On Wednesday 20th July, Cllr Andrew Cooper visited Barnsley for a free, public talk on Energy. Andrew is the Green Party’s Energy Spokesperson, and has been a Councillor in Kirklees for 17 years. In that time, he has implemented a number of Green Party policies on housing and energy. He is also the Lead European elections candidate for the Yorkshire region.
The first thing that strikes me about Andrew is his passion for what he does. His enthusiasm and pro-active work ethic resonates when he is speaking, and his knowledge from 20+ years working in the energy efficiency industry makes it clear why he is Green Party’s energy spokesperson.
The conversation started with the last General Election. Despite not winning, the Greens have the best energy policies of any mainstream, UK party. Policies such as the Free Home Insulation Programme, which aimed to insulate 4 million homes every year, were discussed at the meeting. Such a programme would cost £4bn a year and create 80,000 jobs. More information can be found here. Andrew talked about the future benefits of this scheme, which would decrease energy use and emissions, save people money on their energy bills, and therefore mean less money going to energy providers – win, win, win!
Andrew then talked about his job as a councilor in Kirklees, and how he has introduced Green housing and energy policies to the area with enormous success. He has already led a successful effort in insulating 50,000 homes across Kirklees for free. This was directly inspired from Green Party national policy. Approximately £3 million a year has been saved in energy bills from these newly insulated homes. Imagine if this policy was rolled out across the UK!
We then moved on to discussing solar energy, which Andrew has called for a massive re-investment in after the industry has declined in recent years. When creating the solar policies for the Green Party, Andrew explained how he visited solar companies and consulted with professionals for their input. He said:
I approached them and asked them for their most ambitious but realistic solar policy.
By going directly to the professionals, the Green Party was able to create a progressive, yet robust solar policy, which would benefit the environment and stand up to scrutiny.
The conversation topic then moved on to Passivhaus (pronounced: passive-house), a standard to which properties are built which can save 10% of energy use, which equals to a saving of around £1,000 a year in energy bills. It is Green Party policy that all new build homes and buildings should be built to Passivhaus standard.
Fracking was also a heated topic of discussion, after Barnsley Councils recent Local Plan has revealed that the council will generally support fracking in the area. It is, however, a completely different story in Kirklees, where the Green Party motion to oppose fracking was passed. In their Local Plan, the council are clear about the fact that fracking applications in the area will be considered providing the company can produce evidence that their operations will have not have a negative impact on climate change. Clever, right?
This policy doesn’t necessarily mean the government will abide or even listen, but it sends out a message about what their values as a council are.
Finally, the conversation moved to discussing the current government’s green energy initiatives, and the EU. So far, tariffs have been cut for solar energy, it has been made even harder to utilise offshore wind energy, and the climate change department has been scrapped by Theresa May. Andrew stated that this current government have come up with the worst energy efficiency programme he has ever known, and the repercussions for this will be huge.
As for the EU, Andrew explained how all countries that are part of the European Union were expected to follow the 2020 climate change and energy targets. This legislation set targets for countries to achieve a 20% cut in greenhouse gas emissions (from 1990 levels), 20% of EU energy from renewable, and a 20% improvement in energy efficiency. As we are now quickly approaching the deadline, countries like Sweden and Germany are steaming ahead and will not only achieve, but surpass their green energy targets. The UK, on the other hand, will almost certainly fail theirs, despite been given only a 15% target to achieve.
This is not only disgraceful, and proof of how backwards recent governments have been in their energy and climate change initiatives, but the UK will also be expected to pay a hefty fine for not reaching the target – a cost which was completely avoidable.
This isn’t just about green energy, it’s also about conserving energy and reducing demand. This is why Green Party polices on insulating homes and Passivhaus are so important, and would be effective in reducing energy consumption and climate change.
Finally, we were reminded that when all else fails, plant trees! Take carbon out of the atmosphere and highlight the fact that the government needs to do more.
The Barnsley Green Party can be found on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/GreenPartyBarnsley/
We hold meetings at 7pm on the second Thursday of every month, at the YMCA in Barnsley.