What did we do in 2016?

On the road

475 bookings, 1,450 hours of use, 11,500 miles of journey, 5.6 tonnes of carbon saved with nil NOx or hydrocarbon emissions isn’t a bad start for the first eighteen months of a slightly ambitious and experimental rural car club scheme. From the moment that we launched e-Wheels, however, this has steadily overtaken and supplanted private use of the E-Car vehicles. Now just over a year into the operation we have provided more than 600 hours of free transport and raised enough funds to run for a further year. During the early part of 2017 we will be launching our appeal to secure stable funding well into the future through a low cost regular giving scheme. This will be launched at a special Harbury Folk Choir and Orchestra event on 31st March.
An evaluation of the car club performance was conducted in spring by Mike and Ruth Woollacott of consultancy Greenwatt, who were very impressed by the unusual model that we have created. The results of this have been published and were passed to the umbrella organisation Carplus. They in turn liked what we were doing so much that press officer Beate Kubitz spent a day in the cold and rain guiding a photoshoot by Hugh Tottle with us here in Harbury. Not many days before that the low carbon charity 10:10 made a mini-film which has proved a valuable publicity tool in fundraising as well as highlighting yet another innovative and energetic Harbury project. In addition we were featured in the national magazine Energy Now.
The return of LY64HHO dressed in new rather flamboyant clothes (renamed HERB-E by E-Car Club) was intended by E-Car to raise the profile of the club. It has certainly raised a few eyebrows and wry smiles.

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Herb-E has gone now to beguile the population elsewhere and we have a replacement car.e-Wheels is now a separate entity with its own board of trustees and ambitions ultimately to register as a charity and, if possible, expand further. Despite this separation the enterprise still feels part of HEI and I will report on it when appropriate. It is likely to be a key part of the car club for the future.

In the light

Much to our surprise and delight the County Council fulfilled their promise to install LED lighting in some parts of the school. The main hall, kitchens and Heritage Room have all been upgraded to new lighting. We now have the challenge of completing the rest of the school interior. Community Energy Warwickshire (CEW) has been strongly involved and with the best quote we have to date as a guide they feel that funding the project is viable either through a community share offer repaid over 5 years or through an interest-free loan over four. We are now waiting for one more estimate from Cooperative Energy for a final opinion.

Down to earth and up to heaven

Meanwhile our attempts to improve the church buildings and engage the congregation have not been entirely blessed. The Wight School, owned by the church, leased by the parish council, subleased to the library and Biblio’s with an additional licence for the Pre-School, required permission and support from all those before we could apply to the M&S Energy Fund Community Grant competition. It took two years to get all the parties on our side, the parish council being the most wary of the project. After that we were faced with one failure after another by Energyshare/ Crowdfunder, the group responsible for administering the competition, and we were finally thwarted by a voting system so complicated that it mystified and confused many potential voters. We failed.

On the other hand, working jointly with the church Supporting Communities group, we delivered an excellent and well attended evening in May in the Tom Hauley Room called ‘Reconciling a Wounded Planet – My Home Our Future’. In November we worked jointly again to produce the extremely successful ‘My Life in a Freezer’ by polar explorer Mark Wood, which raised significant funds for Harbury e-Wheels with an audience of around 120 or more.

These two events have convinced the Diocesan Environment Officer that we are a beacon for eco-awareness and positive action within the diocese, not a claim I would dare to make.

Buoyed by this a bit, we continue gently to prompt the PCC and specifically those responsible for the fabric of the church to work up to the Eco Church standards, which involve achieving levels of environmentally beneficial action in all aspects of the church’s life. Some progress has been made.

In the limelight

As well as important recognition for our work on the car club and e-Wheels we have hit the headlines (or, more realistically, sidelines) on other occasions. As Chair of HEI, I was invited to speak to Rotary 2000, Kenilworth All Together Greener, Carplus Annual Conference, Smarter Travel Live (a national event in Milton Keynes) and at the Warwickshire Rural Electric Vehicle Scheme final seminar at Stoneleigh. People have noticed what we are doing. We had a great opportunity to be part of an important village event when the Lord Lieutenant and Chair of Warwickshire County Council visited in April. Chauffeuring these two dignitaries to the event and back allowed a valuable opportunity to show them what HEI does.

In the village

One of the final contributions HEI made was to provide a welcome sheet, drafted by Chris Christou, for newcomers to the village as part of a village Welcome Pack being prepared by the Parish Council. Throughout the year we continued our involvement with the Neighbourhood Develop Plan preparation; this is now close to completion.

Towards the horizon

We have begun discussions internally in HEI about developing new projects for 2017. We must, especially in the light of worsening air quality in our local towns, continue to develop the electric car club and to promote awarenesss of less polluting travel from car sharing to choosing hybrid, plug-in hybrid and fully electric cars as a first choice. This and other ongoing projects can continue whilst we work up two new plans. But these can be another chapter in our unfolding story.

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