All posts by forum21

Habitat protection will be at risk following Brexit

puffins Pledges made by pro-Brexit ministers to scrap the birds and habitats directive “in the heat of the campaign” should not set the tenor of post-Brexit environmental policy, the new UN environment chief, Erik Solheim, says in an interview with the Guardian.

Global or regional agreements are vital for cross-border problems such as pollution and wildlife crime, he said. Solheim has called for a post-Brexit Britain to link up with the EU on environment policy, adopting key bloc climate laws and maintaining its nature directives. He told the Guardian it was vital that supranational decisions continued for problems such as pollution and wildlife crime which crossed borders and could not be dealt with by states acting alone.

He said: “The UK can relate to the EU’s climate decisions and be covered by them, just as Norway and Switzerland are. Norway brought its emissions into the Emissions Trading System (ETS) and adopted nearly all of the EU’s environmental law. You can coordinate closely with the EU even if you’re outside it.”

“It is very, very important to defend these regional environmental mechanisms as there is no way we can protect migratory animals like birds in just one habitat. You need global or regional agreements and I’m absolutely confident that the UK will remain committed to this.” Maintaining environmental progress that the EU had driven forward would require “huge coordination in Europe, which will have to be done by the EU,” he argued.

August 2016

Exciting initiatives to combat climate change

Cutting carbon in Western Somerset

Reducing carbon emissions becomes more urgent every year. It’s something Forum 21 has been working on since it started in 1998. In 2008 we wrote the West Somerset Community Climate Change Strategy together with the District Council and Exmoor National Park. We then set up an action group to make sure the strategy wasn’t just put on a shelf and forgotten. The group  – now called the Low Carbon Partnership West Somerset and Exmoor – is still going strong. In 2013 it added the role of a SOG, a Strategic Overview Group of the Exmoor National Park, a move that means it now encompasses the whole of Exmoor in its remit.

Those who attend the group are WSC council members, the three local environmental groups and the Exmoor Trust, which represents Carbon Neutral Exmoor.  Our aim is to coordinate and initiate carbon saving activities in the area. Others are invited to meetings to inform us about their particular projects or actions that have energy saving implications.

An example of the Partnership’s work is looking at the Local Development Plan and its proposals for housing – will it be environmentally sustainable and energy efficient?

Exciting news on the Steam Coast Trail

We are excited about the prospect of the Steam Coast Trail which has just received over £600,000 from the Coastal Communities Challenge and will, among other things, provide coastal protection for one stretch of the Dunster to Blue Anchor route.

In the pipeline

There are some interesting developments in the pipeline. We’ve heard about the Holnicote Flood Demonstration project which is active on land south of Allerford. The Swansea tidal barrage is likely to hear the result of its planning application in the next couple of months. We hear that Government has licensed an area of the Bristol Channel for an experimental tidal turbine project. We shall report on all these things.

Two new initiatives from Forum 21

And there are two new initiatives from Forum 21. Our landlords’ and tenants’ project is getting off the ground this month, aiming to help private landlords improve the energy efficiency of their rented properties and making them warmer and cheaper to heat. And we are in the early stages of setting up a Community Energy project, working towards West Somerset producing its own power. Please contact Forum 21 if you would like to know more about either of these projects, on 01984 634 242 or mail@forum21.org.uk

March 2015

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

How to keep warm this winter

 

It’s time to think about how to keep warm and well this winter, whatever the weather throws at us. Luckily, there is help available for many people.

New phase of the Green Deal

The government has just announced a second phase of the Green Deal Improvement Fund which pays a percentage of the cost of installing insulation or renewable heating. The first phase earlier this year was very popular and the money ran out in only six weeks. The new phase is due to start in November but there are no details yet. It’s worth keeping an eye open if you are interested because it will be first come, first served.

Community Oil Scheme

If you use oil to heat your home, the Somerset Community Oil Scheme could save you money. It purchases oil in bulk for people who join the scheme, making it cheaper.  It announced recently that this October saw the cheapest price in three years. For more information about joining the scheme, contact Marion by email info@ofps.co.uk, or by phone 01993 225 011.

Warm Home Discount

People on lower incomes may be able to get grants from other schemes. The Warm Home Discount of £140 is paid automatically to pensioners who receive guaranteed pension credit. It is paid directly into their electricity bill (or they will be sent a voucher if they are on a pre-payment meter). Others may also apply although they won’t get it automatically. Those on a low income or suffering from long term sickness or disability can ring their electricity company and ask how to apply for it.

Winter Fuel Allowance

All pensioners get the government’s Winter Fuel Allowance (£200 or £300 for those 80 or over) no matter what their income. For many it’s a lifeline but there are others who don’t really need it. The Somerset Community Foundation invites those pensioners to donate their Allowance so that it can help other pensioners who struggle to pay their heating bills. They set up the Surviving Winter project to collect and distribute the money. Pensioners in Somerset have been generous and considerable funds have been donated in previous years. If you would like to make a donation, ring the Somerset Community Foundation on 01749 344 949.

Surviving Winter

For the fourth year running, Forum 21 will be helping the Somerset Community Foundation with the Surviving Winter project, to find and make grants to people over 50 in West Somerset. Grants of up to £250 can be made to pensioners who receive pension credit, and people over 50 who are unable to work because of disability or long term sickness. To apply, ring Lorna Scott on 01984 634 242.

All these grants are intended to help people keep warm in winter. We know that cold can kill and West Somerset has a high number of winter deaths. Please apply for these grants if you think you may be eligible.
October 2014

Take action now to make your home energy-efficient

It is well known that much of the housing stock in West Somerset is not adequate to keep us warm and healthy. Add to this the increasing pressure to meet carbon emission targets and clearly there is an urgent need to take action.

The Energy Saving Centre provides information on ways to improve houses by keeping the cold out, through draught-proofing and insulation, and on renewable energy technologies that generate electricity and heat. Visitors can see samples of draught-proofing, secondary glazing and insulation materials with simple guides on how they work.

Financial help may be available for making homes more energy-efficient but the criteria are complicated and subject to change – the Centre ensures their volunteers are up to date with the latest schemes and technologies. Incentives to install products that generate electricity or heat are provided by the feed-in tariff and renewable heat incentive but to qualify for these payments it is necessary to ensure that the house, installer and equipment have been approved. Certified installers and products can be found on the website www.microgenerationcertification.org and if the postcode is put in the nearest installers will be shown.  To contact MCS phone 0207 0901082.

Renewable energy technologies are becoming more efficient and some prices are coming down. However, it can be hard to decide what is best for a property just from information provided by people selling products. There are many to choose from and it helps to find out from other people what works well and is value for money, and what is not so useful. The Centre collects knowledge gained by people who have tried things out, the benefits and the pitfalls. They have also followed up some of the offers being promoted by cold callers and found a wide variation in costs. If there are problems as a result of work done they can look for ways to tackle them.

High bills are a serious problem but help may be available – by switching supplier or tariff, getting a discount or improving the home. It is worthwhile looking out for new sources of help which could be introduced in the future.

THE ENERGY SAVING CENTRE gives free independent guidance on how to save money and energy in our homes. The Centre is run by the voluntary group Transition Minehead and Alcombe and is staffed by trained volunteers. It is open on Thursdays and Saturdays between 11am and 1pm in Minehead Co-Op car park. It is also possible to telephone and ask questions – contact Hester 01643 821768. If requested, trained volunteers can visit homes and give impartial advice on energy saving methods.

September 2014

Open Homes – How going green could transform your home and bills

Going green worked for the G— family.  They reduced their energy use, kept their home warmer and saved on fuel bills. They would like to tell everyone about how they did it.

The G—-s are just one of the families whose house will be on show in the autumn. They can explain what they did, how they did it and what to look out for. Many of us would like to do the same but are unsure exactly what’s the best thing to do and how to afford it.  Visiting the homes of those people who’ve already done it can show us what’s possible, what works and what a difference it makes.

More than 20 homes will be open between 13 September and 11 October. In some places there will be several homes open on the same day: around Minehead, Watchet, Wiveliscombe and Wheddon Cross. Others, more scattered, will be open on specific days or by appointment. All of them have interesting things to show and stories to tell.

Two people are building what’s called a passivhaus – a house that keeps warm without  extra heating. Two others are building their own eco-homes. One home has installed a ground source heat pump, and others have air source heat pumps. One has its own electricity charging point. Others have done complete retrofitting to an existing home. In one property you can see an old water wheel being put back into to use by volunteers.

If saving water is your thing, you can see how one owner saves water from the roof into a large underground tank in the garden. Some grow their own food or garden for wildlife.

It always helps to talk to people who have already done it. If you want to know how ‘German’ radiators work, go and talk to someone who is using them. If you want to find out how a thermodynamic heating system works, go and see. If you are wondering about a pellet boiler, visit homes that have installed them You can find out about the latest materials and equipment  – things are changing all the time.

Not many of us, of course, can build our own homes. But we can all do something to improve what we have. It may be knowing whether it’s worth having a new boiler, whether solar hot water really saves money; or how we can do anything about chilly windows if we can’t afford double glazing; or we live in a listed house.

And there’s always the problem of paying for all these improvements. So many grants have come and gone over the last few years that we’ve stopped believing in them. But two current schemes can offer real help in installing energy improvements. If you install a water wheel, solar panels, heat pumps or wood boilers, the government will pay you for the heat you produce – called the Renewable Heat Incentive, or RHI.

And the latest Green Deal Home Improvement Fund is offering some real savings to install energy improvement equipment in our homes. There’s a maximum of £6000 to help pay for external wall insulation – and you can visit people who’ve had it done – and £1000 if you install two measures from a list. For the first time, the list includes double glazing and flat roof insulation. It’s easy to apply for these grants, and we can tell you how to do it.

But beware of scam phone calls or door to door callers. There are untrustworthy organisations seeking business for what may be cheaper shoddy work – or no work at all. Always be cautious and seek advice elsewhere.

Open Homes 2014 is organised by Transition Minehead and Alcombe and Forum 21.

Look out for programmes later in the summer in libraries, tourist offices, council offices and local shops. Details can also be seen on our websites.

Let’s try to preserve our wonderful environment

Here in West Somerset we are fortunate enough to live in a beautiful and largely unspoilt environment. But do we care enough about it to take active steps to ensure it remains so for future generations?

Many people already ‘do their bit’ by recycling everything they can, insulating their homes, minimising waste of food and water and reducing the number of journeys they take by air or road.  But is this ‘bit’ enough and could we do more?

The disturbing climatic events we see on our TV screens with increasing regularity can leave us feeling impotent and the natural reaction is to assume we cannot stop the process of climate change and its destructive effects on the environment.

We can do more

But there is something we can do. Forum 21 is an organisation in Western Somerset for those who take an interest in our environment and wish to take positive steps to preserve it. Forum 21 is dedicated to enabling individuals and communities to take action to promote a more sustainable way of living and to raise awareness of the wider implications of climate change.

Since its launch in 1998, Forum 21 has been responsible for several local initiatives, including the Minehead Farmers’ Market held every Friday in the town centre and  the Steam Coast Trail, an on-going project to create a multi-user trail through West Somerset to make cycling safer. In 2008, we wrote the West Somerset Community Climate Change Strategy and we now run the West Somerset Low Carbon Partnership.

Forum 21 volunteers have been helping pensioners in fuel poverty to pay their bills through the Surviving Winter scheme and have been active in advising people on how they can benefit from the Government’s Green Deal.

Future initiatives include a community woodland project to make sustainable use of an area to produce fuel and other useful products.

Membership of Forum 21 is free. To receive our quarterly newletters and news of our activities, email: forum21@btinternet.com

 

Get involved

There are several ways people can get  more involved. For example, they can help with organising projects and events, take part in an exciting research project about reducing carbon emissions, or they could be trained to join the Forum’s energy team.  Contact Lorna Scott 01984 634 242.

For more information about Forum 21, go to our website: www.forum21.org.uk

Elinor Harbridge

July 2014

Householders could get payments for renewable heat measures

Homes which have had renewable heat measures – such as solar hot water, heat pumps and biomass boilers –  installed since 15 July  2009 will now be eligible for payments under a scheme known as the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).  The payments will vary according to the amount of heat they produce. The measures will qualify if they are MSC (Microgeneration Certification Scheme) certified and are installed by an accredited installer.

Simple? Not quite!

The bad news is that homes have to have a Green Deal assessment in order to apply; and if that assessment says that loft and cavity wall insulation should be installed, that has to be done before applying for the RHI. Houses with solid walls would be eligible without insulating them.

Unfortunately, as we know, the government’s Green Deal scheme has been a miserable failure. The latest figures show that £36 million has been spent on the scheme by the government in the last year while only 2,100 households have had energy efficient measures fitted – at an administrative cost of £17,000 per household. It would have been cheaper to make the whole thing free. To put new life into the scheme, some new cash incentives have been announced. From 1 June, people in England and Wales will be able to get up to £7,600 back through a new Green Deal Home Improvement Fund. The money can be used to pay, for example, 75 per cent of the cost of installing solid wall insulation, or a new heating system.

 

Under the new scheme, domestic energy customers can get:

up to £1,000 for installing two measures from an approved list; and/or

up to £6,000 for installing solid wall insulation; and

up to £100 refunded for their Green Deal Assessment.

 

The scheme also entitles those who have bought a property in the 12 months prior to application to qualify for up to an additional £500 if they carry out energy efficiency improvements.

 

Disappointing

Some very disappointing news is that the funding for the Affordable Warmth scheme, that provides free insulation and gas boilers to lower income households, has been reduced. The reason? Our fuel bills have been reduced by removing what David Cameron calls ‘green crap’, and as a result, fewer homes will be helped to become energy efficient.

 

There has been more success locally. Forum 21 has made 114 grants of up to £250 to elderly people who have trouble keeping warm in winter. This is part of the Somerset Community Foundation’s Surviving Winter project which invites donations from pensioners who don’t need their £200 winter fuel allowance.

For clear information about the RHI, visit the Ofgem website –  www.ofgem.gov.uk/environmental-programmes/domestic-renewable-heat-incentive.

Contact Forum 21 for more information about our work helping the community to keep energy costs low and reduce our impact on climate change. We’re always looking for more volunteers. Tel. 01984 634 242 or mail@forum21.org.uk

May 2014

Get advice to reduce heating bills under the Green Deal

Vulnerable people in West Somerset could get help and advice to reduce their heating bills. A team of seven trained volunteers from the sustainability group, Forum 21, is already helping 17 pensioners through the process known as the Green Deal and it has plans to extend this project to other pensioners later in the year.  There are 45 energy improvements available; for those on limited incomes and on certain benefits, these are free under the Affordable Warmth element of the Green Deal. The start of this process is a Green Deal energy assessment.

Free assessments

Working with Transition Alcombe and Minehead (TMA) Forum 21 has enabled over 60 households in West Somerset to have free Green Deal assessments Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and organised by the Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) in Bristol for residents throughout Somerset. The scheme, which has now ended, involved an assessor visiting the property to assess its energy efficiency and preparing a report on what energy improvements could be done, their cost and whether they were available under the Green Deal. The 17 people being helped to make energy improvements have had one of these free assessments and will now be able to get improvements to their homes at no cost. They will all benefit from warmer homes and lower energy bills. so many vulnerable people in West Somerset. We hope we will be able to help even more people at the next stage

The Affordable Warmth scheme

This scheme enables people on low incomes and receiving certain benefits to have energy improvements carried out free. Almost all of the 45 stipulated nies Obligation)

The basic Green Deal scheme

The government wants to reduce the natio wider DECC 2050 plan to achieve energy efficiency in all UK homes. Householders can apply for Green Deal finance up to £10,000 from a Green Deal an approved installer and repaid through the electricity bill. It has to conform to the The loan remains with the property so has to be taken over by any new owner or tenant. All Green Deal applicants go through the same process: assessment, applying for funding, and installation. There is no obligation on the householder to make any of the improvements suggested. They can choose which improvements they wish to make.

The Carbon Reduction Obligation

Another element of the Green Deal scheme is targeted at people who live in homes with solid walls, which are difficult to heat and expensive to improve. Sixty per cent of West Somerset homes fall into this category. For these homes, the Green Deal loan can be topped up with a grant to pay for the improvements. Find out more For more information about any of these schemes, contact Lorna Scott on 01984 634242 or at mail@forum21.org.uk. Forum 21 would especially like to hear from pensioners who receive pension credit if they are homeowners or who rent privately. They may be able to get help to have free energy improvements carried out.

April 2014

Help with fuel bills for elderly poor people in West Somerset

Four years ago someone at the Somerset Community Foundation had a good idea to help some of the poorest older people in Somerset. Why not ask those pensioners who didn’t need their government winter fuel payment to donate it so that the money could be given to other pensioners who couldn’t afford to keep warm in winter? So the Surviving Winter project was born. In the four years since it started, it has made grants to hundreds of Somerset pensioners so they can pay their fuel bills.

It’s well known that winter cold can be a killer, especially for older people with heart or respiratory conditions. Keeping warm can be a matter of life or death. And it has become harder. In those four years, the cost of fuel has increased dramatically, forcing more and more people into what is known as ‘fuel poverty’ – defined as needing to spend over 10 per cent of their income on fuel.

Pensioners at risk

Pensioners in West Somerset are particularly at risk. The district has the second highest percentage of over 65s in the country, and the highest fuel poverty figures in the south west. It’s not surprising that we have to spend so much on keeping warm. More than half the homes in West Somerset have solid walls which are harder and more expensive to insulate, and more than half don’t have mains gas supplied to their home. This means they have to use other, much more expensive ways of heating: oil or electricity (which costs more than twice the price of gas). And we have a very rural scattered population.

Forum 21 was asked to help with the project in West Somerset. Using our contacts and our team of trained volunteers we have been able to pay over £40,000 to a large number of elderly people in the last three years.  We visit everyone who applies. As well as assessing their eligibility for the grant, we can often find other ways of helping them to keep their homes warmer, referring them for other help if necessary. Some of those we visit have real difficulty keeping warm, going to bed in the late afternoon because that’s the only way to keep warm. For many people the Surviving Winter grant is a lifeline.

Applying for funding

Forum 21 still has some funds available this winter. Please ring 01984 634 242 if you would like to apply, or if you know someone else who needs the grant. The grant is available for pensioners, but people over 50 who have difficulty keeping warm can apply, especially if they have a health condition or disability.

But the project depends on the donations made by other pensioners. To make a donation contact the Somerset Community Foundation on 01749 344 949 or visit their website:  somersetcf.org.uk. Someone’s life may depend on it.

February 2014