Energy - the hot issue on a cold night in the Pennines
"Energy is one of the big issues of the moment - both in how we generate it and how we pay for it."
That was my opening gambit in a packed hall at a public meeting at Slaithwaite Civic Hall on Friday night. Slaithwaite is a beautiful village 600 feet up in the South Pennines in the heart of the Colne Valley.
Its stone built houses add to the beauty of the place (think Last of the Summer Wine country) but also present great challenges for residents as they grapple with cold weather and increasingly expensive energy costs.
The evening was chaired by Iain from the Kirklees Campaign Against Climate Change. They're doing a huge amount locally to promote the Clean British Energy and Energy Bill Revolution campaigns. If you're in the area, why not go along to their stall and stunt this Saturday 19 January?
I kicked off proceedings with a quick introduction to Friends of the Earth's Clean British Energy campaign. In particular, how the Government's Energy Bill needs to have a decarbonisation target linking it to climate change and providing certainty for green investors, standards to prevent the building of high carbon power stations and a simple electricity market that allows access for community energy schemes like the Valley Wind Farm.
I also talked about the Energy Bill Revolution campaign that aims to use carbon taxes to scale up efforts on tackling fuel poverty.
Matt from the Leeds Fuel Poverty Action campaign described how over 7800 excess winter deaths each year are caused by cold homes and how living in fuel poverty affects the health of all people, young and old alike.
Claire from the No Dash for Gas campaign talked about the disastrous consequences of the energy mix favoured by George Osborne, dominated by high carbon gas generation and shale gas. Claire is one of the activists who shut down West Burton power station in October for a week.
We then had a call from two local entrepreneurs for the Government to give greater certainty to green businesses. Chris from the Green Building Store and Duncan from Enviromental are part of the growing green economy and are making a real contribution to improving the UK's homes and installing renewable energy.
After a welcome cup of tea and a chance to pick up some excellent energy freebies from the MASTT Warmer Homes stall, a robust Q&A session kicked off. with lots of questions about, amongst others, how to improve acceptance from local communities of wind farms and how the Government has cut spending on energy efficiency by over £1.3bn since 2009.
It's a shame that Jason McCartney, the local MP, couldn't make it. It's easy to take energy for granted - we happily flick a switch and, lo and behold the lights come on - but Friday night in Slaithwaite demonstrated that a lot of Jason's constituents are passionate about the future of energy in the UK.
They want a secure future for renewables and real, meaningful action to tackle poverty.
Energy We Can All Afford public meetings and events are happening up and down the country. They're very lively and fun events tackling serious issues so if you can get along to one, please do so. And if there's not one happening in your area, we can help you organise your own event.
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