Are you interested in retrofit?

In 2019 nearly 70% of Teignbridge’s existing housing stock had an EPC rating D and below.  Despite the significant increase in new build, this % has changed little in the past 10 years and, in the last 2 years, has actually increased.

Green-House Gas (GHG) emissions from heating our buildings are significant with Teignbridge’s domestic emissions in 2018 accounted for approximately 25% of all its emissions, most of this from heating.

In order to to reach the UK’s Paris targets we can reduce emissions by retrofitting properties to:

  • decarbonise heating energy, by using low-carbon fuel sources (eg Biomass & Hydrogen) or switch to electric heating (eg. Heat Pumps) and using low-carbon electricity generation.
  • reduce the heating energy demanded by eliminating waste and minimising heat loss (ie with better insulation).

Homeowners invest significantly in home-improvements, especially in the able-to-pay sector, however this sector tends to have the highest GHG emissions, primarily because energy pricing is still low relative to incomes in that sector.

Whilst Climate Change is accepted as a serious threat by the majority of the population, including the able-to-pay-sector, it is still the case that, in general, they do not act to address their contribution to Climate Change.

Those who do act are faced with a plethora of solutions, deals and government incentives.  More often than not, many are either disappointed that their emissions and running costs have not reduced significantly or they do not measure the GHG emission reduction to find out.  One of the most common concerns is ‘can I trust the salesperson?’ followed by ‘will the builder do a good job?’.

To address this, ACT is considering an initiative, initially targeted at the able-to-pay, to identify local commercial organisations with the expertise and quality of work, backed by relevant industry standards, to deliver bespoke whole house retrofit solutions.

By identifying suitable customers, designers, architects, builders and material suppliers we hope to demonstrate that a sufficient market can be stimulated to become self-sustaining.  This will of course represent a small percentage of the retrofit needed, but it could be a model to deliver more ambitious initiatives such as in the Carbon Coop model. 

Teignbridge District Council does not currently have plans, or resources, to formally address this and Housing Associations will develop their own specific supply-chain solutions.

Teignbridge has a large number of older, poorly insulated, rural properties.  Increasingly these properties are owned by those wanting to undertake significant improvements and having the budgets to do so.  Normally a piecemeal approach, based on little (if any) measurements or holistic assessment, results in costly retrofits and inappropriate heating solutions.

As an impartial community-based organisation ACT is ideally placed to bring the different parties together under a replicable scheme of effective retrofits, helping to develop a template scheme for both homeowners and service providers.

The initial model proposed is that adopted by the Carbon Coop, based around an assessment/design phase and using suitably experienced local builders/crafts people.

To get the scheme started, ACT would need someone to either volunteer or be paid (grant funding may be available) to identify suitable providers and customers and liaise with similar groups to discover their approach and put a proposal together on how it could work in Teignbridge.

Ideally, we should also find a customer with a retrofit project willing to work with ACT’s Built Environment & Energy group to pilot some of the approaches already well understood.  Trialling each of the elements of the scheme to identify an appropriate supply chain should help identify problems that may occur.  Several such projects are likely to be needed before a Teignbridge-specific model is developed.

Are you interested? If so, drop us an email with your details.

Extracted from a paper written by Fuad Al-Tawil

Could you be a parish Wildlife Warden?

The ACT Ecology Group will soon be looking for parish-based, volunteer Wildlife Wardens, writes Audrey Compton. They are needed to help support, protect and increase our district’s wildlife and improve its chances of surviving the ecological and climate emergencies we face. Wildlife Wardens need to love wildlife but don’t need specialist knowledge, we will provide training.

Having Wildlife Wardens will help our communities become more involved in the natural world, enhancing their physical health and giving them more joy and happiness.

Our aim is for all 51 Teignbridge parishes to have between one and five Wildlife Wardens.

Who can be a Wildlife Warden and what will they do?

Anyone who is interested in or knowledgeable about wildlife/ecology can become a Warden. You will:

  • Commit to giving your parish’s wildlife several hours of your time a month.
  • Look out for opportunities to protect, help and increase the wildlife in your parish.
  • Carry out practical work in your parish that will benefit wildlife.
  • Either work in a team or possibly train to lead local volunteers on practical tasks (or you could call in specialists from ACT Ecology Group).
  • Send ACT and your parish council a brief, monthly account of what you have been doing, so we can all share successes and difficulties.

Wildlife Wardens in neighbouring parishes could work together on joint projects. Wardens with special skills and knowledge might also help train other Wardens.

Unfortunately, we don’t have funds to pay for Wardens’ expenses. However, Wardens who are ACT members will be covered by our insurance.

Some of our existing parish wildlife groups will be Wildlife Wardens, organising work and sharing expertise. If there isn’t a local group, Wildlife Wardens can work together – and maybe even start a group.

Project areas:
A. Surveying and helping to improve and connect habitats.
B. Promoting organic wildlife gardening
C. Monitoring building and development within the parish and alerting ACT of any wildlife damage.

The Ecology Group hopes to provide free training in these areas:

  • Identification of all types of wildlife
  • Habitat management and connectivity: hedges, woodlands, meadows, verges, ponds
  • Farming and wildlife
  • Writing risk assessments – and working with them!
  • Wildlife gardening
  • Creating pesticide-free zones
  • Carrying out desktop surveys
  • Monitoring planning applications and developments.

We will stay in close contact with the Council’s Green Spaces Team, and collaborate wherever we can, but we are aware their resources are limited. We have support from Teignbridge District Council, RSPB, the Woodland Trust and Devon Biodiversity Record Centre.

We are currently applying for grants to cover training costs and we are hoping to contract a coordinator for a few hours a week, who will ensure good communication and record keeping.

If you are interested in becoming a parish Wildlife Warden, please get in touch with audrey@boveyclimateaction.org.uk.

Why carbon intensity apps are greenwash

There is an app for almost everything. One that recently drew my attention is a carbon intensity app, which at first sight looks really helpful in alerting you to when you can put washing on or charge up batteries while the electricity grid in your area has low carbon emissions.

Renewable energy is not yet stored in sufficient quantity so needs to be used when it’s available. Carbon intensity apps tell you when output from renewable sources of electricity is high and the carbon intensity of the grid is therefore low. 

What’s not to like? Well, the devil is in the detail, as the saying goes. The claims made for these apps are little more than ‘greenwash’, says ACT energy expert Fuad Al-Tawil. Teign Energy Communities (TECs) has produced a detailed explanation of why this is so.

Essentially, the only sure way to lower grid carbon emissions is to increase the renewable energy that feeds into the grid. Point in time readings from a carbon intensity app are not a reliable indicator of surplus low-carbon electricity being available. If demand for electricity from users of the apps increases when intensity is low and there is no renewable surplus, it will just lead to gas being switched on. A gas-fired power station is currently the easiest type of electricity generator to turn on and off at short notice.

There are additional complicating factors due to the way the national grid operates. The financial settlement system for generating, transporting, distributing and consuming electricity is based on price. There is no accounting for carbon emissions. This can lead to renewable generation being turned off and a gas fired power station being turned on to maintain the balance of the grid, so generation and consumption are matched. 

By all means download a carbon intensity app, but don’t assume you will be increasing the use of renewable energy and thereby reducing the carbon intensity of the electricity you buy. 

The only way to help reduce the carbon intensity of the national electricity supply is to encourage the market to build more renewable generation.  You can do this by buying a 100% green tariff from a provider.  Ideally use one of the few providers that buys directly from renewable generators or generates its own supply. TECs names Good Energy and Ecotricity as two such companies. The more people who use such providers, the greater the demand for renewable energy as part of the energy mix of the grid. 

The 100% ‘green’ tariffs offered by other energy companies will not help so much in this regard as they are achieved by a form of offsetting using tradable certificates called REGOs (Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin). Despite the name, they will not be adding new renewable generation to the grid, simply offsetting against existing renewable generation.  This will not reduce the carbon intensity of the grid. The TECs paper explains this in more detail.

Of course, the most reliable way to reduce emissions from electricity generation is to lower your usage. Use the carbon calculator to work out your carbon footprint then consider what changes you can make to reduce it. Generating your own renewable energy also helps, as does buying from Good Energy or Ecotricity. Sadly, timing your energy consumption to coincide with low carbon intensity periods via an app will not help and could even increase carbon emissions.

Local Plan consultation extended

Teignbridge District Council has extended the consultation period on its Local Plan, moving the closing date from 15th June to 13th July. The change has been made to give people more time to comment, given that face to face meetings are not currently possible.

ACT encourages everyone to submit a response. Feel free to use ACT’s draft response as a reference/template. Please continue to send ACT any comments or suggestions on the draft response as we will not submit it until early July.

The Local Plan and its associated documents can be viewed at: www.teignbridge.gov.uk/localplanreview.

The FAQ section of the documents explains that a Local Plan guides decisions on where and how development takes place. It contains a set of rules, called ‘policies’, which are used to guide decisions on applications for development. The Teignbridge Local Plan is in two parts, with Part 1 guiding decisions on HOW development takes place in Teignbridge, and Part 2 on WHERE developments take place. The consultation is on Part 1.

If you would like to comment on the Local Plan you can your comments by:

A burning issue for Dartmoor

I learned a new word recently, swaling, which is the West Country term for controlled burning of moorland. It comes up in the Dartmoor National Park Management Plan 2020-2045, and in ACT’s response to the consultation on the Plan.

Swaling only gets two mentions in the Plan. The first notes that the Moorland Vision for Dartmoor, agreed in 2005, confirmed that swaling, along with grazing, was “essential to delivering the Vision”. The second advises that concerns about swaling being in conflict with climate change objectives were raised when the Management Plan was developed.

Cliff edge of Bench Tor, Dartmoor

One of the Principles in the Plan under the section headed A grazed moorland landscape is to “Ask Government to review the Heather and Grass burning code to provide updated guidance for land managers on management regimes to deliver conservation objectives and respond to the climate emergency.” This needs to take account of the wild fire risk and other means of delivering environmental outcomes, it adds.

ACT in its response says swaling needs to be reduced and better controlled, although this needs to be balanced against the risk of wildfires.

There are many other aspects of the Plan that Act’s response covers but swaling caught my eye because of its novelty value. I looked it up on Google and came across a polemic about the practice by George Monbiot, in which he states that swaling, and grazing (he’s not a big fan of sheep), are causing “an environmental disaster”.

Competing interests will always present challenges, but we must make sure economic interests do not always trump those of wildlife and the environment.

Coronavirus crisis: what comes next?

The coronavirus crisis has demonstrated our vulnerability but has also revealed our care, compassion and community spirit. The links we forge now in our communities will stand us in good stead for the work of pushing forward with climate action.

It is essential to keep the climate emergency on the agenda. Of course, resources and attention are focused on dealing with the human (and economic) cost of the coronavirus pandemic. But the climate and ecological emergencies have not been put on hold. They will still unfold and we have to ensure the need to restart economic activity won’t take precedence over cutting carbon emissions.

The good news is that arguments about not being able to afford to take action on climate change are now exposed as misleading and wrong. Lockdown, and the accompanying damage to financial markets and economies, has revealed that governments and central banks can rustle up the readies when needed.

Writing in the Guardian, historian Adam Tooze examines the extraordinary extent of the interventions by central banks around the world, and in particular by the Federal Reserve, the US central bank. Governments have also had to take action they would never have otherwise contemplated.

The damage caused by pandemics, it turns out, costs even more to fix than was laid out to prevent the 2008 global financial crisis turning into another Great Depression.

The indebtedness of governments after the 2008 crisis was used as an excuse to cut spending . Some commentators are already lining up to say further cuts will have to be made to pay for the new debts incurred in the current crisis. Restarting the economy will be the priority and we will all have to tighten our belts to recover lost ground.

This would be a disastrous response. Instead, the coronavirus crisis offers an opportunity for a rethink, about our priorities, our lifestyles and our future.

We have seen what a world without air pollution looks like, in some cases recovering views not seen for years. Some cities, most notably Milan, have decided that cyclists and pedestrians should have precedence over motorised traffic as the city reopens.

The mayors of Manchester and Liverpool have also called for a rethink, and urged the government against a return to “business as usual”. They want to keep some of the benefits we have seen from the pause in economic activity and advocate investment in walking and cycling infrastructure, and in retrofitting homes with renewable energy technology, thereby creating thousands of jobs.

The huge fall in the oil price could also work in favour of a greener economy, especially if oilfields have to be shut down. Of course, cheap oil is also a risk, as it could persuade people to choose fossil fuels over renewables. The fossil fuel companies will not give way without a fight, but they have already lost their social licence and the divestment campaign is starting to hurt their finances.

The Financial Times believes coronavirus could pave the way for a major change in political direction, with the pandemic having underlined the huge inequalities in society. In a recent editorial, the paper said:

“Radical reforms — reversing the prevailing policy direction of the last four decades — will need to be put on the table. Governments will have to accept a more active role in the economy. They must see public services as investments rather than liabilities, and look for ways to make labour markets less insecure. Redistribution will again be on the agenda; the privileges of the elderly and wealthy in question. Policies until recently considered eccentric, such as basic income and wealth taxes, will have to be in the mix.”

Greening the economy will hardly look radical at all in that scenario.

Britain’s first zero emissions street

A heavily-polluted road which is partially enclosed will become Britain’s first zero-emissions street where all petrol and diesel cars will be banned.


  Read more here:

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/12/16/britains-first-zero-emissions-street-ban-petrol-diesel-cars/

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/dec/17/london-to-get-uks-first-zero-emission-street

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/transport/barbican-estates-beech-street-to-become-britains-first-24hour-zeroemissions-road-a4315221.html

https://www.fnlondon.com/articles/polluted-square-mile-street-to-become-uks-first-zero-emissions-road-20191216

https://londonist.com/london/transport/beech-street-to-become-london-s-first-zero-emission-road