Monthly Archives: June 2014

Launch of Community Energy England on 4th June


Annie and I attended the public launch of Community Energy England (CEE), along with over 250 other people at City Temple on 4th June.

CEE aims to be the “umbrella” organisation for community energy in England. Similar organisations already exist for Scotland and Wales, which aim to represent, mentor, support and help source funding for sustainable community energy projects (both generation and efficiency) – see

Membership of CEE is open to community, corporate and public organisations who share these aims. Community groups like GUCE are currently offered membership at no charge, while companies like Joju (who co-sponsored the launch event) pay annual fees on a sliding scale.

The Interim Board is chaired by Chris Church, Chair of Low Carbon Communities Network, with support of 11 other Interim Directors who include Kathy Smyth (Wey Valley Solar Schools) and Agamemnon Otero (Brixton Energy).

The full Board will be elected at the first AGM, probably on 4th September in Oxford.

Overall impressions:

It was highly stimulating to be in the same room as so many other people all involved with community energy. It truly feels like “an idea whose time has come”. All the speakers offered something of interest, and several described schemes which raise the bar considerably on what is possible for GUCE.

One highlight of the day was the speech and q&a session with Ed Davey, Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change (DECC). It was notable that he spoke a lot about energy, but not at all about climate change.

A rousing final speech was delivered by Alan Simpson, Chair of the Meadows Community Owned Energy Company (MOZES) in Nottingham. Some quotes (not exact):

“I became an MP with the aim of making the world a better place. Eighteen years later I left politics for the same reason”.

“The next 11 months before the election present a unique opportunity. Instead of letting politicians tell us what they’re going to do, we must make them so scared that they ask us what we want… … and we must ask for everything. Make sure they know our vote will only go to those who tick every single box”.

That’s a good question – what do we want? Judging from conversations during the day, the most important thing we want government to provide is a stable policy framework which encourages investment in local communities.

Raising the bar for GUCE

Big fund raising

It was pointed out that until the National Grid came about, gas and electricity were originally generated within local communities. For example, electricity first came to Kings Langley from the Watford Electricity Utility in 1922 with cables along the road all the way to Hemel Hempstead. Until 1898 there was a small gas company at the bottom of Church Lane.

Community Energy Co-ops are now raising hundreds of thousands of pounds, even millions, and then finding the places to install solar panels. Examples: RepowerBalcombe, Swindon Sustainable Energy, RegenSW. These projects all place strong emphasis on generating employment.

While the Queen’s Speech mentions “shared ownership” with larger enterprises, it was stressed that community ownership is essential. (Which raises a question: what happens to GUCE’s energy generation in 20 years, when our panels are handed to the school? Is our role  then to purchase and resell surplus energy?)

Whole house refits

Jonathan Atkinson of the Carbon Co-op in Manchester ( described how they take advantage of bulk buying (including solar panels) to reduce the cost of “whole house refits” which reduce energy bills by up to 80% – Transition Streets on steroids! Anyone can join the co-op for an annual membership of £35, and members also donate time to running the co-op. By borrowing from a local credit union, house owners pay for the installation, and repay the costs through savings.

Peer mentoring

GUCE were unsuccessful in our bid for the Community Energy Peer Mentoring Fund, but Chris Blake of Community Energy Wales described another scheme, which cost a similar total amount while engaging a much larger pool of mentors (their goal is 20). CEW employ a project manager with admin support, and they pay £250 per day to each mentoring group. The mentoring group can then choose to give part of this to the person who actually supports another community scheme get off the ground.

The value of personal advice far outweighs reading a “How-To” manual or Toolkit (although support can be structured around written materials) which agrees with the feedback we have received from Herts CDA meetings.

Could GUCE apply for further funds to provide a similar service to the Transition Bucks, Beds & Herts groups?

Grid structure

DECC is currently running several working parties with participation from community energy groups, which will report in the summer. One of these is looking at the problems of developing the electricity grid to cope with local generation, while the present grid structure is a based around centralised generation in large power stations remote from towns and cities.

A representative of the District Network Operator in Yorkshire observed that if we are planning to change the grid structure in such a radical way over the next 10 years, it would be good to start talking to them now.

Final quotes

“Renewable energy is at the heart of resilient communities” – Cheryl Hiles, Director of RegenSW

“We want to see new ownership models. New partnerships. New forms of ‘public’ service to enable communities to manage environmental progress themselves. But we need to make it broader than the environment and get them to see the links to the economy, to jobs, to poverty, to young people’s skills, to people’s engagement with their locality, to food, to community, to mobility, and to educating the future generations . . . in short, to everything!”
– Annie Heaton

TiK in The Villager

Transition in Kings regularly publishes in the The Villager, our local newspaper. Here are some articles from the past few years:

The Villager – April 2012

It can`t have escaped your notice that the south east of the country is now officially in a drought situation with water use restrictions coming into force from the 5th April.  This obviously includes us in Hertfordshire.  With the dry weather forecast to continue there is no prospect of the drought status changing any time soon.
For those who are on meters and pay for what they use it has always made sense to use water sparingly, there is less of an incentive for households not metered as their bills remain the same no matter how much water is used.
However, for many reasons (environmental, social and economical) it is essential to eliminate water wastage as our area is water stressed, even in the wettest of times.
The driest areas of the UK have the highest density of population, and have a water availability per head less than that of much drier countries such as Spain.
In our corner of the country a high percentage of our water comes from underground aquifers – natural reserves of water held in the chalk.  The water in the aquifer is replenished mainly by autumn, winter and spring rains.  When rainfall is well below average over several seasons levels become very low and the Environment Agency has to act to protect rivers and water supplies.  This is the situation we find ourselves in at the moment. For more information about ground water see and for the Environment Agency see

So what can we do? 

Here are a few tips and simple measures we can all take in our homes.
In the short term . . . .

1. Find out how the restrictions apply to us.  Log on to the local water company`s website for information. .   There are links to information, advice and to free and discounted water saving devices.

2. Cut down on our water demands by:

  • Turning off the tap when brushing our teeth  (can save up to 6 litres)
  • Using the washing machine or dishwasher only when we have a full load
  • Taking a short shower instead of a long shower/power shower or bath, saves energy too  (can save up to 60 litres)
  • Fitting water butts to collect rain water for use in the garden
  •  Installing water saving devices to toilets, taps and showers
  • Collecting water used to rinse salad, vegetables and fruit in a bowl to use in the garden
  • Keeping a jug of water in the fridge rather than run the tap until it runs cold
  • Collecting cold water from the tap until it runs warm
  • Using hanging baskets or planters with a reservoir to save wasting about 50% of the water which runs straight through
  • Watering plants using a watering can either early in the morning or late in the evening to cut down the amount lost by evaporation
  • Spreading a mulch around plants to help keep moisture in the soil
  • Use a bucket of water to wash the car

In the longer term . . . .

1. If you are a small household it is probably worth asking your water company to install a meter.  It is likely to result in lower usage and a lower water bill.  You can monitor your costs over the course of a year.  If during that time you want to return to a non metered supply you can.  The meter remains in place but is bypassed until you move.

2. If you are thinking of paving over your front garden in order to park a vehicle off-road look into using permeable paving or a plastic reinforcing mesh which allows you to park a car or a van but also allows the rains to soak into the ground rather than run off into the drains network.  This helps replenish the aquifer and also saves the drainage system becoming overloaded in heavy storms. 

3. Invest in a large capacity rain water collecting system.  There are several containers suitable for the domestic setting which have greater capacity than water butts.

3. Fit a seep hose irrigation system linked to rainwater harvesting to efficiently water the garden. 

We are all in this together! Using water sparingly during drought periods, and responsibly the rest of the time will not only reduce the stress on our eco-system but also reduce the stress on your wallet.
If any readers have useful water saving tips then please let us know and we will post them on our website.  Email ideas to:  and catch up with what`s happening at
Our next meeting will be during the week beg April 16th April and it will be on the subject of local food.  If you are interested in growing your own veg, finding out about local food suppliers, have some land you would like help to cultivate or would like to link with someone with space for you to grow some veg, or anything to do with food then come along.  You might be surprised just how many local producers there are on our doorstep.   Confirmation of the date and details will be on our website very soon.  If you would like to be kept informed of what we are doing drop us an email and we will be in touch.
We hope to see you at our next meeting,

Karen, Vicky, Julie, Cyrille and Barbara on behalf of TiK

The Villager – March 2012

Fun and exciting! – Come and Play The Perspectivity Game at Charter Court on Tuesday 13th March.
The game puts players in the shoes of national leaders. Each participant is responsible for the expansion of a virtual economy on the game board. The growth process encompasses the issues that our world leaders are all too familiar with: growth spurts, limited resources, international negotiations, downturns and conflicts. The players face the crucial trade- off between long term sustainability and short term economic growth.
If you would like to join in the fun please confirm with us at

Well Done Kings Langley!

Considering TiK screened it’s shocking Fracking film on one of the coldest, snowiest days of the year it was a great success; 40 people attended; even Brighton, with its green heritage only achieved 10 more.  Sincere thanks to all those who helped; to Clare James Health Food Shop in the village for sponsoring some of the local drinks to keep us warm and to the Rudolph Steiner School for hosting us and all their help in putting it on.
If you think Fracking is a good way forward to keep the lights on, we say, Please, Please Think Again, rise up and say NO. One attendee put it very simply “Where is the public rage and outcry”?  Well! There is one but it’s not nearly loud enough! Just one example are the people in the Welsh Vale of Glamorgan who are fighting “tooth and nail” and struggling.  You may have heard about the earth tremors in Blackpool, but did you know about the number of chemicals used and how easy it is for the water table to be poisoned? If not, then please arm yourself with the facts: check out Sign the HM Government petition at  TiK are in the process of writing to the Department for Energy and Climate Change demanding an outright ban.

What’s on nearby?

To help raise awareness as part of national Climate Week (12-18 March, see Transition Town Berkhamsted are holding a Question Time style debate at 1930 for 2000 on Weds 14 March, entitled “What On Earth Should We Do About Climate Change?”, which will be held at the Centenary Theatre in Berkhamsted. Panelists are prestigous names in the area of climate change, such as Nick Robins (Head of the Climate Change Centre of Excellence at HSBC) and Martin Haigh, a strategist with Shell. Entry will be free, but they will be asking for donations to cover costs and support any further work.

ECO Hero

Our ECO Hero of the Month is 10:10 – check out and for some serious success stories.

Green Tip of the Month

During Feb the South East joined most of East Anglia in a state of drought.  Check out these sites for more Water Butts:-,

The Villager – February 2012

Following several very successful community workshops we have managed to articulate the following vision.   It is not written in stone and we would welcome our community’s comments, observations and ideas for revision as we move forward towards a sustainable future together during 2012.
“Our vision of Kings Langley in 2040 is one of a resilient, collaborative and inter-dependent community that meets many of the needs of its residents using local and renewable resources.
The local economy thrives.  There are community initiatives that encourage and sustain local enterprises which are underpinned by relevant and inclusive education, health and communication systems.
Kings Langley plays its part in supporting national and international agendas to encourage the development of global systems for a sustainable future.”
Our next regular meeting is scheduled for 22nd February, 7.30pm at the Parish Council offices when we hope to get to know each other better by exploring “The Perspectivity Game”.  We hope to see you before then, however, at the screening of the documentary Gasland (see last month’s Villager) on 10th February at 7.30pm in the Rudolph Steiner School’ s Cinema.  Please do not hesitate to bring along your feedback on the above vision or let us know by email at

Suggestions for New Year Resolutions
Teach your children or grandchildren sustainability by showing them how to compost and grow their own food – check out BBC Gardening Website or
If you haven’t got enough garden space or are waiting for an allotment, we can match you up with several people with large gardens who would be only too glad to consider sharing them. Contact us at the above email address for more information.
involve your legs more by walking and cycling. . Check out before you book your next flight abroad.
Keep your heating bills and CO² emissions down by checking you have the recommended amount of loft insulation (270mm depth), fit draught proofing where you can, turn your heating controls down by 1° or investigate generating your own energy. Useful link:

The Villager – January 2012

Transition in Kings and Rudolf Steiner  Cinema Club
Invite you to a screening of Josh Fox’s Academy Nominated film
A film about fracking

 February 10th at 7.30pm at Rudolf Steiner Theatre
Langley Hill, Kings Langley, WD4 9HG
There is no charge, but donations gladly accepted to help cover costs

The evening will include:
A brief introduction followed by the film,
refreshments and time for discussion afterwards.

What is fracking and why is it important to you?

Fracking is where high pressures, explosives and special chemicals are used to fracture rocks and release the oil or gas that they contain. This has been known to pollute water sources and reports suggest that fracking was to blame for the recent earthquakes near Blackpool. Unfortunately, fracking will soon be considered in our area.


The Villager – December 2011

We would like to wish every one of our fellow villagers and neighbours a Fun Christmas and a very happy and peaceful New Year.

Thank you so much to the Parish Council for the use of their meeting room once again. The  focus of this month’s  discussion was to move from looking at Kings Langley in the months ahead from a family point of view to looking at Kings Langley in the generations ahead from a village point of view.
We started by understanding the term “backcasting”.  This is the process of starting where we want to be and working back to define the steps needed to get there.  So in our context we need to decide what we would like Kings Langley to look like in 2 generations time (50 years).
We did not finalise a vision at this meeting so we are planning another workshop in the coming weeks.  We do not have a date as we go to press but if you would like details of the next meeting or the minutes of previous meetings and you are not already on our mailing list, please do not hesitate to contact us at .
Save money on your energy bills by covering up the T-Shirt with a few of those lovely old winter woollies and turning the heating down by 1°.  If that’s too easy, do a review of your insulation and fit some extra draught excluder.  If that’s too easy start saving for a Wood Burner.

The Villager – November 2011

A very positive third community Transition meeting took place on the morning of Saturday 15th October. Cyrille Jegu, Sustainability Consultant, led us in recording our core values.  19 people, including three teenagers, representing a broad cross-section of the village, were all actively involved in discussion and decision making.  Part 2 of the Workshop will involve creating a Vision for the group and will take place on Saturday 12th November, 2011 at the Parish Council Hall at 10.00am til 12 noon.  If you would like to be part of this very exciting workshop please let us know at  or leaving a post on the website

So what exactly is a Transition Town?

Well!  Rob Hopkins who helped create the Transition Model says “We truly don’t know if this will work.  Transition is a social experiment on a massive scale”.  It would be great if it did though, wouldn’t it?!!
Here’s how the Transition Network and Rob describes it:-
“A transition Initiative (which could be a town, village, university or island etc) is a community-led response to the pressures of climate change, fossil fuel depletion and increasingly, economic contraction.  There are thousands of initiatives around the world starting their journey to answer this crucial question:
“how can we make our community stronger and happier as we deal with the impacts of peak oil ( and economic contraction while at the same time urgently reducing CO2 emissions (”
Here’s how it all appears to be evolving:-
It begins when a small group comes together with the above shared concern.  They recognise that:-
• living with less energy – imperative because of climate change and inevitable because of fossil fuel depletion – is an opportunity if we plan for it, but a threat if we wait for it to happen to us.
• we were very clever and creative while using increasingly large amounts of energy and we’ll need to be just as clever and creative as we learn to live with decreasing levels
• our communities currently lack the resilience to withstand some of the disruptions that’ll accompany climate change and unplanned energy descent
• we have to work together and we have to work now, rather than waiting for the government or “someone else”
• this transition has to happen at an inner personal level as well as a community level
• by unleashing the collective genius of the communities we live in, we can proactively design our own energy descent and build ways of living that are more connected, more enriching and that recognize the ecological limits of our biosphere.
They begin by forming an initiating group and then adopt the Transition Model ( in order to engage a significant proportion of the people in their community to help find the answers to the above BIG question.”
See this info and more at

Date of Next Meeting: Saturday 12th November, 10am, Parish Council Meeting Room 

The Villager – October 2011

A wide range of enthusiastic representatives living in our community, from a tiny tot to a man in his nineties, gathered in the Parish Council’s meeting room on Saturday 17th September to declare their interest in the Village’s transition to a sustainable place to live and work.   We now have 56 people on our mailing list which is a fantastic start to our support base.

It was decided that we need to start by focusing on what our purpose and core values are and to that end the next meeting will be a brain storming session  led by resident Cyrille Jegu who is familiar with the Transition Movement and highly experienced in helping groups establish their purpose.  If you would like to be involved in this process please email us at with your contact details.

A range of issues were discussed: concern over the future use of the Royal Mail Sorting Office building; the organisation of a Spring Green Fair including high profile Speaker(s), land share opportunities for veg and fruit growing, community orchard, allotment, egg farm; how to engage the Community’s Youth in the issues affecting their future; how to bring together other local green organisations in a united community effort; market for local sale of local produce; ban the plastic bag campaign. The list was endless.

We hope, this month, you have purchased some scrummy and healthy local produce from Abbots in Transition’s community market held on the same day ( or managed to visit Hemel in Transitions’s  (HiT) new community food garden at Dacorum Central Nursery, Two Waters Road (see  or even maybe joined in with Berkhamsted’s “car free weekend”.