Category Archives: TiK Energy news

Energy initiatives from Transition in Kings

The UK’s First Eco-Town

Lindsey March

Bicester is famous all over the world as the site of the UK’s biggest tourist attraction, Bicester Village.  The signs in Japanese that you see in London are to direct visitors there.  It offers an immersive shopping experience, designed to help you consume as much fashion as you can manage to pack into your huge suitcase.  But it may soon become as synonymous with restrained, sustainable, comfortable but also aware and proud ways of living, made possible in the Bicester Eco-Town, where residents began to move in in 2016.  The second phase will have 6,000 homes.

TiK (Transition in Kings) hosted a talk by Nicole Lazarus who told us about Bicester Eco-Town.  It follows on BedZED, a development in London which is sustainable and also a successful community, where houses sell for 10-15% above the average local price.  She worked on this project and is now the Oxfordshire programme manager for Bioregional, working with a major housing provider and the local council to build the new town, whose first phase has 393 homes, a primary school, a community centre, an eco-pub and an eco-business and retail centre.

Bioregional is the organisation through which these projects are built.    It is guided by the idea of ‘One Planet Living’ – seeking to make it easier for ordinary people to live happy, healthy lives within their fair share of the earth’s resources, leaving space for wildlife and wilderness.  This idea has ten principles, covering health and happiness, equity and the local economy, culture and community, land use and wildlife, sustainable water, local and sustainable food, sustainable materials, sustainable transport, zero waste and zero carbon.  They seek to deliver ambitious but practical products and services, which bring a commercial advantage for partners.  http://www.bioregional.co.uk/

All the homes will be built to Code for Sustainable Homes Level 5, incorporating triple glazing, rainwater harvesting and water recycling.  Electricity will be generated from PV solar panels on every home.  Heat and hot water will come from a combined heat and power plant, and will eventually use heat supplied by an energy-from-waste facility.  There will be cycle and pedestrian routes, a bus stop within 400 metres of every home, live timetable updates in each house, charging points for electric vehicles and an electric car club.

As well as building the Eco-Town, Bioregional has delivered a lot of environmental and energy-saving projects to the residents of Bicester itself.

Bioregional constantly checks on what they have built to find whether their ideas have been successful or whether they need to be changed or modified, and communicates this follow-up research widely, so that any mistakes may be avoided by new eco-towns and villages.  They work on a policy level, national and international.  BedZED was initiated by Bioregional, developed by the Peabody Trust in partnership with Bioregional and designed with architects, ZEDfactory (based in BedZED) and Arup engineers.  The homes are all very highly insulated but also well ventilated, using the wind cowls on the roofs.  Fresh outside air is drawn into the building and pre-heated by outgoing stale air via heat exchangers.  There is a mini district heating system, and a large hot-water tank in each home helps to keep it warm in winter as well as storing hot water.

TiK was very lucky to have heard this very encouraging and inspiring talk from Nicole.  She has worked for Bioregional for 20 years and lived in BedZED for ten years.  With us, she had a very appreciative audience, but she often speaks to audiences of developers and other business people, who are not necessarily so receptive.  Speaking personally, I was very encouraged, while at the same time thinking, ‘Why are developers not required by law to do many of the things that BedZED were demonstrating back in 2002?’  Bioregional estimates that residents of BedZED save about £3,258 a year in transport, water and energy bills.  That would be a worthy subject for the talents of the advertising specialists, along with advertisements for the delights of Bicester Village.

Two films about climate change which couldn’t be more different!

John Ingleby – Chair, Transition in Kings

My wife and I went to see the film “Tomorrow” by Cyril Dion and Mélanie Laurent, and then four days later we saw “The Age of Consequences” by Jared P Scott.  Both films are about climate change, but they couldn’t be more different.

The Age of Consequences” is one of several films about climate change, including Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” and others, such as “Years of Living Dangerously” by James Cameron.  These films are all well made and lavishly presented, with the theme best described as “Stark Warnings to Humanity”.  They graphically illustrate how, if we don’t change our ways, our planet Earth is becoming more dangerous and less habitable.

My problem with “The Age of Consequences” and similar doom-laden films is that they don’t give any clues about what we could possibly do to avert disaster.  After watching pictures of devastation from droughts, storms, melting ice, warming oceans, mass migrations and so-on, the cynic in me begins to notice how parts of the film are actually computer special effects.  Small wonder that so many are persuaded this whole issue is a carefully choreographed “hoax”.

So I want to explain why “Tomorrow” is so different from many other films dealing with climate change.  To begin with, “Tomorrow” was crowd-funded from the inspiration of Cyril Dion and Mélanie Laurent when their first child was born.  Where could they find real-life examples of people and communities today, who are creating practical solutions for a more sustainable, equitable and just way of life?

Tomorrow” was produced in France, and first shown to wide acclaim at the Paris Conference in December 2015.  It took just over a year to add English sub-titles, and the Transition Network (based in Totnes) is arranging UK screenings for a minimal charge of £100 per event.  Most of these are being organised by local Transition groups, and shown to small audiences in town and village halls.

The story of Cyril and Mélanie’s journey is different because climate change is rarely mentioned.  Instead, their story illustrates the human activities which produce climate change alongside alternative approaches, to show how destruction caused by those activities can be avoided, and even reversed.

Did you know, for example, that while small-scale farming obviously involves much human effort, each acre produces on average five times more food compared with today’s large industrialised farms?  Moreover, small-scale farming is better at preserving soil structures and absorbing rain and nutrients.  How did we come to accept industrialised agriculture as the natural and inevitable way to produce food, with its demands for ever-growing inputs of water, fertilisers and energy?

The term “permaculture”, meaning permanent (i.e. sustainable) agriculture, describes modern approaches derived from the study of age-old methods of food production.  Cyril and Mélanie’s journey shows how permaculture methods are being used to grow food in today’s urban environments.

Tomorrow” is a positive, affirming and inspirational film, exploring creative solutions in the fields of food, energy, transport, economics and education.  In their travels to many different parts of the world, the couple visit permaculture farms, urban agriculture projects, community-owned renewable-energy schemes, local currencies, creative schools, and an ambitious recycling project.

If you search YouTube for “#Tomorrowfilm“, you will see how this film leaves people with a more optimistic and positive outlook for their future.  It is opening eyes to new possibilities for our own communities.

Future screenings of “Tomorrow” can be found by Googling “Tomorrow Transition” followed by the town name below.  So far, I only know about these dates and places:

Tulse Hill – May 2nd;   Wembley – May 5th;   Letchworth – June 20th;   Brighton – June 21st

Energy Efficiency in your home or business

Jim Attenborough

The best starting point for trying to reduce the amount of energy you use is to be aware of past use so you can compare your use post any actions you have taken.  The best way to do this is via meter readings rather than estimated bills; this can be done by taking direct meter readings or, if available, using the online data many suppliers supply via their websites.  You can then inform those taking part that their actions are having an effect by producing results – people tend to lose interest unless they can see their actions are having a positive effect.

Then you will want to communicate your plans to your family / employees so you can get everyone on board and think about setting an initial achievable target (say 10% reduction) together with some sort of incentive for participants.  You may even decide to have a small fine for those caught leaving items on, like a swear jar!

The easiest and cheapest way to reduce use is to cut out waste first, ensuring that lights and appliances are turned off when not in use, doors and windows are closed in cold weather, taps are turned off and leaks are fixed.  (Even if you are not on a water meter yet, it still takes energy to produce our water and meters are being rolled out in our area.)  And don’t forget to include fuel for vehicles – adapting your driving style alone can reduce fuel consumption by up to 40%.  Using your car less, lift sharing and planning journeys better will help you save even more.

If you have a smart meter or plug-in energy meter, you will be able to find out which are the most energy-hungry appliances in your home by switching one on at a time and seeing how much energy each uses and then you can make some big savings quickly – remember every saving, no matter how big or small, adds up.  It is estimated that the UK could cut energy use by 20-25% just by cutting out waste!

You may qualify for a grant or free energy-saving devices.  Speak to your gas, electricity, water supplier and local council.  Some will at the very least be able to advise you on cutting use and you may get loft insulation, water-saving devices or low-energy bulbs for free!

Once you have been trying for a couple of months and have an idea how much money you have saved and will save, you can reinvest those savings into items that are more energy-efficient than those you already own.  If you are planning an extension or home improvements, factor energy saving in to help you future-proof your home.

Staff at Hemel Hempstead Fire Station have cut electricity use by 54% and gas use by 65% in a period of 5 years by following the simple steps outlined here, helped by the County Council reinvesting some of the savings in new boilers, LED lights on sensors, double glazing and insulation.  This has saved the taxpayer almost £37,000 and reduced CO2 emissions.  It’s a great example of what can be achieved.

Getting together with other neighbours / businesses to share best practice and ideas is also worthwhile.  Transition in Kings (TiK) ran a trial of “Transition Streets” with 34 homeowners in Kings Langley that on average saves over £500 a year for each household, saving money and helping to protect the environment, as well as social benefits such as helping people get to know their neighbours better.  Each group of up to ten neighbours had an initial meeting with a facilitator, then met every month or so to work through a handbook supplied by TiK which is crammed full of good information to help householders cut use and get grants.  Some of those groups met after completing the workbook and in the feedback said that they felt much better informed about energy saving, environmental matters and felt a greater sense of community after taking part.

A new round of Transition Streets will be starting in the autumn so, if you think you would enjoy taking part, keep an eye out in this magazine and Parish noticeboards or pop along to TiK’s open meeting at the Parish Council offices in Charter Court, Vicarage Lane on the second Saturday of every month 10-12 am.