Category Archives: Green Issues

How will Brexit impact Britain’s waste management practices?

Brexit: a bad choice is no excuse for not moving towards zero waste

Joan Marc Simon of Zero Waste Europe says that it doesn’t have to mean the end of the path to a zero-waste future for Britain.

“Brexit means Brexit”. This is the most concise explanation we have received so far from the British authorities about how are they planning to implement the results of the referendum held in the UK in June 2016.

Not surprisingly, the immediate impacts of the referendum boosted the support for EU membership around the EU. However, one could think that after the first critical moments, things went back to normal; the economy continued to run, etc. And, after a few months, all seems ok.

Well, this is the result for Britain of continuing to live within the EU; in the Customs Union, in the Single Market and implementing the acquis communautaire. For as long as Article 50 is not invoked, the UK might be able to protect its economy, albeit hampering future investments in the country which will instead look for a place where there is more legal security.

But even when Brexit happens – if it ends up happening – there is agreement that the path to leave the EU will be long and tortuous with great potential to harm economy and negatively affect social and environmental standards in the UK.

With this article, I intend to analyse how the different scenarios of a Brexit might impact the waste sector in the UK.

But before that, let’s make one thing clear: from a democratic legitimacy standpoint, there is no reason why EU legislation implemented so far should stop being British law, for the simple reason that they were laws that were approved with the active participation of the British Government in the council negotiations and the British members of parliament in the European Parliament (EP). The European legislation is as British as it is Italian or German. Nevertheless, when contemplating the different types of European laws, one can make a difference about the legitimacy between EU Directives and EU Regulations.

Directives such as the Waste Framework Directive or the Industrial Emissions Directive were jointly approved by co-decision procedure by the Council and the EP, but they need to go through the national parliaments in order to be transposed into EU law into national law. Hence all directives have gone through the Westminster Parliament and they are fully legitimised to continue to be applicable.

Even more so, considering that normally, with transposition of an EU directive into national law, each Member State (MS) has a certain amount of leeway as to the exact rules to be adopted. Indeed, directives require Member States to achieve a particular result without dictating the means of achieving that result. So, there is nothing to prevent MSs from fixing higher national standards.

Regulations are something else: the European Commission and the Council can produce regulations which have the main characteristic that they need to be applied in MS and they don’t go through national parliaments, being directly applicable in its entirety and enforceable by law. The British legislators might feel legitimated to remove the regulations but this has the risk of creating loopholes or legal lacunae; for instance the waste shipment regulation rules the move of waste for recovery and disposal within EU borders and to the outside. If the Shipment Regulation was repealed, it would mean that the UK needs to create a new law that is compatible with the Waste Framework Directive and the Basel Convention. It makes more to just keep the regulation as it is.

This is an important point because if the UK leadership manages to convince the brexit supporters that in fact the UK participated in the making of the EU law and the British Parliament has transposed them into British law, it will be easier to convince them to keep the laws as they are, thereby saving time and efforts to everybody. Definitely, it would be a measure that should be supported by the local authorities, the industry and the NGOs for it provides legal certainty about what is going to happen in the coming years.

Besides the democratic legitimacy perspective, keeping the acquis communautaire can be observed from the position of the advantages of staying in the single market, which would involve accepting free movement of people. This is where we find at least three possible scenarios for the UK.

Firstly, there is the “out is out” option, with the UK not having access to the EU internal market. This would mean increase in tariffs and controls, less access to European and foreign markets which according to calculations from UK treasury would total a 7,5% loss of GDP over 15 years. The catastrophic consequences for Britain speak in favour of ruling out this option.

The second option is to try to emulate the Swiss option. Switzerland is not a member of the EU nor the EEA. Instead, it has negotiated a series of bilateral treaties governing its relations with the EU. Usually, each treaty provides for Switzerland to participate in a particular EU policy or programme. Adopting the Swiss model following Brexit could be appealing if the UK is looking for an ‘à la carte’ approach to European integration. But this depends also on the EU approach, indeed Commission and key Member States will be concerned about creating precedents for similarly complex and à la carte arrangements in the event of other Member States choosing to leave the EU in future. This option is therefore to be ruled out because of the bad predisposition of the EU to concede such an agreement.

Finally, there is the option of following the “Norwegian model”; that is implementing the EU acquis and being able to participate in the single market whilst allowing the UK to strike its own trade deals outside the EU. This is likely to be a more acceptable option despite implying new bureaucratic burdens for British exporters who will have to comply with complex “rules of origin” and which includes some contributions to the European budget too.

Obviously, if/when Brexit happens, the UK will end up developing a model of its own but it wouldn’t make legal, economic or environmental sense to scrap current Environmental legislation in order to create a completely new set of disparate laws which are not compatible with the definitions, procedures or targets set by its immediate trade partners.

It is indeed a paradox that the result of Brexit would mean that the UK will end up having to implement laws that they didn’t make, hence being in a “worst situation” than before the Brexit. This is not necessarily bad news for the EU environmental policies for it has been because of the UK filibustering that most environmental policies have been delayed or lacked ambition over the last years. As a result of UK’s departure from the negotiating table one could expect faster moves towards a circular economy.

In either case one should not forget that what the EU legislation does is provide the baseline for member states but those are always free to be more ambitious than what the directives say I.e. member states are obliged to achieve 50% recycling by 2020 but they can aim for more –not less – if they want. Examples from the network of zero waste municipalities show very well how in those municipalities where there is political will moving towards zero waste is possible. The UK history, England in particular, is not one of success or vision when it comes to resource and waste management. Countries that joined the EU 30 years later than the UK are performing substantially better; Slovenia and Ljubljana in particular have implemented ambitious and efficient waste collection systems and Estonia and Lithuania already have deposit and refund schemes operating for packaging.

Why can’t we envisage the UK implementing deposit and refund schemes, widespread separate collection at the kerbside and moving away from incinerators, landfills and waste exports? The recent microbeads ban in the UK shows that where there is a will there is a way. If the Brits are so brave to break away from the EU they will surely dare to provide a more resilient future for their new generations, won’t they?

Joan Marc Simon

Director,

Zero Waste Europe

 

Orkney’s Big Hit

Orkney’s naval past is very much in the spotlight at the moment.  However its future as a local hydrogen economy is also firmly in focus, with the recent launch of the ‘BIG HIT’ hydrogen project.

This major EU-funded project builds on the CES-led Surf ‘n’Turf project which is creating an opportunity for the community-owned wind turbine on Eday to generate power which would otherwise be impossible owing to the constraints on the Orkney grid. BIG HIT extends this idea to include local members Shapinsay Development Trust along with existing partners EMEC, ITM Power, Orkney Islands Council and Orkney College and new partners from elsewhere in Europe. Surf ‘n’ Turf, funded through the Scottish Government’s Local Energy Challenge Fund is progressing well.

The BIG HIT project in Orkney stands for ‘Building Innovative Green Hydrogen Systems in an Isolated Territory’ and is an EU-funded Horizon 2020 joint project.   The project, led by Aragon Hydrogen Foundation in Spain, sees us partner community member, Shapinsay Development Trust, and other partners, EMEC, Orkney Islands Council, as well as Scottish Hydrogen Fuel Cell Association, ITM (UK) and a number of international partners.

The BIG HIT launch took place in Kirkwall recently and welcomed partners from seven European countries, meeting face-to-face for the first time and hearing how community-owned renewables can produce clean hydrogen for road transport and heating public buildings.

BIG HIT is funded through €5m (around £4m) from the European Commission’s Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking.  Its aim is to install and demonstrate the viability of a supply chain for hydrogen in an island territory.  Many of the technical challenges in making hydrogen from renewable electricity have already been overcome by Surf ‘n’ Turf, a project in which CES is leading, and has already attracted Scottish Government investment of £1.2m.

Innovative EV programme for Mull and Iona

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Mull and Iona Sustainable Transport wins Rural Innovators Award 2015-16 for Transport

MIST’s aims to reduce CO2 emissions and dependance on fossil fuel  on Mull and Iona, have been recognised by this award from the Rural parliament.

As travel and transport choices account for up to half or more of many households’ total CO2 emission, Electric Vehicle trials, liftsharing coordination , efficient driving tips and information about switching to EVs are all part of this innovative project.

Funded by the Scottish Government’s Climate Challenge Fund, a team of 3 MIST Project Officers has been appointed to promote environmentally friendly island travel options through to March 2016.

EV hot spot events

With several EVs already being driven routinely here on the islands, 5 public charging points for EVs already operational and plans for rapid chargers in Tobermory and Fionnphort,  Mull is already well ahead of most other island communities. Recognising Mull as a ‘Hot Spot’ for EVs, the Energy Savings Trust has collaborated with MIST to present some special local events to bring all interested islanders up to speed with electric cars and incentives to switch.

Liftshare

The Mull and Iona Lift Share page established on Facebook has attracted over 350 members to engage, supportive of its purpose: To match willing drivers with willing passengers to share journeys. This group is open to any islander over 18 who is interested in linking up to share journeys.

EV trials

A Nissan LEAF electric car  has been purchased by MIST to enable islanders to enjoy the experience of driving with zero emissions and very low running costs. MIST is also acquiring an all electric Citroen Berlingo van for islanders and especially for island businesses to try out for free and to borrow. There is now a long list of folk who have expressed interest in free test drives and borrowing the car for a few days.

Following MIST’s successful collaboration with the Energy Savings Trust to host Electric Vehicle ‘Hot spot’ events on Mull, a Mitsubishi Highlander hybrid 4WD has been offered as a free loan, available for islanders to try out at no cost for a 2 months period.

Free EV training events offered to islanders on Mull and Iona

With several EVs already being driven routinely here on the islands, 5 public charging points for EVs already operational and plans for rapid chargers in Tobermory and Fionnphort, Mull is already well ahead of most other island communities.

On Wednesday 17 and Thursday 18 February, MIST – –  is offering free training events to help current and prospective EV owners to look after their EV’s, and make the case for EVs as a suitable alternative for individuals and local groups.

Check the MIST website for more details.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OFGEM consultation on Non Traditional Business Models

OFGEM have just opened a new and important consultation on how they should respond as a regulator to the emergence of ‘Non-Traditional Business Models’ or NTBMs. The consultation will close on  20 May 2015.

OFGEM are saying: “We want to ensure that regulation isn’t getting in the way of organisations delivering desirable consumer outcomes. But, because energy is an essential service, we must also protect the interests of existing and future electricity and gas consumers. And this means we need to understand the benefits, costs and risks of any change to regulation.”
“We have identified four important drivers motivating the emergence of these NTBMs:
• The low carbon transition
• Rapid technological innovation
• Lack of consumer engagement and trust
• Greater focus on affordability and especially on supporting consumers in vulnerable situations. “
“We have grouped these NTBMs into three broad themes:
• Local energy services (eg community energy)
• Bundled services (eg energy service companies)
• Customer participation (eg peer-to-peer energy).
Some NTBMs could also challenge the fundamentals of current regulatory arrangements. For example, some are seeking to generate and supply energy locally, which, at sufficient market penetration, could challenge the centralised way in which the energy market operates.”

Click here for the link to the full consultation document.

 

 

Consultation on the Argyll and Bute Community Renewables Opportunity Plan

Argyll and Bute Council and its partners are currently looking at how they can better assist communities in securing socio-economic benefit from renewables and the development of local renewable projects. To help achieve this, they are now considering the development of a Community Renewables Opportunity Plan (CROP).

This will inform the Argyll and Bute Renewable Energy Action Plan (REAP).  One of the specific areas of focus in the REAP is to assist local communities.

What is the consultation?

To assist in determining the scope and key areas of focus of the CROP Argyll and Bute Council are seeking the communities input and assistance.

“We need communities and groups involved in, or who are considering developing, community renewables to tell us what they need to make it easier for them to progress their projects” says Stuart Green, Senior Development officer at Argyll and Bute. “This might be:

  • better on-line information,
  • information presented in a more user friendly manner,
  • more direct support to communities,
  • advice on feed-in-tariffs and many other issues.

Whatever it is, we need to know in order for your comments and needs to be taken into account when we developing the plan.”

How do  communities take part in the consultation?

Communities can take part through our on-line questionnaire which will be open from 23rd March – 4th May 2012.

The questionnaire is available online and can be downloaded from the Council website at www.argyll-bute.gov.uk/planning-and-environment/community-renewables-opportunity-plan from 23rd March.

For further information please contact: Stuart Green, Senior Development officer, Tel: 01546 604243, Email; stuart.green@argyll-bute.gov.uk

 

Community power

Community Power is the way forward shows CES

The 2014 Community Energy Scotland conference held in Edinburgh last November reiterated that point very strongly.

Existing grid constraints unlikely to be resolved quickly means that today more than ever, community energy makes sense.   In the context of Scotland’s extensive fuel poverty which is particularly acute in the islands, ‘community energy can directly impact on high fuel costs’ said John MacDonald of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, as he outlined plans to set up the first Hebridean Energy company supplier.

One particularly inspiring story was told by Alan Hobbett about a group of housing associations  in the Scottish Borders addressing fuel poverty by getting into power generation themselves.

Orkney again showed how they lead the way in community led smart demand side management. ‘We want to use the curtailment system to show that we can bring to the grid 500 kW that will benefit communities,’ said speaker Brian Clegg  from Hoy.

Andy Oliver from Gigha Green Power also presented the innovative Vanadium Redox Flow battery storage system which will be operative in June 2015. (see islands going green)

It was also inspiring to see solidarity with the developing world at work with the presentation of the CES work in Malawi.

CES Support for local energy  economy projects

Nicholas Gubbins, Chief Executive at Community Energy Scotland has pledged his organisation to supporting more local energy economy projects in 2015.

Nicholas Gubbins said ‘Local Energy Economies are about taking local responsibility for energy demand and energy generation, and then taking steps to match the local needs with local energy production opportunities.  In 2015 more communities will want to own their own heat or power generation plants. It is about more than technology. People want to take more local control of their own energy issues and do what is right for their local economy and their precious environments.’

The charity Community Energy Scotland has led the movement for more local ownership and benefit from renewable energy for more than ten years. ‘The Local Energy Economy concept encompasses wise use of energy as well as renewable production. Joining up the thinking around energy efficiency and tackling the high cost of heat for many householders is driving our thinking,’ added Nicholas.

Community Power is about positive action

Community energy activists are not about complaining but rather positive action. They can see the successes of the early community energy projects and want to take a further step, generating the power and heat their communities need in the way their communities want.

See www.communityenergyscotland.org.uk for the 2014 conference papers and the help CES can deliver to communities interested in developing their own energy solutions.

 

Green Energy Mull smashes its initial target of £300 000 shares 

It is almost a year to the day since the first share sale was launched for Mull’s Garmony hydro-scheme, and since then over 200 people have become investors.

The Garmony Hydro scheme, a first for the island, is intended to reduce its carbon footprint by taking advantage of one of the most abundant resources available on Mull – rainfall. Once the scheme is operational Green Energy Mull (GEM) hopes it will generate sufficient electricity to meet the needs of 230 homes on Mull, by harnessing the 320KW ‘run of river‘ hydro electric power on the burn near to the Garmony settlement overlooking the Sound of Mull. The Hydro scheme is on land owned by the Forestry Commission, and by gaining a majority of island votes in support for the scheme last February, GEM was able to lease the land from the  Commission.

As the scheme is progressing well through the construction phase there is still time to become a share holder, but GEM will have to call a halt to investments soon. They have smashed our initial target of raising £330,000.  The totaliser sits today at over £450,000 which is a staggering amount of money. This is a great scheme and one that will help to improve the lives of islanders for many years to come.

As well as generating clean, renewable energy, the scheme will produce income which will benefit Mull and Iona by providing:

  • seedcorn funding for other community renewable energy and energy conservation projects
  • funding for the support provided by the Community Trust to individuals and groups on the island
  • direct funding for a whole range of island groups and events projects (e.g. Village shows, Mull Rally, Village Halls)

Since work commenced on site back in May a, huge amount has happened and the scheme is progressing well. The primary intake is almost complete. This has required much digging and rock breaking and dodging the bad weather. The 800 metre long pipe that will take the water from the intake to the turbine has been delivered, welded together and is now being buried in a trench. Work on the turbine house has now been started and the foundations are being laid. All the contractors and suppliers involved with Garmony Hydro are doing their absolute best, and it is hoped that commissioning will take place during January 2015.

Budget for this project is tight and any additional income that can be raised will mean that GEM do not have to seek additional loan finance if necessary. If you have already invested in GEM, you are more than welcome to invest further. With bank interest rates still so low, this is still a good scheme to be involved with. The weather over the last few weeks has been especially wet and it is grand to think that soon GEM will be able to harness this rain and make some money out of it for the communities of Mull and Iona.

A share Prospectus can be downloaded from the Garmony hydro website.

Community Food Growing

Community food growing 

One of the ambitions of the forthcoming Community Empowerment Bill is to increase the number of communities who take on land with a view to growing food.

Acquiring the land is one thing –although no easy task in itself – but converting land into a successful growing space is something else altogether. A great couple of resources have just been published by the Fed, SAGS, SNH and CSGN. See also the step by step guide to community growing. (thanks to Angus Hardie of Local People leading for this information)

Horshader Community Growing Project receives SURF award

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Horshader’s Community Growing Project was awarded the prestigious 2014 SURF Award for Best Practice in Community Led Regeneration on 2/12/14. The project was praised for its inspiring work by Paul Wheelhouse MSP, Scottish Government Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs.

  • The Community Growing Project was set up in January 2014 by Horshader Community Development to serve the villages of South Shawbost, Dalbeag, and Dalmore on the West Side of the Isle of Lewis in Scotland.
  • It established an innovative community-led partnership through the Ideas Bank to develop a sustainable project which also demonstrates efficient use of public funding.
  • Horshader Community Development received grant funding from the Climate Challenge Fund and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to erect allotment polytunnels in the area and fund two local jobs.
  • A full time Project Worker is responsible for the growing unit and producing a plan for providing fresh fruit and vegetables which will be distributed through a market garden initiative. A part time Outreach Officer is also be employed and be responsible for organising and delivering a programme of events and activities to encourage the reduction of carbon emissions.
  • The project provides four food-growing polycrubs that will supply year-round fresh fruit and vegetables for the community. It will also provide an accessible covered space for community members to grow their own produce in the form of two allotment tunnels, one in South Shawbost and one in Dalmore.
  • Ordinary polytunnels would not last long in the exposed climate of the island of Lewis. For this reason, polycrubs, made out of recycled feed pipe from salmon farms and polycarbonate sheeting have been sourced from Nortenergy in Shetland where they have withstood gales of up to force 12.

Islands Going Green

Gigha Battery Project 

Gigha Green Power on the community-owned Isle of Gigha have recently commissioned an Enercon E33 turbine to complement their existing three Vestas V27 wind farm. However, due to grid constraints the output of the turbine is restricted to 225kW rather than its designed 330kW output.

Whilst an updated grid connection is in the pipeline for 2015 / 2016, this presented an ideal opportunity to research and prototype an Energy Storage System to release the full potential of the turbine. A consortium led by REDT (Renewable Energy Dynamics Technology Uk Ltd) have been successful in gaining DECC funding for such a project.

The  Vanadium Redox Flow battery is due to start working in June 2015. It provides an innovative solution to an increasingly common problem by allowing a behind the meter flow battery to store any excess power and release this power when the wind drops and the capacity on the grid is available.

Its primary role is to capture currently constrained energy, charging at low cost, discharging at high cost, but it will also allow Gigha to run as closed system when the national grid is not present, by providing a temporary grid for the turbines to run.

This is the first battery of this type to be installed at this size in a working capacity and will provide valuable insight into the technology and its real world implementation.

The community of Gigha will benefit from the additional income received and it is also hoped the the system will be used to research arbitrage models and small scale network support.

For more details on this project, see the presentation by Andy Oliver of Gigha Green Power in the 2014 conference reports on the Community Energy Scotland website.

Eigg’s green grid helps win Nesta’s Big Green Challenge

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The isle of Eigg was the only Scottish finalist out 10 contestants for the £ 1 million prize offered by NESTA’S Big Green Challenge aimed at reducing a community’s carbon footprint, and one of the 3 winners in 2010.  The award-winning Eigg electrification scheme  installed in 2008 gave the islanders a good head start. The Eigg Green grid uses wind, water and sun to power the 40 homes and businesses on the island, with diesel as a back up when required.

To reduce their carbon footprint further, the islanders of Eigg focussed on cutting down their use of high CO2 emitting fossil fuels, like coal & kerosene  (used to heat residents’ homes and water) and diesel (used in the renewable electric grid back-up generators and island vehicles).

They did this by installing pilot solar thermal panels systems on three island homes and a community building, providing access to good quality wood fuel as an alternative to coal/kerosene and reducing the use of island vehicles through provision of an all year-round mini-bus run in part on recycled chip-oil whilst encouraging more walking and cycling by providing a green grant for islanders to buy new bicycles.

Growing more local food helped reduce food miles whilst reducing the amount of waste going into the skip through recycling, reducing and composting, also helped to reduce Eigg’s methane emissions through landfill.

Sharing the knowledge was an important part of the project. To that end, the islanders launched their own Island Going Green website. Thanks to S.I.F. director Frank Corcoran’s inspiring presentation at the European Small Isles Federation (ESIN) AGM in Elba in September 2010,  ESIN unanimously decided to adopt the Islands Going Green Scheme, with Sweden and Finland taking the lead.

Towards Zero Carbon Bute wins the National Energy Globe Awards

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With five years of carbon busting achievements, Fyne Futures’ Towards Zero Carbon Bute was one of the UK entries into the Energy Globe Award. Altogether there were  over 1000 entries from 120 countries.
The inspiring TZCB project reduced the islands emissions by 5,274 tonnes of CO2 and was justly rewarded by the National Energy Globe Award United Kingdom. TZCB did this delivered via recycling waste management, reuse of furniture, growing local produce, raising awareness and promoting behaviour change across a number of themes including low carbon travel initiatives, energy efficiency and renewable technologies.

Energy Globe also offers citizens a free online check to find out the individual energy saving potential. In addition with the online solar tool citizens have the option to find out how to generate and use solar energy – the tool delivers a country-specific result and takes into account the respective sunlight. The sum of the potential energy savings and the potential of solar power generated are documented continuously online on a global counter. From the end of May sustainable projects can be submitted again for Energy Globe Award 2015. All details and the entry form are available for download on www.energyglobe.info.

Fetlar, the eco-friendly island

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Islanders on Fetlar have also begun to take steps to to reduce their use of imported energy and reduce their energy bills. The Fetlar Community Association has already installed a 6kw Wind turbine to reduce both their hall’s heating costs and carbon footprin. The Fetlar Museum Trust has also installed a similar turbine to provide heating in its interpretive facility. As part of the Fetlar Community Development plan, a number of other helpful measures have been identified:

  • reducing Household Energy Consumption: In partnership with the Energy Saving Trust we are aiming to start a project to help people reduce energy consumption in their homes. Energy Saving Trust officers will conduct home visits to complete an initial energy audit and offer advice on energy saving measures. They will also highlight schemes which give householders help with the costs of upgrading insulation and heating systems as well as installation of heat pumps and renewables.
  • Electric Transport: the Community has secured funding to purchase an electric minibus to be  charged by a linked wind turbine. Excess energy would be used to provide heating for the local Primary School and Nursery. This vehicle will provide a much better solution to the transport needs of islanders and replace up to two diesel powered vehicles.
  • Reducing Food Miles: A number of people on the island already grow there own food, but not everyone has suitable space or in some cases any land. The Community is currently looking into a scheme to provide both outdoor and indoor areas for growing. In conjunction with this project it is planned to introduce a community composting scheme to recycle as much food waste as possible.

Tells us about your island and how it is going green!