Category Archives: News & Opinions

Why is the Labour Party shooting itself in the foot on climate change?

“2023 heralded a record year for small-scale green energy and heat installations like rooftop solar and heat pumps, with more than 220,000 installations registered overall. It seems that there is a groundswell of interest in making our homes cleaner and greener amongst the general public, and indeed it would appear amongst our MPs that it is also gaining currency.

Growing support for mandatory solar

A new YouGov survey commissioned by the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) Foundation found four out of five MPs support making solar panels mandatory on all new-build homes. The survey revealed that 83% of Labour MPs and 73% of Conservative MPs polled believe solar panels should be incorporated into all new builds by 2025, while an average of 61% of those quizzed also agreed battery storage systems should come as standard. The poll comes as the Department for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities continues to consult on how the government should deliver its new Future Homes and Future Buildings Standards, with the consultation process set to close on March 6th.… Read the rest

New Year, New Projects for Wiltshire charities thanks to WWCE grants

A planter at Great Bedwyn Village Hall, part of the wider rainscape

Three Wiltshire-based organisations are set to kick off new schemes thanks to funding from Wiltshire Wildlife Community Energy (WWCE). Grants totalling around £10,000 have been awarded by the Community Fund to Action for the River Kennet (ARK), 1st Hilperton Equinox Explorer Scouts and Meadowbrook Community Interest Company (CIC).

Applications from the bodies were earmarked for financial support at a recent meeting of the WWCE Community Fund panel and payments have now been received, enabling them to deliver a range of wildlife and climate positive projects across Wiltshire.

Located on a two-and-a-half-acre plot just outside of Melksham, Meadowbrook CIC will use its £3800 grant to create a diverse, pollinator-friendly sensory garden and inspiring wildlife habitat. The nurturing outdoor setting encourages local people experiencing physical or mental health challenges to come along and connect with others, immerse themselves in nature and take part in a range of therapeutic activities.

Meanwhile, healthy river advocacy group ARK was awarded a grant of nearly four and a half thousand pounds to create a new rain garden and provide other sustainable drainage solutions at Great Bedwyn village hall in the east of the county.… Read the rest

Community energy can succeed where COP failed

We have entered 2024 with yet another increase to the Ofgem energy price cap which will plunge more struggling families into debt this winter. It’s an all-too-familiar occurrence and the impact it will have on millions of people cannot be overstated – it’s why we reintroduced our Keeping Warm This Winter scheme across Wiltshire.

To avoid untenable rises continuing for years to come, we must start focusing on long-term strategies to reduce the nation’s reliance on volatile imports and deliver stable, affordable and perhaps most importantly, sustainable energy.

After a disappointing COP28 which ended with a weak call for countries to move away from fossil fuels, as opposed to concrete decisions to phase them out altogether, my faith in the UK government to grasp and act on the climate emergency continues to diminish. Time and time again, the current government has rowed back on climate commitments and watered-down programmes which would help us achieve net zero.… Read the rest

Free energy advice service returns to Wiltshire this winter

Wiltshire Wildlife Community Energy’s (WWCE) free energy advice service is to return for a second year, as studies show over three million people across the UK are now in debt to their energy suppliers.

The Keeping Warm This Winter pop-up programme helped more than 360 Wiltshire residents last winter, prompting the group to expand the initiative as the energy crisis continues.

Developed by WWCE’s carbon reduction champion Jessica Thimbleby, Keeping Warm This Winter is a community engagement initiative designed to deliver targeted advice to people who may be struggling with fuel costs. The programme has been recognised by Community Energy England with a nomination for its national Fuel Poverty Action award and attracted the attention of local MP and Secretary of State, Michelle Donelan.

During pop-up ‘cafes’, Jessica will provide tips and advice around how to reduce household carbon emissions and save money by cutting down on energy use. She is also able to make referrals to the Warm and Safe Wiltshire service for further support, signposting those who may be eligible for emergency help or grants to allow them to install longer-term energy efficiency measures, including insulation or a more efficient boiler.… Read the rest

Keeping Warm This Winter initiative receives national recognition

Wiltshire Wildlife Community Energy’s free energy advice service has been named amongst just three national finalists in the Fuel Poverty Action category at the Community Energy England Awards 2023.

The UK wide awards recognise and celebrate outstanding achievements by organisations in the burgeoning community energy sector, including acknowledging those who have made remarkable contributions to address the multifaceted challenges of fuel poverty and energy efficiency in England.

WWCE has been shortlisted for its ‘Keeping Warm This Winter’ pop-up energy advice initiative which was introduced in November 2022. Led by its carbon reduction champion, the organisation ran a total of 16 sessions which helped over 360 residents from Melksham, Purton and surrounding areas to better understand how they could stay warm while reducing their energy bills over the colder months.

The programme proved so successful that it attracted the attention of Chippenham MP and Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, Michelle Donelan.… Read the rest

Rosebank is a step backward on climate action

“I was grimly unsurprised when I heard that the government had decided to ignore the many warnings of climate action groups and even the UN Secretary General, and allow the North Sea Transition Authority to push through plans for a new oil field at #Rosebank.”

Despite advisers on the Climate Change Committee telling them that going ahead with new fossil fuel development was ‘utterly unacceptable’, PM Rishi Sunak made it plain that he prioritises the profits of oil companies over the future of people and our planet by giving his seal of approval to the Rosebank Field Development Plan, under the guise of helping those struggling with the cost of living crisis.

I fail to understand how a project which will not actually produce oil until 2027, and which will most likely be sold on the international market at the going rate after that (the Norwegian oil company Equinor – the majority owner of Rosebank – confirmed that if the UK needs Rosebank oil, it would have to buy it at the same price as other countries) can have any tangible benefits for struggling British people?… Read the rest

Solar parks offer the perfect symmetry – clean energy and a home for nature

As the climate crisis intensifies and the need to increase production of clean, renewable energy grows, so the issue of whether solar and nature can exist harmoniously has been pushed to the fore.

For our current Government, busy rowing back on net zero commitments, this issue is an unwanted distraction. For WWCE, whose mission is to reduce carbon at the same time as improving outcomes for nature, it is essential.

Poorly informed comment is made by local MPs like James Gray, who opposes solar developments on the basis of what he sees as the negative effects they can have on wildlife. He could not be more misinformed. With careful design, considered siting, and low-intensity management solar installations can in fact deliver huge benefits to local ecology.

A report from Solar Energy UK – drawing on a national survey spearheaded by author Hollie Blaydes, who previously visited WWCE’s Braydon Manor site to inform research into pollinators on solar farms – found that wildlife can positively thrive on solar farms.… Read the rest

Renewables versus gas, oil, and coal – let the citizens decide

There have been two or three dispiriting displays of energy luddite-ism in recent months.  Just when you thought the argument was won for the promotion of green energy – with seemingly most of Spain, Tenerife and California going up in flames – the Uxbridge by election result happened.

The London Mayor’s clumsy expansion of ULEZ green energy taxes produced a visceral reaction amongst voters, returned a disbelieving Conservative candidate to parliament, and sent right wing climate change deniers into an ecstasy of optimism. It also sent the Labour party, who had expected to win Uxbridge, into a screeching U-turn on proposed climate change policies.

Now we have the unlikely situation where polls show that most people (by a huge margin) accept and fear climate change but are not prepared to invest in additional taxes to prevent it happening, living under the mistaken belief that it is someone else’s problem – namely, if India, China and America are the biggest polluters why should I pay £12 to drive my car to the shops on a rainy Saturday?… Read the rest

2023 WWCE Annual Report

Wiltshire Wildlife Community Energy’s annual report celebrates another great year.

Wildlife is thriving on WWCE’s solar farms, thanks to collaboration the Wildlife Trust. Capital refinancing, good asset management and high energy prices have all had positively impacted cashflows to the benefit of the community fund and WWCE’s members.

WWCE has used surplus funds to support brilliant community projects in Wiltshire including: getting young carers river dipping and shelter building; a reptile bog at a primary school in Trowbridge; improving cycling in Chippenham; and, toad patrols in Warminster. WWCE’s energy cafes have helped people really struggling with their bills and WWCE is working on new community solar projects including 500kW roof-top array to help power a special needs school near Devizes.

Download and view WWCE’s 2023 Annual Report.

More YIMBY, less NIMBY for solar

I recently read an article in the Sunday Times in which a couple were decrying the development of a solar park on the land bordering their 35-acre estate.

Their horses were being frightened by the (temporary) construction noise, and their peace had been further disturbed by the sound of security guards laughing during their rounds. It highlighted a similar tale of woe from another wounded resident who claimed to ‘recognise the importance of green energy’ – until a solar park threatened to impact the view from their bedroom window. Suddenly, saving the planet was not such a high priority.

The article suggested that these anecdotes were evidence that rural homeowners are paying the price for the UK’s pursuit of net zero. While I sympathise with the families featured, I would counter that every single person on the planet will pay the ultimate price if we do not pursue net zero and increasing solar is one of the most cost-effective ways of doing so.… Read the rest