Happy new year to you all! We got off to a soggy start with the wettest January on record in most of the South. The government’s commitment to renewable energy and energy efficiency continued to come under fire by critics in the green energy sector, but we were excited by a great local programme and some good opportunities for organisations, SMEs and job-seekers….read on!
Wind power stormed its records last month. Stormy weather coupled with a growing uptake of onshore and offshore wind incentives meant that for the first time UK wind power met 10% of national electricity demand in December! Good news for the burgeoning sector.
Less good news was the UK’s decision to ditch its national renewable energy targets after 2020. Europe as a bloc has committed to meeting 27% of energy needs from renewables by 2030 in a move predicted to create half a million jobs across the region, but the UK government led the campaign to remove legally-binding national renewables targets, saying that current emissions targets are binding enough and market forces will decide which technology is best. Critics say that explicit government support of low-carbon technologies such as nuclear, fracking and carbon capture and storage are far from ‘market forces’. It will be the first time in two decades that there isn’t a clear national target, which in the past has helped drive investment and cost-reduction in the developing wind and solar sectors, and stabilised investor confidence when political will has faltered. The impact on jobs in renewables remains to be seen.
David Cameron told world economic leaders in Davos this month that the UK needed to ‘embrace the opportunities of shale gas’. The Department of Energy and Climate Change announced that “shale gas has the potential to create growth, jobs and energy security and we are promoting safe exploration that protects the environment.” Public support for fracking reached a new low of 53% this month, however, and Greg Barker Minister for Climate Change said that anti-fracking views were acting from ‘kneejerk reactions’ based on ideology rather than science.
We liked this response explaining why – from an economic perspective alone – the ‘opportunities of shale gas’ might be dismissed as ‘demonstrably and devastatingly false’.
Government support of energy efficiency measures came under criticism again this month, following last month’s weakening of the Energy Company Obligations and the claim that David Cameron ordered his aides to “get rid of all the green crap” from energy bills.
Figures showed households applying for Green Deal assessments, the first step of households engaging with the government’s flag, to have dropped by a fifth during cold December, to just 12,000 nationally. Paul King of the UK Green Building Council said “government must recognise energy efficiency as a national infrastructure priority and be prepared to delve into its purse to make its flagship policy more appealing through stronger incentives and more attractive finance options.”
Blackfriars Bridge became the world’s largest solar-powered bridge this month, with enough capacity to power up to half of the energy needed for Blackfriars Station. Five years in the making, the partnership between First Capital Connect, Network Rail and Solarcentury was unveiled on January 22. At a time when solar farms in the green belt have been criticised for their visual impact, Solarcentury saw the striking visual impact of solar in the heart of London as ‘a real bonus’.
FoodWorks at OrganicLea
This month we’ve been wowed by Waltham Forest workers’ co-operative OrganicLea and their new FoodWorks programme.
Aiming their sights at young people between 16 and 25 who are not in education, employment or training (‘NEETS’), the programme progresses from initial outreach events to taster days in different aspects of sustainable food work, to an eight-week Level 1-certified placement in horticulture, food distribution or food processing.
At the end of the eight weeks, young people can choose from four pathways of paid training placements – at OrganicLea’s 12-acre Chingford growing site, in their grocery retail business or café, or with partner employers, for example local housing associations in grounds maintenance. There is also business start-up support, at the moment in garden maintenance or growing to sell.
The key elements of the programme are strong local partnerships, supported experiential learning and offering options, said Clare Joy, who helped create FoodWorks with the support of Waltham Forest Council and the Job Centre Plus.
One size doesn’t fit all, but trying things out in a supportive and enjoyable way opens up possibilities and aspirations, vital foundations for employability for many people out of work. ‘I’d never thought of work as something you could enjoy before this’ said Brandon, coming to the end of his eight week placement.
The next eight week programme starts in February. If you know a Waltham Forest resident who fits the bill, get them in touch with Jo Clarke firstname.lastname@example.org
Writing a good environmental plan is a key step for making your organisation manage and reduce its environmental impacts. LCRN are offering a free workshop on February 4th.
Are you a UK graduate wanting to work for sustainability and with itchy feet to live somewhere different? Change Agents UK has teamed up with the EU Leonardo Fund to create 24 awesome placements across Europe, for 9, 12 or 16 weeks. Want to learn about Community Energy in Spain? Policy development in Brussels? Apply before 11 February for placements starting May 2014.
A series of masterclass workshops are coming up across London with The Green Register for builders and plumbers in sustainable building and services. Check it out!
Ever thought of setting up an enterprise but not sure where to start? Hackney Business Ventures has a series of introduction workshops and pre-start-up seminars and events coming up. Go forth with January courage and check them out!
Suntrap in Waltham Forest is looking for field educators to work with schools and other groups on their seven-acre site. If you’ve got a background in science, geography or environmental studies it could be the perfect way to share what you love!
Another learning and education post is up for grabs with Royal Parks at the Isis Centre in Hyde Park, focusing on exploring science, wildlife and geography with mainly primary age children.
That’s all for this month folks. As always let us know your thoughts, news and upcoming opportunities for the network.
Stay warm and well till next time.