The Impact of Business Rates on Community Energy

As someone who has worked in the energy industry for over a decade the impact the new Business Rates are having on community energy is particularly painful.

The BBC did a fine piece exploring the issue and even featured schemes I’ve designed but I felt I had to snatch a few moments from work and have my say. It’s only the Next Industrial Revolution after all…

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-39874843

 

On the Snap General Election

It’s a terrifying thought isn’t it? Five more years of this economically incompetent and environment-trashing Conservative government.

As a truly democratic party the Wales Green Party will be deciding in the coming days who their candidates are, but we won’t be distracted, we’ll continue to knock on doors to make gains in the county council elections on May 4th. From Powys to Pennarth we have a real chance to get Greens elected, councillors who will make the positive changes so desperately needed in our communities.

For the General Election the Greens are in favour of a progressive alliance, but will any other parties step up to the plate?

Anyway, here’s my statement following the announcement:

“Today’s announcement gives all of the progressive political parties a golden opportunity to deliver the future we need. We can work together to end austerity, to save the NHS, to tackle climate change and rid ourselves of the unfair first past the post electoral system.

I’m prepared to work towards this, as are many of our local green parties, and I call on other political parties to do the same so that there is only one challenger to the Conservative party at each ballot box”.

Experts Say Build Tidal Lagoon, but the Govt Don’t Like Experts…

Wales Green Party Welcomes Positive Findings of Hendry Review on Swansea Lagoon


Today the Hendry review on the feasibility of Swansea Bay Tidal lagoon was published, and it was overwhelmingly positive in its recommendations.

Pippa Bartolotti, Wales Green Party Deputy Leader said, “This is a wonderful way to start 2017! The Hendry review backs all our key pollution and carbon reduction demands, but importantly we now need to press the Westminster government to delay no further and allocate the £1.3b funding. This is chickenfeed when compared to the £37b they have already allocated to building the Hinkley C reactor.

“ A tidal lagoon is much more cost effective than a nuclear reactor, and infinitely less damaging. The lagoon will produce zero carbon electricity with no radioactive waste forced on future generations, and very small decommissioning costs. Even the decommissioning of North Sea oil and gas is estimated to be costing taxpayers an outrageous £24 billion. Theresa May must now stop dithering and give the green light to this industry fit for the future.“

The Hendry review pointed out that tidal technology would “contribute positively” towards the UK’s decarbonisation goals and stated that the potential impact on consumer bills of large scale tidal lagoons appears attractive, particularly when compared to nuclear projects. It also marked the fact that this was a significant economic opportunity for Wales.

Grenville Ham, Deputy Leader of the Wales Greens said, “There are worries which we should all be concerned about. The experts have said that tidal power is exactly what we want, yet the Conservative government appears to have had enough of experts. We could have saved a lot of time and money by listening to the properly qualified people in the first place.”

The combined output of proposed UK tidal lagoons, at about 12% of UK electricity consumption will produce almost double the energy of the is of the same order as the intended output of Hinkley Point C .

The environmental impact will be much less than for a Severn barrage and unlike the Severn barrage, tidal lagoons are replicable at multiple sites around the UK and indeed around the world.

Anthony Slaughter, who contributed to the Hendry review on behalf of the Wales Green Party said, “This is fantastic news for the low carbon industries. Tidal generation is predictable and dependable far into the future and will complement our growing wind and solar resources. Greens welcome the economic regeneration opportunities which will follow this popular development. “

Wales Green Party Calls for Westminster to Back a Welsh Green Energy Revolution That Can Lead The World

 

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More than 20 industrial companies employing more than 42,500 people are pressing the government to back tidal lagoon technology in Swansea. Ministers in Westminster are expected to make a decision this Thursday 12th January when the Hendry review will be published and could make or break the fledgling Tidal Power Industry. It will determine whether the UK will go down a route of domestic energy security, reduced carbon emissions and huge employment opportunities from a homegrown industry, or will illustrate yet again that the UK Government is only willing to see tax breaks and subsidies go towards fossil fuel companies and foreign investors.

Pippa Bartolotti, Deputy Leader of the Wales Green Party said, “Industry is emphatically pressing for the Swansea Bay Tidal lagoon, and it would be folly if the government does not give the green light on this proposal this week.  Greens applaud industry in recognizing that this technology is in the front line of opening massive employment and regeneration possibilities. When built, the Lagoon will put Swansea, and Wales, firmly on the map at the sharp end of tidal power generation. There will be tremendous opportunities for eco- tourism and a much needed morale boost for the whole of Wales.

Grenville Ham, Deputy Spokesperson of the Wales Green Party, and recipient of a royal honour for his ‘Services to the Renewable Energy Industry in Wales’, said: “Tidal lagoons can quickly become a central pillar of the UK energy mix. Tidal power is predictable, never-ending, and crucially, will form part of a homegrown energy industry that can lead the world.”

Speaking about project investment Grenville went on to say “A bold vision from our leaders will create thousands of jobs, make Wales a world leader in the energy industry and drive down our carbon emissions. This first prototype of a tidal lagoon, as in the case of all prototypes, will not necessarily be the most cost effective version, and government has to realize that this investment is firmly for the well being of future generations. Indeed, there should be nothing stopping the UK or Welsh Governments investing themselves in order to bring down the required subsidy level and still provide a decent return for taxpayers.”

Shortly after the EU referendum, the government committed to cutting carbon emissions by 57% by 2030 on 1990 levels, but has so far failed to spell out how it will support renewable energy beyond 2020. With the huge cuts to renewable energy support and fossil fuel companies continuing to receive eye-watering tax breaks and subsidies, the Government has a poor record in supporting homegrown technologies, carbon reduction and local job creation.

Bartolotti added, “We need to take the long term view of such an important investment and help create the green supply chain which will contribute to the long term prosperity of Wales. This country is well placed to build genuine income from renewable energy. The case against the Lagoon is a case against investing in Wales.  Let’s not delay the Swansea Tidal Lagoon any more. For too long we have muddled along with polluting old industries, the Swansea Lagoon will be quite literally a breath of fresh air”

Tidal lagoons are predictable, generate no carbon emissions and could provide as much as 12 per cent of Britain’s electricity needs. The Hendry review will determine whether there is a future for the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon, a pioneering scheme that will provide enough power for 155,000 homes. The Lagoon will use proven, yet cutting-edge technology, to pioneer a fleet of larger projects, which, if approved, could power up to a third of UK homes for the next five generations.

The Swansea Bay Tidal lagoon is expected to have a lifespan of 120 years.

Wales Needs a National Infrastructure Commission that Works For All of Us


Earlier today I read through the Welsh Governments’ Consultation on establishing a National Infrastructure Commission. There were some pretty depressing points within it that I’ll describe in a moment, however it’s worth pointing out that a body like this is long overdue so the commitment to establish one is certainly welcomed.

Having worked in the energy industry for over a decade I have experienced first hand how some of our most important infrastructure is developed without forethought to what is needed down the road. A prime example was when I was told, rather abruptly, that there was no longer any capacity within the electricity network throughout much of mid Wales for any new renewable energy schemes. In essence, no one can build anything anymore because the grid won’t be able to cope.

“How can this be?” I asked the engineers in charge of the electricity grid for much of south and mid Wales. “Can I have the contact details of the people in charge of your future strategy for the grid?”.

I was then told that they didn’t think they had anyone working on the future needs of the electricty grid for Wales. Think about that for a moment! Electric vehicles, decentralised renewable energy, domestic electrical storage, self driving cars – all of these have formed the blueprint for much of the technological advances we will be having in the coming years and, at least as far as the people I have spoken to are aware, there’s no plan in place for making sure that the grid can deliver. Without a comprehensive plan in place we are going to get more instances in which (like broadband, roads, public transport etc) large parts of Wales will be totally neglected and inequalities will rise. Not only that but we will yet again miss out on the new Green Jobs and innovations that could otherwise form part of a dynamic Welsh economy.

So I know all too well that we need to have a long term plan in place. Yet the proposals within the National Infrastructure Commission for Wales, as presently described, set us up for many more missed opportunities and inequalities down the road.

The key opportunity that they have missed is that they are proposing that the remit does not include housing, schools, hospitals, training providers or indeed anything that would otherwise be delivered by local development plans. Their justification is that these aren’t needed to be included because “there are already well- established, effective arrangements for analysing the longer-term, strategic needs in these sectors”. With our poor quality housing stock, inefficient spatial design, over reliance on cars and watered down standards for efficiency these sectors are patently not being managed effectively and are presently creating a myriad of social, environmental and infrastructural problems. Equally, if what is being delivered at present were at all effective we would not be seeing the huge regional disparities and inequalities that we see across Wales.

Look, I don’t profess to know all the ins and outs of delivering the entire infrastructure Wales needs for the next 50 years (and frankly, no one does) but if we are going to deliver an intelligently designed low carbon future with the most efficient use of resources it is essential that the infrastructure vision for Wales incorporates all elements of the system – not just the big projects at one end.

A silo mentality has caused most of the problems we have with our infrastructure, and like our future we need everything to be interconnected. Hopefully, by the time the National Infrastructure Commission is set up it isn’t just a bunch of old suits talking about traditional old school concrete blocks, but rather a dynamic collection of visionary experts laying down a blueprint for a more equal and world leading Green Wales.

 

 

Wales Green Party calls for Westminster to cease all subsidies to oil and gas with immediate effect

Despite the G20 pledge in 2009 to collectively phase out fossil fuel subsidies, the UK has only increased its financial support to the industry ever since. On top of this, it has emerged that the decommissioning of the oil and gas fields in the North Sea bears a subsequent price tag, exceeding the remaining tax revenues. At present the cost of decommissioning falls to the British taxpayer to take care of. This is a new low in the successive Westminster governments’ stubborn and continuing support of the fossil fuel industry.

The Financial Times reports today that the UK faces a bill of £24 billion for shutting North Sea fields. FT reports that: “decommissioning costs are subsidised under rules allowing oil companies to claw back some of the £330bn of taxes paid since North Sea production began. The tax relief was designed to prevent clean-up liabilities deterring investment.”

Grenville Ham, deputy spokesperson of the Wales Green Party, issued a statement in response to the figures. He said:

“Tax breaks and subsidies to the fossil fuel industry are almost a taboo subject, yet they amount to several billions of pounds. The North Sea oil and gas companies made huge profits over the course of the past four decades. They should be the ones picking up the bill for the mess they have made and are now threatening to leave behind.”

“The true costs of extracting fossil fuels – such as to the environment and our health – are not accounted for by the government making these sizeable pay-outs. In the current situation, the hapless taxpayer is being forced to foot the bill for a £24bn clean-up operation, when this money should have been costed into the operation from day one.”

The Wales Green Party is calling for subsidies on all fossil fuels to be removed. Fossil fuel subsidies are the main obstacle to the growth of renewable energy.

Pippa Bartolotti, deputy spokesperson of the Wales Green Party, said: “We need to switch these subsidies away from fossil fuels and into developing truly sustainable systems of energy storage and generation. This is the only way we will be able to control both pollution and temperatures. By holding onto these huge fossil fuel subsidies at the cost of renewable energy development, the UK risks not being able to keep up the pace with progress.”

“In Wales there are huge opportunities for renewable energy generation, yet the government in Westminster has time and again hesitated to invest in and promote them. Swansea tidal lagoon is an apt example. Westminster’s cited lack of funds in the face of the budget deficit does not seem to be a problem when it comes to subsiding oil and gas yet it is halting the possibilities to develop renewable energy in this country.”

When there is nothing to fear the Far Right lose their strength

My answer to a local residents question.

What is your view on the growth of eurosceptic and anti-immigration parties across Western Europe?

I think that the growth of euro-skeptic and anti-immigration parties across Western Europe are an inevitable consequence to the issues I’ve described in previous blog posts:

  1. The failure of politicians to address the root cause of the problems in our society (neoliberalism).
  2. The agenda of the far right press that seeks to divide and rule through scare mongering and a refusal to debate issues intelligently
  3. A consumerist economic culture that feeds off people’s self-doubt.

But overall the reason is that quite simply for the majority of people their quality of life is visibly decreasing and they are scared. Not only that but for many the experience has been so overwhelmingly negative that they have been emotionally scarred, and layered within the context of a post-truth world they have no idea what has scarred them.

For the majority of us living in 21st century Europe we feel as though there is an insurmountable threat, be it real or otherwise, such as job uncertainty, fear for our children’s future, a loss of cultural identity, global economic forces acting beyond our control or global warming. For all of these threats (and again, whether they are real or not is largely irrelevant) the simple fact is that people are scared and feel as though there is no hope.

Where the establishment parties fail is that they never offer people any explanation or solutions to the problems we face which just leaves people ever more bewildered and fearful.

Look at the last General Election. We all knew that the system was not working for the vast majority of us and yet the Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dems all stood on manifestos that had varying degrees of Austerity as the solution to our problems. They were simply incapable of acknowledging that their blind faith in neoliberal economics is the root cause of the problem.

I often think of the analogy of the survival principle Fight or Flight as being apt here and that people, when fearing for their future, have two options. They can ‘Fight’ (for a fairer economy and a better democracy) or Flight (in terms of just running from the problem and abandoning politics). To fight, when the problem is so complex and no solution is ever presented by the politicians or mainstream media, is rarely the typical response. Instead people flee, and who they see as they run from the problems are far right parties projecting themselves as a place of sanctity.

These far right movements, often lead by charismatic figures, build there movement on the back of these politically inactive (and usually desperate) people who have been the losers of the economic ineptitude of our politicians for the last thirty years.

These people feel, often quite rightly, that they have no voice at all in politics or the future of their own lives. Because it is not in the far rights interest to actually address the problem (they too want to maintain the neoliberal economic model) they just simply describe all of the problems as the fault of ‘others’.

Far right parties deliberately create echo chambers of simplistic messages, slogans and symbols which for many listening will be the first time in in their lives that a politician is able to describe a tangible explanation to why their life is so hard. Of course, what the far right describe is neither correct nor offering any form of solution, but they are offering people an “answer”, and that is what the others within the political spectrum repeatedly fail to do.

Simplistically this ‘answer’ is that all problems are down to migration.

Now, migration does of course change society, although far less so than, for example, technology, economic austerity, inequality, globalisation or climate change. But it patently isn’t “The Greatest Threat to our Way of Life” or the cause of all of our problems. The actual threat, as shown by the rise of Trump, is that we will swallow the narrative that immigrants, refugees or people from non-European countries are less human than the rest of us, that they think and feel less, that they matter less.

But that’s the whole agenda of the far-right.  Create a scapegoat, demonise them and make the rest of the people believe that as long as they’re not the biggest loser, then they’re a winner.

And History shows us that this never ends well.

So where do we go from here?

Immigration is likely to remain an overarching theme in European politics for a long time yet. It was at the heart of the UK referendum campaign and it is set to dominate French and German elections next year. I would argue that the issue of migration broke free from the facts a long time ago, but in todays Europe facts don’t matter anymore.

The establishment political parties are now embracing this new reality and countering the surge in popularity of extreme right politics. Many are lurching ever further to the right to take advantage of these fears. Just look at the moves by the Conservative Party over recent months (although if I were asked a few months ago and I wouldn’t have thought it even possible for them to lurch even further to the right than they already where).

The only positive I see coming from this is that finally there will be the rise of an ideology that looks to challenge all of the problems caused by modern economics.

The simple truth is that of all the problems sweeping the globe the biggest one is fear itself. A solution must plainly include helping the majority, revolves around a livable planet, justice and equality. And the answer must be to reject neoliberal economics and promoting an economic system based on the values of support and sharing. Through programs such as Citizens income we can remove the fear and destitution created by our current paradigm of greed and exploitation and when everyone benefits the same there will be no envy or fear of others taking benefits that you feel should come to you.

Ultimately I believe that we can create a system that doesn’t destroy our planet, doesn’t blame minorities, doesn’t make people with disabilities suffer and doesn’t walk away from people with problems.

And if we can do that, there will be nothing to fear. And when there is nothing to fear the far right will have lost the only thing that gives them strength.

Let’s Take Back Control (But also Take On Responsibility).

My final written statement for the Deputy Spokesperson for the Wales Green Party:

“Previously I’ve outlined my vision for the Deputy Speaker.  I want to focus on helping our local parties grow and supporting our local candidates. I also want to use my professional experience to help us own the energy agenda and I’m confident that my plans will compliment the work of Alice and the other Spokesperson. 

However, I think it’s only fair that I use this final statement to outline below my thoughts on Brexit because if elected this issue will dominate my two year term. 

Clearly Brexit has exposed huge divisions in our country. I have no doubt that the messaging of the Leave Campaign, alongside much of our toxic press, is complicit in this. The Remain campaign also talked a great deal of nonsense. But what I’m seeing, as many lurch to the political right or into despair, is a huge amount of pain. And despite the optimism of many I can’t see how Brexit will solve any of our problems.

I believe that the pain in our country stems from a majority of people feeling hopeless, forgotten and scared for their future. I also think many of us have been so affected by neoliberal economics and political abandonment that we have become emotionally scarred. And I see a huge vacuum as most political parties refuse to explain to people what caused these scars. 

So when asked about Brexit I will keep my comments simple. I believe that we, as Greens, need to emphasize that we believe that we need to Take Back Control. Not from the EU (that was sleight of hand from the start) but that we need to take control back from the causes of pain in our society. We need to take back control from an undemocratic monetary system. We need control back from the big energy companies, the media conglomerates, the big supermarkets, the lobbyists, and the offshore asset hoarders. 

I would like to describe to people how none of this pain, none of this division, will ever be healed unless we take back control from an economic system that has run rampant and is the root cause of all our social and environmental injustice. 

I think I can explain our message simply. If people feel like they aren’t in control then support the Greens who will wrestle it back from their unscrupulous landlord through rent controls. The Greens will take back control for the people victimised by the DWP. The Greens will take back control of economic uncertainty with a Universal Basic Income.

I want to explain that if people offer the Greens their support then collectively we can take back control of our future and that of our fragile planet. 

If elected I’m hopeful that I will be able to cut through the narrative and articulate exactly what is going on. When the others offer scapegoats or soundbites, I will offer our solutions. 

So as weird as it may seem I believe that we Greens need to focus on taking back control. But I also recognise that collectively we also need to take back responsibility.” 

Standing for Wales Green Party Deputy Leader – Opening Statement

Here’s my opening statement to Wales Green Party members outlining what I want to do as the Deputy Leader / Spokesperson.

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I’m an experienced public speaker who has given speeches on established Wales Green Party issues such as climate change, energy and the environment for over a decade. I’m widely considered an expert on issues around energy, a policy area WGP should absolutely own, and would gladly speak on behalf of our party on this or any other that is required. I’ve represented WGP on TV and Radio and had many media appearances throughout my career. However, none of those things are the reason I have put myself forwards as deputy speaker…

As deputy speaker I want to travel the country to support, nurture and complement our local parties and candidates. I believe that one of the biggest priorities of our party must be to identify and support our future talent who will in turn become our elected Green representatives. Green politicians don’t simply appear ready-made and I want to play a role in helping them become the leaders that we need.

I think that it is entirely possible that our first Welsh Green AMs and MPs aren’t even members of the party yet, and that part of my role will be to help us find them, to encourage them, and to use this position to create meaningful platforms for them to speak loudly on our behalf.

Surely with enough people out there speaking about our message of real political change such as citizen’s income, reforming politics and tacking inequality we are natural home for many more people. One of the key messages I want to promote is that we are not just a party opposed to the toxins pumped out into the environment but we are also the only true challengers to the toxic ideas that are seemingly gaining ground.

If I can play a part in creating a loud unified voice for genuine radical change that works for the common good then we will be in a prime position to attract new members, new talent and the people who will one day be our elected Green representatives. Our one, fragile planet, and people facing injustices need to hear our message, as it is more relevant and needed than ever before. And that voice isn’t particularly mine, but rather the voice of the many. I just want to help us find it.

About me:

I studied Geography at the University of Plymouth and was a post-graduate student at Oxford University and Oxford Brookes. I am the founder and Managing Director of a not-for-profit hydroelectric engineering company, and my early career was as a secondary school teacher. I am co-founder of a social enterprise that helps community groups across Mid and South Wales reduce carbon and improve biodiversity.

I have been awarded the British Empire Medal for my Services to the Renewable Energy Industry in Wales and I have won numerous other prestigious awards throughout my career.

Key political areas I am passionate about are Energy, Mental Health, Domestic Violence and Abuse.

I live in Brecon with my wife and kids.

(500 Words)