Our ‘Energy we can all afford?’ meeting in St Alban‘s Church, Furzedown was a very lively session (see the flyer and speakers here). Discussion was much more heated than the bitterly cold evening outside.
We touched on a set of significant and interrelated topics: wellbeing, poverty, and our own capability to keep our homes warm; UK energy policy and supply; energy costs and affordability – and what we can do to take action in response.
I won’t try to systematically summarise 7 diverse speakers, or the questions: here are some cross-cutting points from all, plus a few quotes, to consider as individuals and communities.

Some social and physical facts to do with energy, cold, and poverty

·         Though our weather isn’t the coldest, UK homes are among the coldest in Europe
·         30-50% of winter deaths are caused by cold
·         37% of Wandsworth Borough’s homes were built pre-1919 (with solid walls, so cavity  wall insulation is not possible). The national average is 23%
·         Where can home heat be wasted? Have a look at this drawing
·        10,500 households in Wandsworth are in ‘fuel poverty’ (that is, the household spends  more than 10% of income on fuel) because of varying combinations of 3 factors:  poor heating and/or insulation, low income, the high cost of fuel
·         It’s estimated that by 2016, 1 in 3 households in London could be in fuel poverty

How can we respond, and what support schemes are there?

·        We can act now in many different ways, without waiting for key future dates like ‘2050’ – and groups like the Furzedown Low Carbon Zone or Transition Town Tooting offer us a space for agency, and support, and a voice
·       Tackling home energy efficiency, developing our own understanding, measurement and monitoring (’We know the mpg for our cars, but don’t understand how our homes perform’), and adapting our own behaviours are steps to what Leonie called ’living our lives in our homes in different ways’
·       A 50% reduction in home carbon emissions is achievable now and is relatively affordable. Based on doing the jobs that make a big difference first, click here to see Susan’s local 3 year reduction project in a pre-1919 house. As she said, the lower-carbon future feels good now: ‘Our house is a warm home for the first time’
·       There is good local experience developing on community renewable energy co-operatives – in Brixton, Streatham, and Kingston – as well as other initiatives in Merton (and the wonderful Archimedes screw turbine at Morden Hall, for those with a river handy)
·       Some schemes to reduce carbon or to enable lower bills are very complex – and even the apparently simpler hurdles such as dealing with Direct Debit, or with online registration, may defeat the very people who need these schemes most
·       Giles provided a set of contact numbers for several current schemes (link to his presentation here) and recommended the Age UK Winter wrapped up Guide which can be read here. Wandsworth residents can use the number suggested for the Coldbuster Affordable Warmth programme: 0800 358 6668. One more contact for Wandsworth: tenants who want advice on landlords’ responsibilities over repairs and heating: ring  020 8871 6171
Carbon emissions, UK policy and the energy market
·        27% of the UK’s carbon footprint is consumed in the flats and houses we occupy  
·        In 2050 we’ll still be occupying 87% of these homes
·       The Climate Change Act of 2008 led the world with binding targets for carbon reduction across the UK, with milestone dates though to an 80% reduction by 2050
·       The Energy Bill going through Parliament now is intended to guide energy policy in the UK for decades. A Conservative and Labour-sponsored amendment has been proposed which would ensure the Bill includes a ‘clean’ carbon-free target for UK power supply. An up-to-date advocacy and briefing sheet on the Bill is available here.
·        Sadiq Khan MP sent this message to our meeting:
“To meet the.targets set by the last Labour Government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 the UK needs to substantially decarbonise electricity generation.
That is why I support decarbonising the UK’s electricity supply by 2030 and believe the Energy Bill currently going through Parliament should be amended to include it. This needs to be a Government priority; to create jobs, growth and a reliable energy future supply.
The Energy Bill is due to return to the floor of the House of Commons shortly for Report Stage. We are absolutely committed to the inclusion of a target to clean up Britain’s power sector by 2030 in this Bill. I can assure you that I will be doing everything I can to work with MPs on a cross-party basis to put a decarbonisation target into the Bill.”

Thanks to all who took part and supported the meeting, particularly to St Alban’s for hosting us and providing the laptop and projector.

And looking forward to our April 23rd event: ‘Better choices for a better future’. The current project with South Thames College is drawing to a close. We will be sharing the learning (and the video) from the project in an event on April 23rd at the Wandsworth campus of STC. The meeting will include a talk on supporting jobs for a low carbon economy by Jonathan Cook, Deputy Leader of Wandsworth Borough Council. All welcome, and the flyer is here.