Monday, 14 December 2009

Richard Davies, Director of the Marches Energy Agency.

This year I celebrate 10 years as director of Marches Energy Agency, a charity that encourages communities to adopt low carbon lifestyles. We believe that acting locally can help shrink the global carbon footprint.

We support and sustain energy-saving practices in all sectors of the community – parish, schools, businesses and households through five radical carbon-cutting projects. We can only say ‘job done’ when all the cavities have been filled, when all the community leaders have been trained, when the whole community has been engaged in this process.

Our daily work involves getting microgeneration installations on community buildings, giving advice to small businesses on how to obtain energy-saving grants, talking to low income families about how to get free insulation and working with schools on climate change education.

This work has achieved massive energy savings in 10 communities in Staffordshire, Herefordshire & Shropshire. In just one year, through local renewable energy, energy efficiency and other measures we helped over 60,000 individuals including the insulation of 4,500 homes saving 16 million kWh of energy a year.

For MEA there will never be a ‘declaration of peace’ moment in the war against climate change. We cannot afford to be complacent. Every day I meet brilliant individuals and witness inspiring projects giving their all to fight climate change. But I also see complacency, tired excuses and indifference. So there is still much more to be done.

Over the next 10 years we will continue this work, Copenhagen or not, helping communities recognise that they can play a significant part in achieving a low carbon future.

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The Marches Energy Agency in Shropshire runs five environmental projects working together to reduce the carbon footprint of local communities.

View the Ashden Awards video of Marches Energy Agency:

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Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Waving to Copenhagen

Guest post by Anne Wheldon, Technical Director at the Ashden Awards.

On Saturday, I went to London with my husband to take part in ‘the Wave’ – the national demonstration to highlight the seriousness of climate change and the need to take action, before the Copenhagen COP meeting. I’m not a ‘Frequent Demonstrator’ but I just felt that it was so important to be there and be counted. And it seems that over 40,000 other people thought the same. The numbers meant that we were still a long way up Whitehall at 3pm, when ‘the Wave’ encircled the House of Commons, but we still waved our placards and blew our whistles.

There’s great media coverage of the event, so here are just a few personal reflections:
  • There were people there of all ages, and representing such different interests. I don’t think there are many causes for which the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, many faith groups, cyclists and the Socialist Workers Party would all march together.
  • Although it was a cheerful event, there was also a strong sense of the absolute seriousness of the issue, with many people mentioning injustice – the injustice of how climate change is already having its most serious impacts on those least able to adapt, the injustice of our excesses leaving a damaged world for the future. There were serious conversations going on amidst the noise - it’s not often that complete strangers come up to you and start a discussion about green jobs.
  • It was a great idea to have a colour theme, with innovative uses of the colour blue in clothes, wigs, face paint, banners and placards. I’m quite tempted to suggest a colour theme for the next Ashden Awards annual conference….

Guest post by Anne Wheldon, Technical Director at the Ashden Awards.

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Monday, 7 December 2009

Housing Retrofit is the biggest carbon saver

John Doggart, director of The Sustainable Energy Academy.

Housing emits 27% of the UK’s carbon emissions, providing a huge challenge for the year’s ahead. But the good news is that even owners of the five million older homes have the power to drastically reduce carbon. By retrofitting old houses with energy saving measures you can save between 60-80% of the property’s carbon footprint.

We’re calling on the government to help homeowners and social housing landlords by kick-starting a massive retrofit process. By providing low interest finance that makes repayment costs lower than fuel bill saving, the UK will move closer to meeting the goal of using 80% less carbon by 2050. German experience has shown that a euro spent by Government can stimulate up to six euros of energy improvements.

The Sustainable Energy Academy has set up the Old Home Superhome campaign, a network of more than 40 exemplar hard-to-treat homes across the UK that have reduced their energy use by at least 60 percent. We help ‘Superhome’ owners promote their achievements by opening their houses to the public during Open Days.

The Open Days have inspired thousands of visitors to take action in their own homes by seeing and experiencing the warmth and comfort of a low carbon home, and how easy it is to achieve.

“But how much does it cost?” everyone asks. About the same as you would spend on upgrading a kitchen or bathroom. Well worth it for the huge carbon savings you can make for yourself and for the planet.

Read more Voices on Copenhagen

The Sustainable Energy Academy (SEA) is spearheading the Old Home SuperHome scheme to transform the existing housing stock in the UK, with the ultimate aim of reducing domestic carbon emissions by 60%.

View the Ashden Awards video of SEA:

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Developing countries need appropriate, low-cost technologies

Amitabha Sadangi is Director of International Development Enterprises India (IDEI), winner of the Ashden Award’s Outstanding Achievement Award in 2009.

The gravity and magnitude of climate change demands that we get down to quick, firm and sustainable action. I believe our environmental problems are of our own making and if we want to change what lies ahead we need to look at the actions of today.

IDEI is addressing the needs of poor farmers in India by promoting appropriate technologies and by optimising the use of water for irrigation. We have developed a simple treadle pump and drip irrigation technology for small hold farmers that are low cost and environment friendly. Together the two technologies have led to saving over 530 million litres of diesel, over 3000 million cubic meters of water and 417 million kWh of electricity,

Over one million farmers have adopted our technologies – that is around five million people - and made a net income of $1 billion.

We are fixing what exists. As the World Economic Forum highlighted recently, drip irrigation is improving irrigation systems, with reduced wastage of water through evaporation. Now we are advocating for greater accountability by questioning “subsidies” that are leading to the exploitation of our precious water resource.

IDEI does not believe in charity: we strategically leverage grants from donors to create markets for technologies - thus bringing down the overall cost for the farmer. By linking farmers and others in the supply chain to credit and by using Bollywood films to market the technologies we have made sure that they reach poor farmers throughout India, with interest growing in other parts of Asia and Africa.

Read more Voices on Copenhagen

International Development Enterprises India (IDEI) has developed extensive local supply chains to manufacture, distribute, sell and install the treadle pump, branded ‘Farmer’s Friend’

View the Ashden Awards videos of IDEI:

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Ashden Award winners are pathfinders to a more sustainable future

Sarah Butler-Sloss, Founder Director of the Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy.

Sustainable energy sources which reduce carbon, bring health and education opportunities and a better life to millions worldwide are not some distant dream – they are being used today by over one hundred Ashden Award-winning programmes.

Thousands of miles from Copenhagen, in countries like India, China, Tanzania and Brazil, there are outstanding enterprises delivering affordable and appropriate renewable energy technologies at a local level but on a large scale.

Renewable energy is transforming the lives of people in the developing world: women cooking on safe and efficient smoke-free stoves; children studying with solar lamps and farmers trebling their incomes by using simple treadle pumps to irrigate their crops. A study we commissioned in 2008 found that over 10 million peoples’ lives are being improved thanks to the work of just ten Ashden Award winners.

In the UK, Ashden Award winners are using renewable energy technologies, energy efficiency schemes and decentralised, low carbon sources of heat to create jobs, boost businesses and reduce fuel poverty while at the same time substantially reducing carbon emissions.

However, all these technologies need the political and financial will to scale-up and reach many more millions of people. Now is the time to back these and similar pathfinders to a sustainable future and generate huge social, economic and environmental benefits.

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The Ashden Awards champion practical, local energy solutions that cut carbon, protect the environment, reduce poverty and improve people’s lives.

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