Guest post by Brendon Cummins (Featured image Kristian Buus)
In the UK there are many brilliant projects for renewable energy, lots of which are taking place on a local basis. This is important because if we want to get net-zero emissions then it’s going to have to be us and our communities who do it instead of the government.
With the UK government declaring a climate emergency on May 1st, here’s a reminder of how much it has done for the environment in the last few years. In 2015 after the new government came to power, onshore windfarms were effectively banned. In 2018, planning applications for new wind farms had fallen by 94%, along with a similar huge drop in home solar panel installations between May and June (which was partly due to a VAT increase from 5% to 20%).
Furthermore, last year the government removed subsidies for the Swansea tidal lagoon project – which would have provided huge amounts of clean energy and jobs.
It’s not like the government is doing this to increase its popularity, with its own surveys showing more than 75% public support for renewable energy and very little opposition. Instead, it appears the government is giving in to corporate interests – many Conservative donors have large stakes in non-renewables.
So given the government’s apparent unwillingness to fix the issue, what can we do ourselves to try and fix our energy crisis.
One example of effective local renewables in the UK is the Gawcott Fields Community Solar Farm. This solar farm can power up to 1000 homes which means that energy in Buckinghamshire has become more localised. Furthermore, the company that runs it reinvests profits into local community projects. This is undoubtedly better for the community than a fracking rig or an oil refinery run by a profit-driven multinational corporation.
But there’s no reason that we should stop here. In northern Syria, there is a federation of directly democratic councils aka Rojava, which takes being ecologically friendly far more seriously than the UK government. Due to it consisting of communities who do what’s good for the community, without states and corporations getting in the way, they recognise the need for renewable energy and act on it – and this is in spite of Rojava currently being in a war zone.
An impressive 75% of energy in Rojava comes from its hydro-electric plants, and this could be 100% if it were not for lack of equipment to repair the plants due to economic embargos, as well as Turkey’s construction of dams which weaken the flow of water.
The community-organising in Rojava also means that new buildings are being made out of more sustainable materials (like clay, wood and stone in place of concrete and steel) and that the economy is based around need rather than mass consumption – which unsurprisingly is horrifically wasteful. There are many lessons that we can learn from Rojava, but non-hierarchal community building is perhaps the most important one, as once we mend our relationship with those around us we can begin to mend our relationship with nature.
So how can we do that? By organising projects in our communities which focus on participation and without oppressive power structures – this could be anything from planting new trees to making water heaters out of wind turbines.
As long as it’s making a positive change for the community and the environment it’s hard to go wrong.