Robert Llewellyn of Red Dwarf and Scrapheap Challenge fame was in Bath at the week-end to chair an event on the Past, Present & Future of Community Energy.
Robert, a keen advocate of the transition to electric vehicles through his online Fully Charged Show, accepted the invitation to help a city-based organisation explore how we can best meet the challenge of climate change.
Nick Bird writes to tell me : The event was a joint initiative between local not-for-profit enterprise Bath & West Community Energy (BWCE) and people who had been involved in COMTEK (community technology) events in the 1970s that focused on alternative technology, re-cycling and sustainable living.
The Museum of Bath at Work hosted the event to coincide with the ‘Bonkers but Brilliant’ exhibition to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Bath Arts Workshop (BAW). Alongside giving birth to the Bath Fringe and the Natural Theatre Company, BAW was also responsible for the creation of COMTEK.
Over 50 people gathered together to hear about the history of alternative/renewable technology locally and to explore how we can all get involved in reducing local energy demand and support the increased generation of local renewable energy. The event organisers were especially keen to respond to the local schoolchildren who had been demonstrating their concern for their future and to support the recent Bath & North East Somerset council declaration to make the area carbon neutral by 2030.
Brian Ford and Glyn Davies from Comtek described how their creative and do-it-yourself alternative technology events in Bath in the 1970s had gone on to influence mainstream developments in renewable energy technology. COMTEK had also been involved in saving threatened buildings for community use, including the Museum of Bath at Work itself.
Max Wakefield from national environmental organisation 10:10 Climate Action stated that concern about climate change had reached a record high as the increasingly urgent warnings from scientists had been amplified by street protests and the resulting media coverage. He said:
“It is up to all of us to harnass and sustain this new climate moment to build a safe, fair and prosperous zero carbon world because we can, because things will get better if we do and because we have no practical and moral choice”
Pete Capener from BWCE emphasised the importance of local ownership and control over energy and the resultant benefits for local communities, including in BWCE’s case £155,000 donated to local environmental projects through its Community Fund.
In a lively panel discussion Sonya Bedford from the Energy Team at Stephens Scown solicitors shared her experience of how current UK regulations are still holding renewable energy installation back, especially onshore wind power which was both the cheapest form of energy and, according to a recent Government survey, supported by 79% of the population.
BWCE will be working with other organisations to see how it can turn some of the ideas discussed at the event into reality. However, Pete Capener emphasised it could not do this without more support from local people.
“As a community owned company we are committed to reducing carbon emissions and delivering community benefit. But we can do little by ourselves. We need local people to help us, become members and invest in local renewable energy projects. Start talking to friends and family about climate change. Talk to your councillor, MP, community forum, about what you want to see happen in your local area. Above all, get involved”
Stuart Burroughs, Director of the Museum of Bath at Work said:
“The museum celebrates Bath’s industrial and heritage. However, alongside the good things we have gained from this we also need to recognise the legacy this has left for our climate and consider the industrial transformation we now need to bring about to safeguard future generations”
Since 2010 Bath & West Community Energy have installed enough renewable energy to power 4,000 homes, made possible through the community investment of 900 members and bondholders. They have also donated £155,00 to local community projects that reduce carbon emissions and address fuel poverty.
The ‘Bonkers but Brilliant’ exhibition runs at the Museum of Bath at Work until 1st October. More information at http://www.bath-at-work.org.uk/events