Councils in Transition

With central government in a mess, it seems that some power may be devolved back to the regions. In which case, town and borough councils will become more important.

At the Transition Conference 10 days ago, Alexis Rowell of Camden Council gave a talk about what thcamdenLogoey and other councils are doing.

My notes from that talk are enclosed below.

alexisrowellAs Alexis said in his closing comments, it is interesting to notice that these changes are about different things for different people. For some people it’s about disaster planning. For others it’s about morality. For other people it’s about saving money or improving quality of life. But whatever the reasons, the fact is that more and more people are making the same kinds of changes. And a role for Transition (according to Alexis) is in helping to bring these different groups together.

> Kent is doing scenario planning handling food riots

> Brighton is doing scenario planning for dealing with thousands of illegal immigrants, coming across the Channel from an increasingly uninhabitable continent

> Existing policy documents often contain the powers you want to “require” new buildings to be green

> Woking has had a “revolving” energy fund since 1990 – savings made from each project are reinvested to fund the next project, and so on,…

> Camden are putting heating controls and meters into their housing estates, saving money and energy

> Camden are providing free cavity wall insulation to every building in the borough (cost £3m – cheap!)

– They are achieving this by borrowing money, which they then lend out to people for eco-home improvements on long loans

– This helps to beat the credit crunch — Councils are one of the few organisations that big banks will lend to at the moment

– It provides jobs, get the local economy going again

– It makes the borough more environmentally friendly

– And the loans to householders are on a long term, so that the repayments are less than the energy savings from day one!

– householders make a saving from day one, we beat the credit crunch, strengthen the economy, and protect the environment, all in one simple package

> Uttlesford is giving planning permission for new extensions only if the whole building then becomes carbon neutral as a result

> Camden is not a good site for wind farms, so they are looking at building a wind farm in Wales to provide renewable energy for Camden (and jobs in Wales…)

> Birmingham is advanced in putting in combined heat and power plants in for whole neighbourhoods

> There is a question as to whether cities (on current scales) will be able survive peak oil

> Anaerobic food digestion to create gas to create energy is “a must”

> Southampton has geothermal energy

> 120,000 households in Paris have geothermal energy

> Exeter (in the 1800s(?)) used to run its street lamps off sewage gas so sewage plants are a good place for these

> Waitrose is doing anaerobic food digesters

> The feed-in tariff (for small scale energy generation) will come in in 2010. We will be able to earn money from the electricity companies, by providing them with small scale electricity generated in our homes

> Photovoltaics become less efficient when they are hot so combined PV and water heating is good

> GDP will change to a well-being index

> Recycling is currently measured in tonnes, which encourages inefficiency

– Need to separate types at source

– Send zero to landfill

> Start street swaps – free jumble sales – instead of sending stuff to landfill

> Cambridge Freecycle is like freecycle website only even better

> “Vacant Lot” local food growing and distribution in Shoreditch

> We currently in the south east have less water per person than the Sudan

– Need to use grey water, green rooves, green walls

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