A democratic approach to energy supply can deliver secure, clean energy and reduce our energy consumption. Vicki Ramsden writes…
I was fortunate to be invited to a briefing session delivered by Friends of the Earth (FoE). Delegates from FoE have recently returned from a visit to Germany, as part of a Labour Party contingent to see how Germany has revolutionized its energy market.
Following the Fukishima nuclear disaster, a social movement has erupted in Germany against nuclear power. The adoption of an energy hierarchy in which renewable is ranked number 1 means it will be possible in Germany that 100% of its power supply can be delivered by renewables by 2050.
So what is going on in Germany that has already achieved a 20% share of renewable energy when we in the UK are struggling to get past 3%?
The fundamental difference is power. Democratic power rules in Germany. The voice of the people is strong enough to drive politicians to act in a way of which corporations would be envious in the UK. In Germany, politicians aren’t motivated by chairmanships of multinationals, but by delivering what the electorate wants. And so community energy schemes have been born.
There are a couple of other key factors at play in Germany which combine to make this energy revolution – ‘enrgiewende’ possible. Firstly, the backing of the German Central Bank which sees the shift to renewables as one of its 3 biggest priorities alongside the post-WWII rebuild and the reunification of East and West. That’s how important it is. Secondly, configuration of the distribution network means that communities can take control of their local grid networks. The really positive impact that comes from community control of the grid is the consequent drop in energy demand – the holy grail of climate scientists and climate change activists.
So what do we do here in Manchester, knowing that a different community paradigm is conceivable? There are some physical characteristics that would certainly make such a scheme possible, in a technical sense at least. The challenge will be getting the political will and the initial cash for investment. There is some support in the Council, in principle at least. Any more takers out there?
MCFly says; want to help write a Community Energy Strategy for Manchester? Put Weds 26th March in your diary now. And click here!