  Recovery   • Finance  and  Co-­‐Ops   • Insulation       The   role   of   the   media   in   Energy   conservation   and   renewable   energy   deployment   was   assed   at   one   table.   This   group   identified   the   need   to   use   social   media   and   online   forums   to   communicate   and   open   dialogue   between   environmental   groups.   It   was   suggested   that   people   within   the   community   could   write   their   own   stories   and   submit   these   to   newspapers.   As   well   as   being   more   proactive   with  campaigning,  communities  should  examine  the  potential  for  district  heating   systems.  One  group  discussed  the  possibilities  of  such  a  system  and  how  certain   areas   have   the   criteria   needed   for   installing   such   a   system.     Another   group   discussed   energy   monitoring   and   management   as   a   way   to   conserve   consumption.   During   this   discussion   our   expert   outlined   how   through   active   monitoring   of   energy   use,   individuals   can   become   more   aware   of   wasted   energy.   As  well  as  this,  there  is  the  opportunity  to  provide  jobs  at  a  local  level.     The   airtightness   and   heat   recovery   table   discussed   methods   making   a   dwelling   more  airtight  and  thus  reduce  the  amount  of  heat  loss.  The  key  is  to  make  people   more   aware   of   how   they   can   make   small   improvements   to   their   building   envelope  and  save  on  energy  consumption  for  space  heating.  One  piece  of  advice   was  to  use  ceiling  tape  to  prevent  air  escaping.  This  can  be  easily  concealed  by   painting   over.   As   well   as   the   airtightness   of   a   building,   an   expert   on   insulation   formed   a   group   to   identify   the   options   and   potential   pitfalls   of   selecting   insulation.  Concerns  were  raised  over  petrochemical  materials  for  insulation  and   how  there  is  a  lack  of  funding  and  supply  for  Eco  materials,  such  as  hemp.          
  7. 7. The  table  discussing  the  Aarhuis  convention  outlined  the  need  for  environmental   rights   in   the   constitution   and   how   there   should   be   an   environmental   court   to   prosecute  those  that  damage  the  Irish  environment  for  financial  gain.     The   need   for   up   skilling   within   the   public   sector   was   also   proposed   as   well   as   improved   public   awareness   and   education.   More   people   need   to   engage   with   the   Aarhuis  but  this  will  only  be  possible  through  improved  information  distribution   for   example   employing   information   officers   and   holding   Aarthuis   information   roadshows.   The   final   table   introduced   “Transition   Ireland   and   Northern   Ireland”   (TINI)  and  gave  an  introduction  into  the  movement  and  how  there  is  a  need  for  a   network  to  make  such  a  transition  possible.     Distribution   Our  next  session  divided  up  the  groups  again  to  discuss  aspects  of  distribution   and  any  other  topic  of  interest  to  participants.  The  topics  included:     • Energy  Democracy   • Co-­‐Operatives  and  Energy     • Eirgrid’s  Pylons   • Anaerobic  digestion     • European  Policy     • Smart  Micro-­‐Grids     The  group  discussing  Energy  democracy  examined  the  various  problems  existing   within  the  Irish  system  and  also  how  these  issues  could  be  resolved.  These   problems  and  solutions  are  outlined  below.       • Various  problems  were  identified     o Opaque  democracy     o Governance  not  government     o No  Leadership     o Pro  profit  ideology     o Pro  market  bias  is  senior  public  servants   o Semi-­‐state  “competition”  is  a  gravy  train     o Appointed  local  government     • Solutions  were  also  offered     o Use  existing  smart  grid   o Re-­‐politicizes  the  population     o Aarhuis  convention  –  use  it     o Upstream  participation     o Redefine  national  interests  when  it  comes  to  energy     o New  players  in  local  democracy  must  be  accountable   o Challenge  semi-­‐state  selfish  interest   o Semi  state  mandate  to  become  social  and  not  commercial   o Democratise  semi-­‐states  
  8. 8. Once  again,  Co-­‐Operatives  were  discussed.  This  time,  barriers  related  to  the   establishment  of  energy  Co-­‐Operatives  were  identified.  Two  of  the  most   prominent  barriers  are  related  to  peoples  trust  in  such  projects.  People  need   instant  success  and  reward  otherwise  there  isn’t  much  interest.  People  tend  to   retrofit  their  existing  home,  without  thinking  of  the  benefits  of  energy  Co-­‐ Operatives.  There  is  a  need  to  communicate  with  like-­‐minded  people  and   establish  a  suitable  forum  to  communicate  and  share  ideas.   Eirgrid’s  Pylons  were  the  subject  of  our  next  group’s  discussion.  This  group  were   concerned  with  the  large  pylons  being  constructed  in  the  Laois  area.  Such   investment  into  Ireland’s  grid  is  dependent  on  continued  economic  growth  and   resource  consumption.  There  should  be  more  focus  on  improving  energy   efficiency  and  strategies  to  combat  the  forecasted  increase  in  consumption   should  be  aimed  at  local  renewable  energy  projects.     Anaerobic  digestion  (AD)  was  discussed  within  another  group  and  had  many   interested  participants.  Issues  such  as  investment  costs,  deployment  potential,   interest  and  legislation  were  discussed.  The  expert  at  the  table  made  it  aware   that  in  order  for  AD  to  be  successfully  deployed,  AD  needs  buy  in  from  all  the   community.   With  the  topics  based  around  the  distribution  of  energy,  Smart  micro  grids  was   yet  another  topic  people  found  interesting  and  applicable.  There  is  a  need  for   case  studies  to  show  the  authorities  it  is  possible.  An  energy  survey  is  a  good   way  to  start  and  such  works  will  drive  the  local  economy  by  supplying  badly   needed  employment.  The  group  outlined  the  need  for  a  fund  for  projects  that   payback  in  less  than  two  years.  The  expert  made  it  clear  that  moving  forward   there  is  a  need  for  a  community  plan  (3  year  plan  as  suggested)  and  a  forum  to   network  between  Co-­‐ops.  The  final  two  tables  examined  how  change  might   happen.  The  suggestions  are  briefly  outlined  below:   • • • • • • • Taxes  and  sanctions   Need  for  a  carbon  budget     o Set  a  limit     o How  will  we  spend  it?   Social  justice  impact  assessment     Direct  action     o Even  in  the  absence  of  popular  support     Presentation  of  a  convincing  sustainable  alternative     o Climate  change  people  talk  about  problems  and  solutions     Next  generation  needs  to  be  born  with  a  conscience!   More  use  of  electronic  democracy  across  EU   • Use  petitions?  
  9. 9. Motivation     With  such  a  large  amount  of  information  having  to  be  consumed  and  the  most   dizzying  amount  of  problems  we  face  we  decided  to  end  the  event  by  focusing  on   motivation.  Groups  were  asked  to  write  a  few  points  about  what  motivates  them   and  how  to  get  motivated  for  the  future.   There  were  a  diverse  number  of  points  made  and  participants  want  communities   to  lead  the  way  with  sustainable  community  led  projects.  In  order  for  this  to  be   achieved,  there  is  a  need  for  energy  policies  to  facilitate  neighbourhood  projects   and  enable  local  cooperatives  to  form.     Communities  need  to  become  empowered  and  need  to  become  more  involved  in   shaping  their  local  energy  future.  Other  groups  focused  on  the  energy  options   discussed  by  the  experts  as  their  motivation  for  the  future.  We  need  to  monitor   our  electricity  use,  chop  wood,  set  up  of  cooperatives,  and  apply  pressure  to   bring  about  a  change  in  our  climate  future.  We  need  to  seize  the  day  and  get   behind  sustainable  projects.  One  individual  alone  cannot  achieve  an  energy   secure  future,  it  will  take  a  group  focused  on  a  common  goal.  But  the  options  are   out  available,  there  just  needs  to  be  enough  voices  behind  each  project.