Archive for August, 2010

British Gas launches solar panels scheme with ‘£1k a year profit’ claim

August 26, 2010

More than 12 million homeowners would be in line to save up to £1,000 a year, should they install solar panels, says British Gas.

The utility firm is the latest in a host of companies offering to install electricity-generating systems on homes to take advantage of a government scheme that pays the owners of solar panels for the ‘renewable’ electricity they generate.

The sudden allure of solar power is less to do with planet-saving and more to do with companies or individuals banking the lucrative feed-in-tariffs (Fits) for every unit of electricity generated – currently 41.3p per KWh, irrespective of whether you consume the power at the time or not.

British Gas says the Fits payments can be worth £1,000 per annum, though with export tariffs (for power not used) added, they can be worth even more. They are guaranteed by the government for 25 years, are payable via the utility company, and will rise in line with inflation.

British Gas has entered the market with the launch of two schemes. If you opt for its “rent-a-roof” scheme, it will install solar panels on your roof for free and you will benefit from the electricity you generate during the day. The installation is free but you will not own the panels and so British Gas will pocket the Fits cash for the length of the scheme – 25 years. The rent-a-roof deal is limited to the first 1,500 British Gas customers who apply.

Alternatively, you can install your own solar panels and British Gas will offer you a two-year interest-free loan, supplied by Hitachi Capital, with which to borrow the upfront costs. You will receive the feed-in-tariffs as well as benefit from the generation of cheaper power. BG says the upfront cost generally ranges from £10,000 to £15,000 depending on the size of the roof.

With the latter deal, consumers should be aware that they will need to ensure they keep up with repayments, which could be as much as £625 per month on a £15,000 across 24 months.

Cathy Debenham, who runs YouGen.co.uk, a website devoted to helping people thinking of installing this, and other similar technology says the rent a roof scheme, “does not sound any different from anyone else’s scheme. The savings they make will depend on their electricity usage and their supplier.”

In short, different suppliers treat exported energy differently so some customers will find they save more than others.

Debenham adds that the Fits scheme is “great, but only if you can afford the capital. There is no government-supported scheme for those without the money.”

Jon Kimber, the managing director of British Gas New Energy, said: “Solar power will revolutionise the way British homes generate and use energy. Customers [will] reap the benefits of this technology to cut their electricity bills, reduce their carbon footprint and earn a yearly income.”

A recent Guardian Money investigation found that it makes financial sense to install the panels yourself. Current remortgaging rates are no more than around 5%-6%, and often lower, but even if you end up paying 12% interest you will still make a huge profit. Most calculations suggest buyers will be able to pay off the costs after nine to 10 years, depending on how much they pay for finance. Most households will make a risk-free profit of £20,000 over the 25 years while enjoying lower electricity bills.

If you are buying the panels upfront, check they come with a warranty. And if you do opt for free solar panels, make sure you get them from a reputable company as you will likely enter into a long-term contract.

Debenham says that, while savings are clearly the incentive with the Fits solar schemes, if consumers install the panels themselves, they will begin to see the green benefits. “It changes forever your relationship with electricity and energy because you can see the impact it has on your bills and how much electricity different things consume. It can teach you to conserve energy.”

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Come and celebrate at our first conference with an MP!

August 26, 2010

BOOK BY THIS FRIDAY for a 25% early bird discount

Grab a first class stamp, print out the booking form and send a cheque, or you can now book and pay directly online!

Conference runs from Friday 10th September 12.30pm to Monday 13th September 4pm, Birmingham Conservatoire, Paradise Place, Fletchers Walk, Birmingham, B3 3HG. Five minutes walk from Birmingham New Street station. You can attend – and book now – for 1, 2, 3 or all 4 days.

Australia elects its first Green MP…

August 22, 2010

…and the UK’s first Green MP broadcasts congratulations to Melbourne celebration party

Yesterday Australia became the second Commonwealth country this year to elect its first Green Party MP – and in a show of solidarity from the other side of the planet, the Australian Greens invited Britain’s first Green MP to broadcast a live message to their celebration party in Melbourne.

Caroline Lucas, the new Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion, congratulated Adam Bandt (1), the new Green Party MP for Melbourne, who like Caroline won the progressive vote to take a seat from a Labour party. Caroline today spoke of her delight in the Australian Greens’ success:

“It’s excellent news for Australia, because the Greens are the party nowadays offering the socially progressive policies as well as the best environmental policies.

“And it’s excellent news for the world, because with a stronger Green influence we can expect Australia to be pushing harder for a proper global agreement on climate change.”

Adam Bandt had been expected to take the house of representatives (lower house) seat of Melbourne from the Labor Party. This seat covers the inner city suburbs of Melbourne and had been held by Labor since 1900.

According to an official from party leader Senator Bob Brown’s team, “This seat has been Labor’s heartland, but now many of the progressive voters of Melbourne have become disillusioned by Labor’s conservative stance on refugees, climate change and gay marriage as well as many other issues.”

The early indication is that Adam Bandt polled 52% of the vote “after preferences”, the vote being held under the AV (additional vote) system currently under consideration for the UK house of commons. Mr Bandt may even find himself in a “balance of power” situation.

Green Party campaign won progressive vote

As with their English colleagues in Brighton Pavilion, the Australian Greens won the Melbourne seat through an effective targeting strategy and a strong message to progressive voters on social issues, as well far stronger environmental policies than the bigger parties were offering.

The Australian Greens had been polling at 13-16% of the national vote over the last 6 months, and this held up during the election campaign. At the time of writing it’s too early to tell how many new senators (upper house representatives) the Greens will gain, but a vote of this size could mean five new seats in the senate. This would bring the number of Greens in the upper chamber, which is elected under the single transferable vote system, to ten.

An Australians Greens insider said today as the votes were being counted:

“Even if we only get two or three new Senators all commentators agree that we will hold the balance of power in the senate. This means we will have a much more influential role in the parliament and in amending and moving legislation. Senator Bob Brown, leader of the Australian Greens, has had unprecedented media attention during the campaign with good coverage of our health, education, transport and environmental policies.

Norwich Campaign to Form First Green Council

August 17, 2010

The Green Party is campaigning become the largest party on Norwich City Council in a mass by-election on September 9 and is aiming to form the country’s first Green administration.

Our Party have a great opportunity to become the largest party at City Hall in local elections taking place on Thursday 9th September.

For the last two years the Green Party has been the second largest party at City Hall, just two seats behind Labour.

On 9th September there are elections taking place for a third of the City Council seats – one in each ward. The elections are happening at this time following a decision of a high court judge to cancel the previous Government’s plans for unitary status for Norwich.

Key Green Party policies for the Council include:

•providing more support to initiatives such as Buy Local that stengthen the local economy and support independent businesses
•helping more residents to save money on their fuel bills and reduce carbon emissions through home insulation and renewable energy schemes
•making more council decisions in public, after finding out and considering local residents’ views, and responding to residents’ enquiries more efficiently.

Lots of members from around the country have been visiting Norwich for a couple of days or more to lend a hand and learn from the well-oile…d party machine there.

Help is needed at all times but particularly before August 26 (when postal voting starts) and in the last week before 9 September. Accommodation can be provided and travel costs reimbursed if requested in advance.

Contact 01603 611909 or ngpvolunteers@yahoo.co.uk.

If you can’t make it in person, any donation you could give would be very well used – cheques should be made payable to ‘Norwich Green Party’ and sent to Steven Altman, 27 Clarendon Road, Norwich , NR2 2PN. Or signup on the pledgebank (34 contributors needed to meet the target!)

Friends of the Earth Local Groups Conference

August 17, 2010

The Friends of the Earth Local Groups Conference is taking place this year in the University of Reading on 10-12 September and is open to all members of local groups, active or otherwise.

This is a great chance to network with climate and renewable energy campaigners around the country as well as engage with other environmental issues.

Ken Livingstone (Mayor of London 2000 – 2008) will be speaking on Friday evening, There’s also a wide range of local group-led meetings and discussion groups on Motions taking place on Friday afternoon.

Click here if you’re interested. You need to book your place before next Friday 20th August.

Wind & Nuclear Power News

August 17, 2010

London Array Wind Farm Project video by American Institute PMI of Britains largest offshore wind farm project.
Click here for more.

CPRE have updated their internal briefing document entitled “Making Sense of Planning Decisions for Wind Turbines: Analysis of Cases
Quote from the CPRE website – “This briefing comprises a case file analysing selected planning decisions and is designed to help CPRE campaigners make sense of recent planning decisions for wind turbines, so that they can effectively resist proposals that would cause unacceptable damage to the countryside, and support those that do not”.
Click here for more.

Three regional clusters of offshore wind energy sites around Scotland would create more than 5,000 jobs and generate £300 million a year.
Click here for more.

New nuclear power stations to open in 2018; Chris Huhne reiterated that the Government would not subsidise the new nuclear power stations but said investors had indicated they were ready to press ahead thanks to rising gas, oil and carbon prices.
Click here for more.

South West is Set to Lead in Solar Power.

August 17, 2010

The South West is set to lead the way in solar power with applications in the pipeline for solar parks to produce up to 750MW.

Planning applications for two parks, with 2.2MW and 1.5MW peak capacity respectively, were submitted to Cornwall County Council last month. The council has also met 30 companies to discuss the parks and anticipates receiving 50 to 100 planning applications.

Cornwall’s natural resources planning team manager Adrian Lea believes that, as well as the feed-in tariff, the increase in applications for solar parks has been driven by the European Commission’s global irradiation report. It revealed that south-west England has the highest levels of irradiation in the UK.

If all the proposed developments occur, Cornwall could eventually have 750MW solar photovoltaic capacity. The UK had just 32MW in 2009.

Lea said: “Solar panels last for 25 years, as do feed-in tariffs. If developments are proposed on lower-grade agricultural land we would advise granting temporary permission. However, connectivity to the grid could be a problem with the surge in power generated.”

Planning consultant Tom Sylger Jones represents Cornwall Power, which is a group of local farmers and landowners hoping to develop a solar park and benefit from the current low carbon agenda. He said the main impediments to development are visual impact and the reduction of land used for farming.

Housing benefit cuts will increase homelessness, Green Party leader warns

August 17, 2010

“Conservative-Lib Dem cuts will hit the poorer people in society”, says Lucas

Caroline Lucas, the leader of the Green Party and MP for Brighton Pavilion, has warned that the coalition government’s cuts to housing benefit could result in increasing social problems with serious debt and homelessness.

The Green Party leader was commenting on a recent report published by homelessness charity Crisis (1). The report highlights the social risks of housing benefit cuts, which will affect 936,960 households across the UK who are currently claiming local housing allowance (LHA). On average, these households will lose over £600 a year (2).

The report also warns that cuts to housing benefit could have hidden costs in the future, in order to deal with the social problems of homelessness, including health problems and providing accommodation.

Housing benefit cut is equivalent to big increase in income tax for poorer people

Caroline Lucas MP said:

“Consider someone earning £16,000 (after tax-free allowance) and receiving housing benefit. If they lose £728 that would be the equivalent of paying an income tax rise of over 4.5 per cent (3, 4, 5).

“These particular Tory-Lib Dem cuts will leave more people struggling to pay the rent, more people falling into serious debt and ultimately more people becoming homeless.

“This is very unfair, coming at a time when many of these people are facing economic uncertainty or even redundancy.

“Once again we see the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition’s cuts hitting the poorer people in society. The government could avoid these cuts by properly tackling tax avoidance and tax evasion perpetrated by some of the wealthiest, which could raise billions of pounds a year (6).”

Green MP accuses PM of “counterproductive assault on tenants’ rights”

August 17, 2010

Cameron’s double whammy “will remove tenants’ security and discourage social mobility” says Greens’ leader

In a strongly-worded private letter, Green Party leader Caroline Lucas MP has accused the prime minister of dealing council and housing association tenants a double-whammy as the PM proposes to slash housing benefit while attacking security of tenure.

The letter was sent on 5 August but the PM has yet to respond.

In the letter, the Green Party leader and MP for Brighton Pavilion questions the PM’s evidence base and calls his proposals “ill-judged”. Mr Cameron has indicated publicly – but with no prior announcement from the Department of Communities and Local Government – that he would like to see fixed terms for all new council and housing association tenancies, lasting as little as five years.

Caroline Lucas points out that “Cutting housing benefits will serve to further increase demand for social housing, as private tenants are unable to afford their rent.”

She accuses the prime minister of “coercion”, saying that “making continued occupation of a tenant’s home dependent on an official deciding whether or not the tenant deserves to remain there would both remove tenants’ security and discourage social mobility.”

She asks: “Why would I want to get a job and do well if this meant I might lose my tenancy?”

The UK’s first Green MP also questions the prime minister over the bureaucracy likely to be created by his proposal, including “the cost of the process of assessing who should and shouldn’t lose their home, including the inevitable appeals and possible court cases…”

“These are people’s homes not just their houses”

Caroline Lucas continues: “A real look at the evidence shows that the shortage of council house supply is not down to under-occupation by tenants but due to massive and continuous under-investment in council and social housing over decades accompanied by the disastrous policy of ‘right to buy’ which has decimated the council housing stock.”

She adds, “it should not be forgotten that these are people’s homes not just their houses and security of tenure is one of the great successes of council and social housing, allowing families to remain in areas they could never afford to stay in if this security did not exist and allowing them to make roots and play an active part in their communities.”

The letter concludes with an attack on the government’s cuts agenda, which Caroline Lucas says is the driving force behind the policy:

“This policy is a transparent attempt to divert attention away from the consequences of the cuts that your Government is making.”

Time to Organise Resistance Against Cuts

August 6, 2010

It is time to organise a broad movement of active resistance to the Con-Dem government’s budget intentions. They plan the most savage spending cuts since the 1930s, which will wreck the lives of millions by devastating our jobs, pay, pensions, NHS, education, transport, postal and other services.

The government claims the cuts are unavoidable because the welfare state has been too generous. This is nonsense. Ordinary people are being forced to pay for the bankers’ profligacy.

The £11bn welfare cuts, rise in VAT to 20%, and 25% reductions across government departments target the most vulnerable – disabled people, single parents, those on housing benefit, black and other ethnic minority communities, students, migrant workers, LGBT people and pensioners.

Women are expected to bear 75% of the burden. The poorest will be hit six times harder than the richest. Internal Treasury documents estimate 1.3 million job losses in public and private sectors.

We reject this malicious vandalism and resolve to campaign for a radical alternative, with the level of determination shown by trade unionists and social movements in Greece and other European countries.

This government of millionaires says “we’re all in it together” and “there is no alternative”. But, for the wealthy, corporation tax is being cut, the bank levy is a pittance, and top salaries and bonuses have already been restored to pre-crash levels.

An alternative budget would place the banks under democratic control, and raise revenue by increasing tax for the rich, plugging tax loopholes, withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, abolishing the nuclear “deterrent” by cancelling the Trident replacement.

An alternative strategy could use these resources to: support welfare; develop homes, schools, and hospitals; and foster a green approach to public spending – investing in renewable energy and public transport, thereby creating a million jobs.

We commit ourselves to:

• Oppose cuts and privatisation in our workplaces, community and welfare services.

• Fight rising unemployment and support organisations of unemployed people.

• Develop and support an alternative programme for economic and social recovery.

• Oppose all proposals to “solve” the crisis through racism and other forms of scapegoating.

• Liaise closely with similar opposition movements in other countries.

• Organise information, meetings, conferences, marches and demonstrations.

• Support the development of a national co-ordinating coalition of resistance.

We urge those who support this statement to attend the Organising Conference on 27 November 2010 (10am-5pm), at Camden Centre, Town Hall, London, WC1H 9JE.