A significant moment in the history of Eastbourne & District Friends of the Earth is arriving, as multiple developments are coinciding nicely to create what might be a quantum leap in the effectiveness of our group, which has been slowly but steadily increasing its support and organisational capacity. Soon the national Friends of the Earth charity will be unveiling its new community energy campaign to try and encourage a step-change in the speed and scale of the community energy revolution that is becoming an essential component of the fast transition away from dirty, climate-damaging fossil fuels and towards the clean, climate-stabilising renewable energy technologies that are so badly needed. Community energy is what turbo-charged the Energiewende in Germany, and the same can happen here if enough people power can prevail upon the UK government to make community ownership and control of renewable energy easier to achieve than is possible now.
Our own group can play a leading part in making community energy more available locally, not only by supporting the new Friends of the Earth campaign when it launches, but also by helping to actually create a new community energy co-op right here in the Eastbourne area. Some of our members will be joining forces with the newly emerging Transition Town Eastbourne group to help kick-start the creation of just such a co-op by taking part in the first module tomorrow (Tuesday 18th March) of the Community Energy Peer Mentoring course being run by OVESCO with the help of Community Energy South. This course is being funded by the UK government, which recognises the potential of community energy even if it does not yet have the political will to deal with the full extent of the political, bureaucratic and technical obstacles that have to be overcome by fledging community energy groups. The course will hopefully lead very swiftly to the creation of a new local community energy co-op that all of us in our group, and everybody in the local area, can become involved with in some way, and if local councils come on board with such a co-op then the amount of new renewable energy locally could soar in a fairly short space of time.
Yes, we can all become part of the community energy revolution that will help not only to reduce carbon emissions, but also hopefully generate the income that will fund innovative community projects that deal with issues like local fuel poverty, lack of adequate cycling facilities, lack of access to community gardens/orchards/green spaces, etc. There is already a Facebook page for Eastbourne Community Energy and the makings of a new website too! Such an initiative coincides with the encouraging development of Cuckmere Community Solar, which is in the process of organising a community purchase of part of the Berwick solar farm that will be built this year. Also, the long-delayed Polegate Wind Farm may, later this year, win its appeal against refusal of planning permission by Wealden District Council, in which case the 3 wind turbines would be built and a Community Benefit Fund would be created to recycle some of the income stream from it back into local community projects. East Sussex has been lagging behind badly in creating renewable energy sources, but now the tide may be turning, which is just as well considering that the impacts of climate change is beginning to occur sooner and more severely than perhaps many climate scientists predicted. The wettest winter ever that we have just had should be a real wake-up call, especially in the Eastbourne area, which is very much at risk of extensive flooding if the sea defences are ever breached, a scenario becoming more likely with every passing year due to the remorseless rise in sea level!