Electricity should be renewable and as local as possible

This post considers the proposition that most energy could be generated from renewables near to where it is needed. This article starts with a brief history of the electricity network, which reminds us that its origins were local in nature, and of how the grid evolved.

History of the electricity network

In 1881 the town of Godalming in Surrey established the first public electricity supply driven by a water wheel. This supplied street lighting and electricity to those that wanted it. In that year street lighting went out to tender and the cost of lighting by electricity was 19% cheaper than by gas.

In the late 19th Century a battled raged over whether we should be using alternating current(AC) or direct current (DC) for electricity distribution.

By 1900 many town councils were building power stations, which were typically fuelled by coal brought in by train. Over time these council power stations would be connected together to give greater flexibility, first using 2.2kV. Over the next 20 years a network at voltages 6.6, 11, 33 and 66kV developed. By the 1920s the network increased to 132kV. This meant that council generators could be replaced by larger regional stations.

In 1926 the Electricity Supply Act introduced effective national energy coordination. The Central Electricity Board was formed to concentrate the generation of electricity in a limited number of stations, which were inter-connected by a national grid by 1935.

Newton Abbot power station, built at Jetty Marsh in 1898, played its part in this development. It was bought by Torquay corporation in 1920, converted to AC, and used to provide power out to the coast. Newton Abbot power station developed to have a peak capacity of 52MW in 1948.

Newton Abbot Power Station 1949

In 1948 electricity supply was nationalised and eventually Newton Abbot power station was connected to the National Grid.

By the 1960s higher voltages (275kV and 400kV) started to overlay the grid with a supergrid. Nuclear stations started to appear placed near to the sea for cooling. Instead of transporting coal down to the south to generate electricity, electricity was generated by the coal fields and transmitted down south.

The Problem

Historically the transmission network developed because generation from coal was better placed near to mines than close to demand, because:

  • It was cheaper to transport electricity than to ship coal to cities.
  • Burning coal had caused caused serious atmospheric pollution including a smog that turned many building black.

The current development path for electricity generation and the electricity network involves placing a large amount of off-shore wind generation in remote locations, National Grid is planning to spend £54 billion to upgrade the transmission network to accommodate 50GW of off-shore wind energy.

Onshore wind and solar PV near to demand remain under exploited.

The alternative of much more local generation from solar and onshore wind backed by storage does not seem to have been seriously considered by government.

It appears that the network has evolved by patching up what already exists, each patch adding on expense and complication.

The network exists to supply electricity demand. So we need to ask if demand can be satisfied without so many expensive additions to the periphery of the network.

In an electricity network demand at any point in the network must be matched instantaneously by supply, if this does not occur the voltage and frequency will drop, which will cause issues for connected devices such as flickering lights. When a load switches on this increases demand on the electricity supply, which must either supply that demand from storage or generation. Currently all this supply to demand generation is handled centrally.

Now there is significant small scale generation connected at LV substations, this is currently seen as a problem to the network because it behaves in an unplanned manner. It should be seen as an opportunity to efficiently supply local demand. To do that at a local level there needs to be:

  • Storage so that:
    • over a day cycle at least supply and demand can be matched.
    • surges in demand are matched locally.
  • Smart systems so that:
    • Larger discretionary load (EVs, some heat pumps, water heating, appliances) run times can be timed to make best use of supply. Different user’s demands could be coordinated to avoid overloading the system.
    • Local supply and demand can be predicted, so that any additional supply from elsewhere in the network can be acquired in the most advantageous way (price, carbon intensity, availability of renewables could be considered).
    • Smart system would exist both on sites and at LV substations.

If there were sufficient solar and storage, such a scheme could work well in the summer (based on scaling up domestic experience). It would need onshore wind to continue operation through the winter, this may not be on the local LV network, but would probably be fairly close, so would need to be linked into systems at nearby LV substations as a preferred source of supply.

Only when there wasn’t enough local generation would it be necessary to procure electricity on the wider grid.

This may have significant costs at each substation, but bear in mind that there are 230,000 ground mounted substations in GB, and that National Grid intends to spend £54bn on upgrading the transmission network. This is equivalent to £234,000 per substation.

It is at least theoretically possible to meet the UK’s electricity demand using:

  • Renewable generation – mainly wind and solar, but also other technologies as these develop.
  • Storage of various durations including batteries, pumped hydro.
  • A relatively small amount of dispatchable generation (green hydrogen, biofuel generation, etc.)

This has been demonstrated by CAT and REGEN studies.

Consequences of carrying on as we are

Cost of upgrading the transmission network for 50Gw of offshore wind

According to carbon brief National Grid ESO plans to spend £54bn upgrading the transmission network to be capable of carrying 50Gw of offshore wind planned for 2030. When the wind blows it seems plausible that SW demand could be met by off-shore wind from the north sea. This is equivalent to £234k per ground mounted LV substation (assuming 230k ground mounted LV substations). Also £2k per property

Most of the electricity consumed in the South West is not generated in the South West

Most of the time the majority of electricity demand is met by generation outside the South West.

Source: WPD Live data feed

Normally electricity demand peaks between 4pm and 7pm and is at its lowest overnight, and most of the time local generation is much less than demand. On sunny days PV generation is significant, but still not enough to meet demand.

It is expected that by 2030 electricity demand will have increased substantially due to electric vehicles and electric heating.

Does Grid demand need to increase

Conventional thinking says that electricity demand will double because of electrification of transport and heat.

This would not be the case if:

  • The standard of insulation of all buildings were improved substantially
  • Private vehicle use were to be reduced, in favour of active transport and public transport.
  • Lightweight electric vehicles such as e-bike, e-scooters were to be used more.

Enabling Technologies

Renewable energy is the cheapest energy source

Why did renewables become so cheap so fast? from Our World in Data studies the fall in the cost of wind and solar between 2009 and 2019, and suggests possible causes. They found that the cost of electricity generation from solar dropped by 89%, and on-shore wind by 70%. A similar thing has happened with off-shore wind, but not with nuclear.

This rapid cost reduction for renewables has resulted in electricity from gas costing roughly 4 times as much a from renewables, following recent gas price rises.

50% of electricity demand could be met by solar PV on commercial roofs

According to Solar PV on commercial buildings, a 2016 report from BRE: “There is an estimated 250,000 hectares of south facing commercial roof space in the UK. If utilised this could provide approximately 50% of the UK’s electricity demand.”

In practice 50% is probably an over estimate because this much solar is unlikely to be timed to match demand, however, it should when combined with storage to make most buildings self sufficient for the summer.

Teignbridge has many existing buildings without solar, though recent applications for new commercial buildings have often incorporated substantially more solar photovoltaics than is required by the building regulations.

A case in point is the recent application by Lidl to build a store in Bovey Tracey. According to the carbon reduction plan submitted as part of the application, the roof will have 180kWp of solar panels, which reduces the building’s regulated emissions from 111tonnes of CO2 equivalent to just 4 tonnes. We can expect other examples to come forward following energy price rises.

With sufficient panels and storage it should be possible on many sites to be almost self-sufficient between March and September.

Teignbridge’s draft local plan identifies 217GWh of on-shore wind capacity

Teignbridge’s draft local plan identifies 217GWh of on-shore wind capacity, which is about 39% of current demand. We think that 217GWh is a low estimate.

Public Opinion on Renewables

A recent opinion poll by survation shows that there is overwhelming public support for building new wind and solar farms to tackle the cost of energy crisis.

Another poll also from survation shows that both the public and conservative voters believe windfall tax on energy producers should form a part of paying for energy bill cap.


Another essential component of a locally based solution is sufficient storage. This would be used for:

  • Storing solar energy during the day to use at night, this would often be for use on domestic or commercial sites where it had been collected.
  • Storing of local wind energy when it abundant for later use, it is possible that when local wind is abundant it would also be relatively cheap.
  • Network management purposes, such as short term balancing.
  • Longer term storage to survive longer shortages.

DNO operating licence prevents them from owning storage, so grid connected storage at substations would require another operator.

LV substations

Most sites connect to an LV electricity station, which then connects to the distribution network. The capacity of a substation and the distribution network it connects to is limited, if demand and local generation can be managed to within this limit then there will be no need to upgrade the substation or distribution network.

Accurately managing power at a substation level requires substation metering and intelligence at the substation, this would be relatively low cost, but most substations currently have very little monitoring.

Larger demands could be accommodated when there they are matched by local generation. Storage either at substations or behind the meter also helps maintain the balance, both by storing excess local generation, and charging during periods of low demand and excess external generation.

Demand Management

Demand from things like EV charging, heating water, running storage heaters (and heat pumps in suitable houses), as well as appliances such as washing machines and dishwashers can be shifted provided that demand is satisfied within some time window. If you have solar PV and you choose to do the washing when the PV is exporting, this is a kind of demand management.

This concept can be extended to networked grid connected devices, which can register that they require an amount of energy by a certain time, the grid then works out when it is going to supply the energy.


The OpenADR Alliance was created to standardize, automate, and simplify Demand Response (DR) and Distributed Energy Resources (DER) to enable utilities and aggregators to cost-effectively manage growing energy demand & decentralized energy production, and customers to control their energy future. OpenADR is an open, highly secure, and two-way information exchange model and Smart Grid standard. Together we are creating the future of smart grid modernization today.

OpenADR – Article on BSi adoption of OpenADR 2.0BSi have published two standards based on OpenADR:

PAS 1878:2021 Energy smart appliances. System functionality and architecture – Specification

PAS 1879:2021 Energy smart appliances. Demand side response operation – Code of practice


It may not always be possible for individual premises to have the most advantageous combination of on-site renewables and storage. There could be economies in installing a wind turbine, sharing rooftop solar between several premises in the same building, or sharing a large ground mounted solar setup. As soon as the grid is used to connect to a larger resource, grid charges are involved.

A microgrid consists of several sites which are connected together, share common resources and a single (probably smaller) grid connection.

Most of the time electricity comes from on-site resources.

When on-site resources are insufficient, or it is otherwise advantageous to do so, the microgrid will draw on the grid, and either distribute electricity to members, or store it for later use.

A microgrid could be a group of dwellings or a business park.

Microgrids are only really feasible when building from scratch, new estates or new developments, where renewable energy and storage can be shared. There are significant operational issues beyond construction.

A virtual microgrid could exist at an LV substation, if a number of connected sites were to aggregate their supplies. This means the operation and maintenence remains with the DNO, but a community can share resources such as renewables or storage.

What about Inertia, Black start, Power factor correction and so on

It is sometimes claimed that a grid consisting entirely of renewables will be unstable, and unable to start if it is ever shut down. You will often hear terms like inertia and black start used in this context.

Conventional generator have a spinning turbine, which tends to carry on spinning at the same rate when power is removed because of Inertia. Whereas solar PV and wind turbines use inverters to generate alternating current (AC) to put into the grid. Normally inverters are grid tied, which mean that they depend on the presence of AC to produce alternating current. Grid-forming inverters on the other hand will produce AC based on a local signal source.

Intertia without the spin

This article gives a good description with video of Inertia and related concepts, and describes how a grid powered entirely by renewables can work with Grid-Forming inverters. New large renewable generators connecting in Texas have been required to do this for some time.


ZCB is a study from Centre for Alternative Technology, which amongst other things models how the UK could be powered by renewables, including 84% of the time with wind and/or solar. They based this study on 10 years of weather data at half hour resolution.

A day in the life 2035

A day in the life 2035 is a detailed modelling study by REGEN and National Grid ESO of a dull windless winter day, and how the grid would cope.


On site generation

Firstly there is a lot of scope still for generation on sites where electricity is required, which would avoid any change in grid capacity. This could lead to many sites being self-sufficient for a significant part of the time.

A typical site would need:

  • Renewable generation in the form of rooftop solar, and for larger sites smaller wind turbines
  • Storage sufficient to ensure 24 hour power on good generation days, possibly longer.
  • Energy management system to handle scheduling of larger loads (EV charging, Heat Pumps, Water Heating, Appliances)

LV Substation

Key to all this is a smart local network, which would have:

  • Sufficient storage to deal with demand fluctuations and to store electricity procured from outside advantageously (either in terms of price, carbon intensity or renewable availability)
  • Smart system which monitored system performance, and negotiated supply of larger loads with connected sites.

The LV substation would be able to fairly accurately predict the load that would be placed on the higher voltage network, and would be able to draw down supply when it was available. This would lead to a much more stable situation for the higher voltage network, which could then dispense with many of the patches that it currently has.

It may also mean that much less reinforcement would be needed to the higher voltage network.



Ofgem currently has a policy of being technology neutral, prioritising what it sees as the best value, regardless of climate concerns.

Government is generally technology agnostic, rather than prioritising renewables.


Designated areas more difficult for renewables

Commercial scale renewables such as wind and solar farms are not allowed in National Parks.

In the National Park, conservation areas and on listed buildings renewable technologies generally require planning permission. Planning permission is determined by the aesthetic effect that the renewable installation has on the area. This means that it is unlikely that permission would be granted for:

  • Standard monocrystalline silicon panels facing a road
  • Horizontal axis wind turbines

Permission is more likely if the renewable installation is out of public view, or is designed to fit in with the street scene. This could be by using things like solar slates.

If you live in Dartmoor National Park (DNPA) and want to fit renewable technologies to your property, then you should seek planning advice from the park planners.

National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)

The following is a copy of the paragraphs that have effectively stopped planning applications for onshore wind.

  1. When determining planning applications for renewable and low carbon
    development, local planning authorities should:
    a) not require applicants to demonstrate the overall need for renewable or low
    carbon energy, and recognise that even small-scale projects provide a valuable
    contribution to cutting greenhouse gas emissions; and
    b) approve the application if its impacts are (or can be made) acceptable54. Once
    suitable areas for renewable and low carbon energy have been identified in
    plans, local planning authorities should expect subsequent applications for
    commercial scale projects outside these areas to demonstrate that the
    proposed location meets the criteria used in identifying suitable areas.

Note 54:

54 Except for applications for the repowering of existing wind turbines, a proposed wind energy development involving one or more turbines should not be considered acceptable unless it is in an area identified as suitable for wind energy development in the development plan; and, following consultation, it can be demonstrated that the planning impacts identified by the affected local community have been fully addressed and the proposal has their backing.

This has effectively stopped new applications for onshore wind since 2016

In the recent fiscal event there is the following statement:

“The Growth Plan also announces further sector specific changes to accelerate delivery of infrastructure, including:

· prioritising the delivery of National Policy Statements for energy, water resources and national networks, and of a cross-government action plan for reform of the Nationally Significant Infrastructure planning system

bringing onshore wind planning policy in line with other infrastructure to allow it to be deployed more easily in England” (pg 21)

Spot the wind turbine! – industrial scene in the Netherlands.


Cost of connecting to the distribution network

The cost of connecting to the network often rules projects out.

Making a connection with generation capacity no more than 16A in capacity accompanied with no more than 16A of connected storage can be done without first informing the DNO, the DNO needs to be informed afterwards with a G98 notification.

Any larger connection requires a G99 application, which needs to be approved by the DNO. Not only does this take time, there is a strong probability that at present the DNO will ask for payment for network upgrades, which could be not just at the current voltage, but at up to 2 higher voltages. It is not uncommon for this payment request to be £10k for an additional 5kW system.

Most projects are effectively limited to this size because the installer doesn’t want the overhead of making a G99 application. I believe that this has limited the deployment of rooftop PV.

A review called the Significant Code Review is currently being undertaken by Ofgem, which proposes that network upgrades be planned for by the DNO and most of the cost absorbed in network charges. Costs local specific to connecting to a site would still be born by the site, but otherwise costs would be limited to the current voltage, and should generally be much lower.


Presentation on Ofgem proposals for a Significant Code Review (SCR), which will encourage DNOs to plan for increased network demand, and limit the lottery of charges for upgrades falling on the first customer to trigger an upgrade.

Delay getting a connection

There are currently delays of up to 10 years getting a network connection above 1MW, this is severely delaying larger renewable projects.

Regen calls for urgent action on grid connections

“1MW seeking to connect to the distribution network are facing delays of up to a decade”



Intertia without the spin

Good description with video of Inertia and related concepts, and describes how a grid powered entirely by renewables can work with Grid-Forming inverters. New large renewable generators connecting in Texas have been required to do this for some time.


Accounting for renewables

Currently electricity suppliers reconcile their generation on an annual basis, which means that it is possible to buy certificates (REGOs) for 100% renewable generation without actually buying anywhere near 100% renewable generation. This has lead most retail electricity suppliers to claim 100% renewable electricity.

Once generated electricity enters the network it contributes to the general carbon intensity of the network, it becomes unidentifiable. It would require physically separate supplies to guarantee renewable supply, which would not be practical. For most practical purposes a similar result could be achieved if electricity were accounted for in half-hour periods as recorded by smart meters. This would enable the consumer to identify the carbon intensity of each unit consumed. It would also enable suppliers claims of renewable percentages to be more credible.

The EnergyTag project seeks international agreement on a standard for generating hourly certificates for energy generation.

Selling locally generated electricity:

Local Electricity Bill seeks to enable selling of electricity locally by a generator directly without selling to an intermediate licensed electricity supplier.

Energy Local

Ripple Energy

Octopus fan club


Smart grid

A Smart grid is needed to ensure that local generation and demand are balanced, and that any difference is exported or imported from the wider grid as needed.

Local teenager on a mission to COP26

Newton Abbot resident Jessie Stevens is heading to Glasgow for the COP26 summit in November, and plans to pedal the whole 570 miles! She will be cycling under the banner of the People Pedal Power mission she has created. This aims to inspire people (particularly young people) to join her on her journey and deliver a message to the climate conference on the need for urgent action on green transport infrastructure, and much else.

Jessie, 16, is a climate activist determined to make the voice of youth heard at COP26. Such events have long been dominated by adults, she says, many of whom may not live to see the worst effects of the climate crisis. “The youth are rarely a part of these talks despite the impacts of climate and ecological breakdown impacting them the most.”

After looking at her travel options, Jessie found the easiest, cheapest, but most polluting way to get to Glasgow would be by car or plane. Taking the (less polluting) train looked complicated and expensive. She decided she would like to travel under her own power and resolved to cycle, and make as much noise as possible along the way.

“To me, cycling is a very community orientated mode of travel. This perfectly fitted my visions of #ride2COP26 as it gives space for many individuals to join the ride, gathering force and power,” she says.

Jessie will be supported on her trip by Adventure Syndicate, a collective of women endurance cyclists, who will accompany her on a cargo bike, carrying everything she needs.

“The cargo bike will not only provide physical support, but will also tangibly represent one of the viable solutions to developing a more sustainable transport system,” says Jessie. “After all, this journey is not just about highlighting what is wrong, but also about demonstrating solutions.”

Adventure Syndicate will also co-produce a film documenting the journey and the stories of those involved and the people Jessie meets along the way.

Jessie will set off on 20th October, covering between 50-70 miles a day, and invites people to join her for a few miles to highlight people power—both in terms of active travel and political voice.

To find out more visit:


or email people.pedal.power@gmail.com

ACT Responds to the Local Plan

ACT has produced a response to the local plan in two parts.

We have looked at carbon emissions arising as a consequence of the sites proposed, here the principles relate to the plan in general.

Our wildlife wardens have been busy gathering information about many sites, and some have submitted responses for their areas individually. Here is the response on ecological matters, which includes information about many sites.

We have also studied chapter 11 low carbon, in detail and have been assured that a further consultation on renewable sites will occur later in the year. Chapter 11 is based on a report from Exeter University, which identifies the district’s energy requirements and potential for renewable generation. We await this consultation with interest.

Wildlife Warden Podcast Episode 5

Emily Marbaix is back with another podcast (which you can also read) in which she talks about her latest wild camping trip, orienteering training with Emma Cunis (aka Dartmoor’s Daughter), and notes that 68 wildlife wardens across 34 parishes and wards have received introductory training. There is also:

  • An update on the Wildlife Warden Scheme
  • An interview with Paul Martin of Ogwell-based Ogwild on the group’s experiences so far
  • Wildlife watching and outdoor ideas for the summer holidays
  • Information about Sustainable Bishops’s wildflower art competition, which will be on show on the 11th September
  • Information about Defra’s new campaign, Plant for our Planet
  • Information about the Teignbridge Local Plan Consultation

An idea for the Heart of Teignbridge

The government demands that the local plan provides sites for about 750 houses per year over the next 20 years in Teignbridge.

Where homes are built makes a difference to carbon emissions.

If you build small flats in town centres:

  • There are fewer emissions from construction.
  • There are fewer ongoing emissions.
  • You don’t need a car, so there is a chance of no private transport emissions.

This post considers how far this could be achieved in the Heart of Teignbridge using the sites already identified in part 2 of the local plan. It is quite a long post which includes some feasibility calculations, which considers:

Overall allocation of sites in the plan

Part 2 of the local plan identifies more new sites than are needed to meet this when sites already allocated in the existing plan are taken into account.

The plan proposes that the allocations are split between the areas identified as follows:

  • Heart of Teignbridge: 40% (c. 2,920 homes)
  • Edge of Exeter: 24% (c. 1,800 homes)
  • Dawlish: 14% (c. 1000 homes)
  • Teignmouth: 1% (c. 100 homes)
  • Bovey Tracey: 3.5% (c. 250 homes)
  • Ashburton: 3.5% (c. 250 homes)
  • Villages: 14% (c. 960 homes)

Each site has a suggested minimum and maximum number of homes, the following table is derived from these, and shows the level of choice in each area:

The columns in this table are sourced from the local plan documents as follows:

  • Proposed distribution comes from ‘How much housing development is required’ in chapter 2.
  • Min is the sum of the lower number of homes for each site in the area, taken from chapters 3 to 10.
  • Max is the sum of the higher number of homes for each site in the area, taken from chapters 3 to 10
  • Min <= 1ha is the sum of the lower number of homes for each site in the area, where the site is less than 1 hectare (and so suitable for a smaller developer).
  • Max <= 1ha is the sum of the higher number of homes for each site in the area, where the site is less than 1 hectare (and so suitable for a smaller developer).
  • %required min is the proportion of Min that would be required to satisfy the proposed distribution.
  • %required max is the proportion of Max that would be required to satisfy the proposed distribution. This indicates the level of choice between sites given in the plan.
  • Notes are any observations.

For the sake of argument let’s accept this distribution. It shows that there is a considerable amount of choice of sites in the Heart of Teignbridge, Dawlish, Bovey Tracey and the villages.

The rest of this post considers a possible allocation for the Heart of Teignbridge.

Allocation in the Heart of Teignbridge

Within the Heart of Teignbridge the sites are subdivided into Urban Renewal sites, which are on existing land that has already been developed for other purposes, and the rest of the Heart of Teignbridge.

Enough of the sites in the Heart of Teignbridge to meet the allocation of 2920 are shown in the following table:

Some of the sites towards the bottom of the table have been chosen to make up the numbers, but this allocation tries to avoid using green field sites that are away from current development.

This post considers putting the maximum possible amount of development into the Urban Renewal sites, this has a number of advantages:

  • The homes delivered will all be within easy walking distance of:
    • Newton Abbot Station
    • Bus services
    • Newton Abbot town centre
    • The combined cycleway/footpath towards Bovey Tracey and Moretonhampstead to the north, and currently to the Passage House, soon to be extended to Teignmouth.
    • Hackney marshes
  • The need for car ownership for day to day use would be minimised:
    • occasional car use could be provided by a car club.
    • Day to day car use would only be needed if work demanded it.
    • The need for further car parking would be minimised.
    • Car traffic growth would be minimised.
  • These sites suit smaller dwellings and these is a proven demand for smaller dwellings.
  • The combination of smaller dwellings and possibilities for active travel and use of public transport will give the smallest carbon footprint.
  • Development of green field sites further out away from the centre is minimised.

We then consider other sites as near to the Town Centre as possible. The A382 development is already in progress, and there is relatively level access to the town centre along this corridor. This favours the Berry Knowles, Caravan Storage and Forches Cross sites. Unfortunately we still need to find 424 homes from the remaining sites.

Housing Need

The latest TDC housing policy document states that there is a waiting list of about 1000 applicants, and that 51% of these applicants are looking for a single bed property the proportion of property types required by applicants is shown in the following table:

Additionally 1 in 3 Teignbridge residents is over 65 years old, so probably doesn’t have children.

This says that there is a need to smaller properties, which could be flats.

There is clearly a need for social and affordable housing, as the waiting list recently has been about 1000 applicants, with about 350 applicants being housed each year. If the waiting list were to be substantially reduced over say 4 years to 100, then an additional 225 affordable homes per year would be required.

On average 137 new affordable homes are provided, other applicants are housed from existing stock. So the number of new affordable homes needs to increase to about 425. That would leave 325 open market homes from the obligatory 750 allocation.

Housing Density

Housing density is expressed in dwellings per hectare (dph), the area part of this measure includes estate roads, but excludes major thoroughfares.

The Teignbridge Urban design guide gives suggested densities for different situations:

From the developable area and maximum homes stated for Urban Renewal areas we can calculate the maximum dwellings per hectare:

Kingsteignton retail park site has a maximum density of 37.04, which is low for an urban area. This is a large site, so makes a big difference to the overall numbers, developing this at 50dph delivers an additional 175 homes.

If all the sites were developed at a density of 70 dph, then only 522 more homes would be required, so only the Berry Knowles and Forches Cross sites would be needed in addition to the Urban Renewal sites. Some sites are already allocated at more than 70 dph, so setting this as a minimum gives 2466 homes, so we are left with 454 to find.

If a minimum of 84.5 dph was set over this area, then 2932 homes would be delivered, which is enough to satisfy the Heart of Teignbridge allocation.

When I originally wrote this section I has misread the developable area of Brunel as 22 hectares, which makes the calculations better. If the developable are of Brunel or Kingsteignton retail park could be increased by 7ha between both sites, then the average density required overall could be reduced to 70dph.

What does 70 dwellings per hectare look like?

The following pictures are from the TDC Urban Design Guide:

So the Teignmouth block to the top left is at 70 dph. These examples are in the Teignbridge Vernacular. For a larger development such as Brunel, a complementary, but more modern style might be appropriate.

Consider the following example from the paper on housing density from Havant council:

I am sure that an imaginative architect could manage better!

So it looks like 70 dph is achievable if most dwellings are small and development is up to 3 storeys.

What should the housing mix be?

In order to substantially reduce the housing waiting list we need to deliver about 425 affordable homes per year. The mix for these should follow the mix of dwelling sizes required by applicants. If the urban renewal area were developed using this mix then the numbers would be as follows:

Here we have split 2 and 3 bed dwellings equally between flats and houses.

What would be the carbon footprint of this development be?

The carbon footprint that can be attributed to this development is made up from:

  • Embedded emissions from construction of dwellings.
  • Operational emissions from buildings in use.
  • Transport emissions

For buildings emissions can be approximately calculated from floor area, we assume that development is to the minimum space standard introduced in 2015. This standard takes into account the number of occupants as well as the number of bedrooms, so a one bedroom flat may have one or two occupants. Apply the minimum floor areas in this standard to our required annual housing numbers:

Embedded emissions from construction depend on the construction type, the following values are assumed, and are applied to a floor area of 45969 m2:

CLT stands for cross laminated timber, which is a lightweight construction that can be used for up to 9 storeys. It lends itself to offsite pre-fabrication. CLT panels have good thermal properties.

The above embedded emissions do not take account of sequestration caused by the carbon sequestered whilst trees are growing being locked up in the structure of a dwelling. If this is taken into account it could be that CLT construction is carbon negative.

The operational emissions can be approximated from past energy performance certificates, combined with an aspiration that the new building regulations will reduce operational emissions to 25% of current building regulations. The average current CO2 emissions from properties with an EPC rating C and above since 2015 is about 24kg CO2e/m2/year. So we assume that these dwellings will be built to 6kg CO2e/m2/year. This gives operational emissions of 276 tCO2e per year.

As no car travel is necessary with these sites, there are no additional transport emissions.

If the urban renewal sites are built at 750 dwellings per year, it will take nearly 4 years to construct these dwellings. If we allocate embedded emissions to the year of construction, then the total emissions over the first few years would be:

Comparison with development of more out of town sites

Suppose that instead we built 750 brick built 3/4 bedroomed homes on sites 3 miles from the town centre.

Assume these have an average floor area of 100m2, then the embedded emissions would be 73.1 tonnes per house, or 54,825 tonnes for 750 houses.

The operational emissions would be 450 tonnes per year.

We assume that a resident 3 miles from the town centre travels everywhere by car including travel to work, shopping and leisure. This might amount to 8,000 miles per year. Worse sites 3 miles from the town centre are generally at a higher altitude, so will require additional energy to go uphill that is not regained downhill. 8,000 miles in an average petrol or diesel car emits 2.5 tCO2e/year, and a diesel 2.2 tCO2e/year. Even an EV powered from grid electricity would emit 0.8tCO2e/year. If we assume 20% EV, 40% diesel and 40% petrol, then the average car would emit about 2t CO2e/year.

Even if we assume 1 car per house, then there are an additional 1500 tonnes from cars. It would be more realistic to assume 2 cars with one being used less, so effectively 1.5 cars.

Putting all this together for the first few years we get:

Once built this option has nearly 10 times the emissions than the alternative low carbon option.

XR Protests at the G7

When you think about an Extinction Rebellion (XR) activist, you probably don’t think of someone like me, writes Amanda Cole. A 68 year old grandmother, with a 44 year history of NHS work in a responsible and respected position. But I attended the protests at the recent G7 meeting in St Ives and joined hundreds of other people rebelling against the failure of governments to act on the dual climate and ecological emergencies.

100 Penitents carry the sins of the G7 through Cornwall. Photo: Tristian Herbert

A sixth mass extinction of wildlife is already underway. Studies show a 60% decline in wildlife populations since 1980, while the world’s natural ecosystems have lost about half their area, all largely due to human action. Climate change is already affecting our weather, bringing more frequent floods and heatwaves. If we don’t allow ecosystems to recover and expand, as well as massively reduce our carbon emissions, it will all get worse. Other parts of the world with more vulnerable communities are suffering these effects more acutely than Britain is right now. 

Attending the XR events at the G7, a meeting of the Group of Seven richest nations, was a great experience in many ways. The protests were creative, inspiring, sometimes sombre, and sometimes fun. There was lots of media coverage; it was great to engage with the public and the police. The reception in my experience was pretty much 100% friendly. There was one woman muttering at a bus stop, but I didn’t catch what she said. There were no Rebel arrests. But of course we were securely separated from the official goings-on in Carbis Bay, so I’m not sure how much we were listened to. The government resolution to pledge a £500m Blue Planet Fund for marine conservation had already been announced last year. About US$2bn is to be provided to help countries worldwide to phase out coal-fired power generation. This may not even be new money. The summit failed to set us up for a successful COP26, the UN climate talks to be held in Glasgow in November, as trust is sorely lacking between rich and developing countries. Overall, these outcomes were more than disappointing. 

So yes, you are right; I am not a typical Rebel. Extinction Rebellion members do come from a particular demographic in the main. But with the richest nations in the world failing to provide leadership and finance to tackle the climate crisis, it falls to each and every one of us to make the changes we feel able to make.

People sometimes think individuals cannot make a difference, but that is wrong. Look at how the British public responded to the challenges the pandemic brought. We were far more responsive and able to change than the government, and even the scientists predicted. And there is some evidence that if you feel good about making a little change, you will go on to make another. What is vital is to choose something you want to do, and are able to do. I would never ask my beef farmer friend to give up meat or suggest my friends on benefits buy expensive eco-products. But we can all start reusing plastic, sorting our recycled waste, and picking up litter, for example. We can all do something. 

I was heartened at the end of the visit to St Ives to hear the speaker at the closing ceremony for the XR events say: “Some people say we’re preaching to the converted in XR. Well let’s make it our pledge before COP26 to talk to people outside this group. Ask what they think. Find out what makes them sceptical or hesitant. See if you can help.” 

So that’s what I’m doing. Let’s all take some climate action today and build towards a happier and healthier future.

Site options for the Teignbridge local plan to be consulted on

A meeting of the council executive on 1st June passed a motion to run a public consultation on site options for the local plan from 14th June to 9th August.

Executive Committee meeting

You can watch the proceedings of the executive committee here , this gives access to a recording of the whole meeting, the local plan is item 6 on the agenda, which you can select from the menu on the right.

Jackie Hook said “We will have to choose some sites, help us to choose the least damaging. This isn’t however about who can gather the biggest petition against a site, this is about bringing to the council’s attention additional planning related information and knowledge.”

Local plan consultation on sites

Part 2 of the local plan has now been published and can be found here.

Housing Numbers

As you may know, the Government has told Teignbridge it must build 751 houses a year (they had planned to order 1,532 houses a year!). The council therefore has to identify the sites where the houses can be built. If we do not do this the Government will take over planning at Teignbridge and increase the numbers by 20%.

This consultation asks that members of the public help by:

  1. Checking through the sites and see what may be proposed in your community and commenting about the sites.
  2. Sharing the consultation with your friends and family living in Teignbridge. It’s really important as many people as possible know about the proposals and say what they think to Teignbridge.

This could well be the last time local people are given a say in major planning decisions like this.
The Government is proposing to bring in a new system under which land will be zoned. Anything designated for ‘growth’ will be deemed to have ‘planning permission in principle’.
Government ministers claim their plan will eliminate ‘red tape’ but many fear that it abolishes any meaningful involvement of residents and local councils in planning matters.
The consultation on the possible housing sites ends at 12 Noon on Monday 9th August 2021. Do please have your say 

Low Carbon

Chapter 11 states Teignbridge’s 2018 carbon footprint and analyses emissions trends over the period 2008-2018, showing that the transport, buildings, agriculture and waste sectors have not reduced over that period.

Electricity consumption is estimated to grow from 468GWh to 940GWh (101%) as a result of electrification of heat and transport, as well as growth associated with growth mandated by the plan.

The report doesn’t give any detail of how this electrification will be achieved, but the proposed increase in electricity consumption is close to our own estimates based on widespread EV take-up and retrofitting the existing housing stock to near Passiv Haus standards. Indeed the growth in electricity demand is slightly lower than we estimated, so some other demand reduction must be assumed.

Possible sites are identified for 217GWh of wind and 726GWh of solar, totalling 953GWh. So on a whole year basis enough to meet demand. The report identifies a number of constraints, which mean that this much renewable generation is unlikely to be buildable.

Peak demand occurs in the winter, when solar generation is producing least. We see already that in the recent sunny period that grid carbon intensity for the South West can get as low as 30g/kWh when most energy comes from solar and nuclear. Contrast this with winter when on a calm day most of our electricity in the South West comes from gas when grid carbon intensity can exceed 400g/kWh.

The report identifies an increase of 201GWh of demand from heating, which will mainly be needed in the winter months. It also identifies 49 GWh from additional housing, if we assume that this will also be biased towards winter, the additional winter demand could increase to 230GWh. This is more than could be supplied by the identified wind resource. So Teignbridge will need to import more renewable energy from elsewhere during the winter.

A large amount of land is identified as suitable for solar development. Here there is also scope for a significant contribution from rooftop PV, however, this is limited in practice by the ability of local substations to deal with local generation.

Fast Access tool for planning applications

We have written a tool which enables you to see details of all active planning applications on a single interactive page. This enables applications to be filtered by date range, parish, ward or Wildlife Warden area, type, decision level. Text search on address, proposal and document description and title is also provided.

A summary of each application is shown with reference number and proposal, this can be expanded to show all details and the latest documents relating to the application. There are links from the reference number to the application on the TDC site, as well as to the documents page for the application.

A full description of the application is here.

The tool is available here.

Some filters have been preconfigured:

Precious Trees Need Preserving

New neighbours move in and immediately cut down a magnificent silver birch and create a drive with non-porous material. I am mad! I love trees, writes Fran Hamilton.

What’s all the fuss about?

Let’s start at the bottom, below the surface of the soil. Maybe you have noticed white threads on old rotting wood. These are called mycorrhizal fungi and absorb nutrients and minerals in the soil and transport them from one plant or tree to another, often over huge areas. In this way they extend the roots of any plant. Nearly all plants (including vegetables) are dependent on mycorrhizal fungi for their thriving and survival. You can read about the astonishing abilities of underground fungal networks in Merlin Sheldrake’s book ‘Entangled Life’.

Still at ground level, trees absorb water and hold it, thus regulating the flow that any heavy rain brings. Once a tree has been removed, soil erosion can result from the removal of the many roots that anchored it in the soil. 

Above the ground, the water the trees have absorbed is drawn up and eventually expelled via the branches and leaves. This cools the air, which brings increasing benefits as extreme weather becomes the norm due to climate change. One large oak tree is capable of transpiring 40,000 gallons of water into the atmosphere each year. Strategically planted deciduous trees can cool a building in the hotter months, and then allow the warming sun into our homes during the winter months. Trees can also protect buildings from the wind.

Another key benefit of trees is the reduction in pollutants as a result of the leaves absorbing particles. Researchers from the US Forest Service have calculated that trees in the US remove over 17 million tonnes of air pollution each year, saving at least 850 lives that would otherwise be lost through acute respiratory illness. No doubt the UK will also have a high figure.

Trees are also a vital habitat for wildlife. Tree cavities provide nest and roost sites for birds and bats. In Europe, an estimated 30% of forest-dwelling birds use tree cavities, and it is well known that the availability of cavities – in number and type – is a limiting factor of bird-population size. We quietly acknowledge the lack of tree cavities in our landscape every time we put up a nest or bat-box. The research, however, is starting to suggest that these boxes are not adequate replacements for natural hollows and cavities. Trees have more stable microclimates than boxes, buffering against temperature fluctuations. 

Even a dead tree is valuable for wildlife. Springtails, mites, beetles, flies and parasitoid wasps are particularly likely to use dead trees, but it isn’t unusual to find the humble earthworm living metres-high in a tree cavity. 

So besides not cutting down a perfectly healthy tree what can we do? Tree cover in Devon is only 11.8%  – slightly less than the national average. Surprisingly, Camden and Croydon feature among the top 20 places in England and Wales with the most tree cover, while largely rural areas like the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales have the least.

But before rushing out to plant a tree it’s worth doing some research on which tree to plant. You need the right tree in the right place. Getting it wrong can do more harm than good. The Woodland Trust has lots of information on its website, including an A-Z of British trees and a tree ID app, plus tips on how to choose a tree and where to plant it. 

Planting trees is often promoted as a way of offsetting our carbon emissions, but such schemes can be little more than greenwash. In many cases the trees would have been planted anyway. Reducing emissions in the first place is always the better option.

So be alert to the sound of the chainsaw; trees are really precious and need all the help we can give them for all our sakes. 

Teignbridge progress with the climate and ecological emergency

Cllr. Jackie Hook, executive member for Climate Change, Flooding and Coastal Defence reported to Teignbridge District Council’s (TDC) Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 9th February 2021.

Here is a video clip of her report

She reported on TDC’s work on Climate change and the Ecological Emergency:

  • TDC appointed William Elliot in February 2020 as Climate Change Officer
  • TDC has met regularly with ACT to discuss direction and progress on the climate and ecological agenda.
  • In October 2019 policy S7 of the current local plan was amended to uplift the carbon reduction by 2030 from 42% to 48%. The carbon calculator has been updated to only consider building emissions.
  • A new draft local plan for 2020 – 2040 has been published including a whole chapter on climate change and went to consultation March to July 2020.
  • University of Exeter is developing a low carbon strategy to determine where and how renewable energy generation and low carbon development should feature in the district, and will feature in Part 2 of the local plan.
  • South West Exeter District Heating Network will supply low-carbon heat to 2,500 new homes, using waste energy from Matford.
  • Electric Vehicle charging infrastructure and Ultra Low Emission Vehicles policy
  • Rapid EV Chargers in Chudleigh and Buckfastleigh as part of Highways England Scheme.
  • Authority participating in DELETTI and will install double rapid EV chargers in four of Teignbridge’s AQMAs.
  • Shortlist of 12 sites selected in collaboration with parish councils for On-street Residential Charging Scheme (ORSCS) in car parks.
  • Draft local plan requires installation of EV chargers in new development.
  • Joint bid submitted under the Cosy Devon partnership to delivery energy efficiency improvements for low-income households. A further bid for £1.14M has been submitted to deliver authority led improvements.
  • The Authority has participated in the Solar Together scheme. 917 solar PV and 153 battery storage systems are proposed as part of the scheme across Devon.
  • Low-carbon social housing projects include Drake Road, East Street and Sherbourne House. These will achieve high carbon and energy standard and feature Air Source Heat Pumps and EV charging points.
  • William Elliot has been measuring the authority’s own carbon footprint, annually Scope 1 & 2 emissions are 2Mt CO2 and Scope 3 emissions 6.7Mt
  • The Authority is currently working on a Carbon Action Plan to identify a cost and carbon efficient pathway to becoming carbon neutral, which will cover about 40 projects across 15 buildings owned by the authority. A budget of £E3.6M over 2021-2024 has been allocated, and a grant application for £3.1M has been submitted covering seven sites, which could deliver a combined reduction of 400 tonnes of CO2/yr. A full report will be submitted to Executive Council in April 2021.
  • TDC is a signatory of the Devon Climate Emergency and is supporting the Devon Carbon Plan, the consultation on the interim plan has just ended, following a Citizen’s Assembly the final Devon Carbon Plan is due for adoption by Local Authorities in summer 2021.
  • Following the declaration of an Ecological emergency in September 2020, plans are in hand to plant 1,500 trees in Q1 2021 in partnership with the Woodland Trust and Idverde. A tree strategy is progressing and a draft will be available for consultation in Q1 2021. The Authority has committted £5,000 to Devon Wildlife Trust to support a habitat mapping exercise.
  • It was reported that ACT’s Wildlife Warden Scheme has received 75 applications and has trained 50 wardens to date.