Howard Johns

We are going through a revolution in the way energy is sourced and delivered to our homes which will increasingly undermine the current monopoly of the large utility companies.

This was the theme of a talk by solar expert Howard Johns  at the AGM of Forum 21. Mr Johns, an inveterate campaigner on green issues, is founder and MD of Southern Solar which installs photovoltaic solar panels and founder director of OVESCo, the first community energy company. As Head of the Solar Trade Association he advised government on solar energy.

To underline his argument, Mr Johns pointed to the cost of producing electricity, both in terms of money and the environment. Coal, for example, takes 100 units of coal to produce 22 units of energy and emits huge quantities of CO2.

The nuclear industry is in decline with the cost of de-commissioning existing nuclear power stations coming to between £80 and £220 billion and we still have to work out what to do with used fuel.

These pressures require us to use resources more intelligently and community groups can bring this about. In 20 years time, 7 per cent of electricity in the UK could come from tidal power. In Germany 28 per cent of energy is already supplied by renewables – led by communities – and in Denmark it is 45 per cent.

The IT revolution is facilitating more imaginative use of energy sources in more remote regions of the world. Wide use of mobile phones allows people to access information. Some 80 per cent  of people  in Sub-Saharan Africa do not have electricity and wide use of Kerosene is dangerous and unhealthy.  A simple solar light pays for itself in five weeks and transforms people’s quality of life.

Mr Johns urged his audience to think about how, as a community, they could initiate projects, such as installing solar panels, which would benefit themselves and the environment.

Earlier, Lorna Scott who, with her husband Bruce, founded Forum 21 in 1998, described its work in raising environmental concerns and fighting climate change. Western Somerset faces several challenges. It has a very high percentage of people living in fuel poverty, some areas are subject to flooding, and we have a huge project on our doorstep in the shape of Hinkley Point with the proposed building of a third nuclear reactor. Forum 21 is running several projects, notably Surviving Winter, which helps vulnerable people with heating costs, and an Energy Efficiency Campaign.  All the work is carried out by volunteers.

Howard Johns’s book Energy Revolution will be published this year.

Find out more about the work of Southern Solar from: http://www.southernsolar.co.uk

To get involved with Forum 21, go to: www. west-somerset-forum21.org.uk

January 2015