Sustainable Kings Langley

John Ingleby – Secretary of Grand Union Community Energy Ltd.

The Sun delivers more energy to Earth in an hour than we use in a year from fossil fuels, nuclear and all renewables combined

For the scientifically minded:
Solar energy reaching planet Earth every hour = 174 quadrillion kWh (kilowatt hours)
World annual energy demand = 0.174 quadrillion kWh ( A quadrillion has fifteen zeros.)
In other words, a thousand times more! Of course, if it’s cloudy only a tenth of the sunlight reaches Earth’s surface, and none at all in the night. But you get the idea. So if you worry about how Britain will keep the lights on without nuclear power, just remember the vast amounts of energy available every day from that great nuclear reactor in the sky.

Moreover, the sun shines everywhere! If we want a sustainable future for our children and grandchildren, this very ubiquity points to a need for widespread social developments, and not just more technology.
In any case, technology already provides well-proven ways for harvesting solar energy. On rooftops and alongside motorways we see solar photovoltaic panels generating electricity, even on cloudy days. The sun’s warmth heats solar thermal systems. Giant turbines, like Kings Langley’s M25 landmark, harness the winds that blow from the sun warming large areas of Earth’s surface.

Solar energy is called “renewable” because it doesn’t consume coal, oil or gas (known as “fossil fuels”) which are extracted from the Earth. Solar energy is also “clean”, unlike fossil fuels which emit carbon dioxide and methane gases which are driving climate change.

Technology has also given us systems for producing renewable heat energy by burning biomass, and anaerobic digestion of plant and animal waste. However these systems do produce polluting gases, so they are not so “clean”, but they are considered “renewable” because they absorb the same amount of carbon dioxide when their fuels are created. Another source of heat, geothermal energy, is both clean and available for millions of years to come.

The sun and winds are intermittent, but continuous “base energy” could be obtained from the tides in which the British Isles abound. It has been calculated that ten tidal barriers around the coast in places like Swansea Bay could produce as much base energy as three new nuclear power stations, without hazardous waste.

In a further move to overcome the intermittent nature of sun and wind, electric battery systems are becoming available (including in electric vehicles) which will store surplus solar energy and then release it when needed.
Turning to the social point of view then, “sustainability” means meeting our needs today without jeopardising the needs of future generations. Renewable energy is therefore an essential component of sustainability. (Another essential component – sustainable food supplies – will be discussed in a future Parish Magazine article).
Apart from the tides, nearly all forms of renewable energy are generated close to their point of use. This is radically different from our present energy system, which is based on a small number of very large plants supplying us with electricity and gas through the national grid.

Renewable energy therefore means local energy, and this has enormous significance for Kings Langley. It provides the means to develop our own local energy solutions, which will also contribute to the future for our children and grandchildren.

It is not widely known that the Localism Act 2011 provides the legal basis for communities like ours to plan for our own sustainable future. In other words, we have the right to plan our use of land and buildings, and develop local renewable energy and fresh food supplies. Transition in Kings (TiK) are very pleased to be working with the Parish Council Vision Project towards a Parish Plan, which we very much hope will eventually lead to a statutory Neighbourhood Plan.

Models for such plans are now well established, and over 1,600 neighbourhoods like ours have started working on their own plans, including 35 in Hertfordshire. A further aim of these plans is to develop the local economy by creating new businesses, thereby circulating more money locally. Community energy groups like Grand Union Community Energy (GUCE) are demonstrating how a local energy business can be co-operatively owned and run, while TiK’s community farm in Rectory Lane is in its second year of producing and selling local fresh food. As these schemes develop they will provide more opportunities for employment and reduce our dependence upon giant (often foreign-owned) companies.

Could it be that Brexit expresses a desire to rediscover the community spirit which older people recall from WWII and its aftermath? Perhaps we can use this “reset” in relationships to find common ground for working together to achieve changes on a similar scale.
I certainly hope so.

1. Solar FAQ’s – Sandia National Laboratories
2. Rob Hopkins – TED Talk 2009
3. The Burning Answer – a User’s Guide to the Solar Revolution
4. Friends of the Earth – A Severn Barrage or tidal lagoons?

Inner Transition – The People Petal

Samina Ali – TiK People Petal and Inner Transition Lead

Following a successful six years of Transition in Kings (TiK) – a local manifestation of the growing international Transition Town Network – the Inner Transition subgroup was created, called the ‘People Petal’. To date, TiK’s subgroups have been focused on food, energy, transport and economy, which have been appropriately entitled ‘Petals’ in accordance with the embedded theme of nature, and environmental grassroots action on climate change, also represented in our logo. This is now the time to make a shift…putting the people back at the heart of TiK, as it’s the people that actively make this community happen.

When people get involved with a Transition Town of this kind, it can take up many extra personal hours, and is often navigated around already busy lives with work and family and other commitments. This has been shown to lead to “burn out” in many of these intentional communities, which results in the death of projects and decreased motivation due to the complete exhaustion of its contributors. Inner Transition is a movement of intention adopted to help prevent this from happening.

As a result of creating the People Petal back in November 2015, the members of TiK now have a monthly gathering that focuses on the individuals who attend, where they can speak freely about their interests, appreciations, concerns, challenges, and vulnerabilities without interruption, and with the dedicated “heartful” attention of the group. It offers a nourishing and supportive space that can be difficult to make time for in busy societies, but is nevertheless crucial for humanity.

Another arm of the People Petal offers support with ‘tension and conflict’ resolution through coaching, mediation, training, and facilitated circle work, in order to help build deeper and more resilient relationships. This is crucial for any diverse groups that have come together with a common passion. Many of us have different ideas and ways of doing things, and so it is vital to work through ways of meeting, whilst being inclusive of a variety of needs, and whilst moving towards agreed goals.

The third, and most recent arm of the People Petal, is involved with paying special attention to new members of TiK so that their skills and interests are aligned with the Petals of best fit, and they can clearly see where they can get involved and make a difference.

Inner Transition relates to the internal transformation an individual and collective community need to undergo in order to maintain resilience, whilst weathering the storms, or floating along with the natural ebb and flow of our ever-changing external and internal environment. Therefore, effort and care need to be placed with respect to everyone involved and their inner worlds, so that we come together as a stronger force than any single one of us and, of course, with any of you who decide to join us – you are all very welcome!

I believe, if we look after and nourish the people of TiK, TiK will cultivate a successful and supportive community because, although the sum is greater than its parts, it is the people of TiK that make TiK happen.

Taking sustainability personally

Robert Mostyn

Robert is the immediate-past Chair of TiK. He is planning another blog post that builds upon this one, which presents how citizens can become potent change-makers in achieving sustainability.


I have been reading in the news over the last 24 years how human activity, principally by burning fossil fuels, has contributed to a new phenomenon, global warming. Now a warmer Britain may sound appealing, very appealing in fact, but that is just looking at the issue from a personal convenience perspective. The thing is, global warming is a global issue that is much bigger than me and much bigger than Britain.

Observation number 1: perspective is everything
As a young man, I attended a seminar where it was suggested that we create “A world that worked for everyone, with no one left out”. This idea rocked my world. It struck a chord so deep that I still feel its reverberations in my heart 34 years later. Through various other conversations I had during that time I learned that so many people lived in the world with seriously diminished means and with that, a diminished dignity. This was the beginning of me shifting my personal perspective from “how do I get ahead in the world?” to “how do I get to live in the world with everyone else?”.

It was also around this time that I became fascinated with economics. In trying to understand how the world worked, I was compelled to understand the nature of the economy. This was an elusive subject…deeply personal yet profoundly global. I never studied it formally but I would devour articles that came my way about the nature of money. In short, I was discovering that the world mattered to me. I wanted to make a difference in the world. Could I do that?

So many issues would pass through my thoughts: fairness, being remunerated for hard work, valuing others, my own sense of being short of money, I deserve more, people who “make things happen” should be rewarded, and so on. I am a Libran, able to see both sides of a situation. No matter which perspective I took, there was always a tussle between equity, justice and freedom. What is right? What is fair? Who am I in the matter? What difference can I make?

Observation number 2: the only thing I have a complete say in is my own life
What I choose to study, what conversations I wish to engage in, the partner I choose and what opinion I want to express. Each one may have consequences I did not anticipate further down the line, but each one is of my own making.

While I was enquiring into what would make the world work, I could not help but be confronted with… daunted by… the innumerable things that weren’t working! Polluted rivers; oceans full of plastic; air thick with smog; chemicals in the water to keep it “clean”; pesticides, herbicides and antibiotics in food… I was (still am) being poisoned, both physically and spiritually! It is easy to be overwhelmed by the complexities of life. Surely someone would fix all this!

Waiting for that someone, I became quite despondent. Surely this someone would explain what the specific problems were and how to solve them. If not someone, then the government. No?

Inherent tensions / conflicts of interest within the system
It occurred to me that there was an unending, unwholesome loop in managing the affairs of the economy and state. It goes roughly like this:

  • politicians are not there to impose their will, they are there to reflect the will of the people
  • politicians like to be in power and for that they have to be popular
  • politicians have to be popular with voters (for their vote) and businesses owners (for financial support)
  • it would be difficult for any political party to implement a sustainability regime if there was anything unpopular about it – with either grouping above
  • a buoyant economy helps us all
  • even a steady economy is considered stagnant and therefore undesirable
  • economic incentives (the pursuit of efficiency), by its very definition, is geared towards taking people out of the production flow (therefore, out of the economy).

Invisibility is masking urgency
Over the last 100 years, extracting fossil fuels from the earth and burning them has resulted in a massive transition of carbon out of the earth’s crust into the atmosphere. It’s real, it’s seriously going to threaten our existence, but it’s invisible and the effects are not immediate. And out of sight has a tendency to be out of mind.

Several years ago I was reading a “State of the Planet” report published by the World Wildlife Fund. It said that if everyone on earth led an average British lifestyle, we would need three planets to sustain everyone. This was a *jolt* moment for me. Here I was, leading what I thought was a modest lifestyle, and discovering it required three planets (if I believe everyone on earth should have access to resources on an equitable basis)! My lifestyle is destroying the planet! Since then I have implemented a number of eco enhancements to our house.

Who do I turn to?
I need the government to tell me what to do, and I’ll do it. If I am a good citizen, I will comply and everything will be OK. Right? Tell me this then:

  • Which government will introduce laws that will curb my lifestyle by a factor of 3? That is 2/3 less travel to work, 2/3 less heating of the home in winter, 2/3 less food.
  • Which business owners will support a political party that reduces their business flows by 2/3?

For these reasons alone, I believe solving the sustainability problem will not be implemented by a government. And there isn’t much incentive for business to solve the problem either.

I am the key
The implementation of sustainability practice is not going to be implemented by government – it is too risky for politicians. And it’s not going to be implemented directly by industry.

If industry is simply a reflection of what the market wants, and I am part of that market, then my purchases (my consumption choices) are what shapes industry. This is the elegance of supply versus demand theory. I could criticise a battery manufacturer for using nasty chemicals in their manufacture, or producing a product that does not recycle easily, but if I am the one buying their product (and I do), I cannot blame the company. The company is simply an expression of me!

The shape of our sustainable future cannot be determined by government or industry. It is being shaped now. I can start determining sustainability implementation with my next purchase. And the next one. And the one after that…