I would love to have as much to report for 2017 as in previous years. The fact is that things have been quieter with reduced funding sources, fewer opportunities to develop low carbon schemes for the benefit of our community and, in fairness to the HEI team perhaps, much already completed in previous years. Meanwhile in the background we have strengthening government targets on carbon reduction and pollution, paradoxically paralleled with special deals for the fossil fuel industry and blocking of investment in onshore wind power, despite its very clear economic benefits at half the price of nuclear power.
Seeing the light
One of the key achievements of the year was the completion of LED light installation throughout our school. This was expected to take several years to complete but with falling costs of LED lights, a successful grant application to the Heart of England Community Fund and ready support from Neil Peace at the County Council, we were able to fund the final installation of internal lighting at the school. Our bid to the Heart of England Community Fund for just under £2,000 was our second successful bid to them and is awarded from money managed for Community Energy Warwickshire.
It is already apparent that last year’s work on this has already had a dividend to the school of lower energy use and thus costs. Money saved can go back into buying resources to support the education of the children. We will monitor the energy use in school for a year and share any benefit observed with our community, our funders and anyone interested.
Car Club targets just met
Early in the year we had notice from E-Car Club that they needed greater use of the cars and that we faced the risk of losing the hub if usage remained as low as it had been in the first two months of the year. This would be a disaster for all those who regularly use the services of Harbury e-Wheels, our main user (see our page for e-Wheels on this site). Whilst E-Car expressed keenness to support e-Wheels, they made it clear that the hub had to be commercially viable as well, a reasonable expectation.
We were required to reach 8% usage immediately and 10% by the end of September. The commercial break even point is 15% or 25 hours a week. We were informed in October that our average utilisation for the year stands at 10.41%, a relief – but giving us little margin for a slow week or two, a particular problem during the holiday seasons in summer and at Christmas. We were fortunate in that one family decided to experiment with relying solely on the electric cars for transport when their own car finally would move no more unless pushed. They eventually abandoned the experiment as unworkable after three or four months, as a car was often unavailable when they needed it. We will not have that addition to usage in 2018 but Harbury e-Wheels use has increased to about 100 hours a month. This is supplemented by a small amount of private booking. If the car club usage is to remain acceptable to E-Car we need to stimulate more bookings in the evenings and at weekends when there is little or no use. A working party of Bob Sherman, Hugh Tottle and Ian Cuthbertson failed, despite considerable effort, to generate much more use. This reveals a major difference in life in the country from life in town. In town there is little demand by day but ca club vehicles are heavily booked in the evenings and at weekends. The reverse is the case for us in rural Warwickshire.
The whiff of diesel
In late April/early May I took up an offer from Friends of the Earth and ordered a simple pollution testing kit to measure nitrogen dioxide levels in the village centre. This was in response to our concerns about the levels of traffic at certain times of the day, which we considered would rise with an increased population. We were also reacting to growing national and international concerns about diesel engine emissions in particular. The recorded measurement in the village centre of 13µg/m3 showed that we were under the EU designated maximum level (40 micrograms per cubic metre). This test was only indicative of general levels and not without possible flaws. We decided that there are good reasons for working on plans to reduce engine idling in key areas, such as school gates and the main shopping centre for Harbury. Alison Hodge and Chris Christou are taking this forward with the Parish Council in 2018.
As the year begins we have our focus on air pollution with a start already made in discussions with the Parish Council. We have also begun to look at the possible benefit to Harbury community buildings and residents from battery energy storage. We have no clear strategy for this but we begin by inviting a representative from Sure Power to present at an open meeting in February at a date yet to be decided. We will also look at what more can be achieved for all our community buildings. So far we have provided:
- internal wall insulation for the library
- cavity wall and loft insulation for the Rugby Club
- energy options surveys for the village hall, church, school, Rugby Club and library
- help in developing a good discounted deal on solar panels for the village hall and residents
- a discounted deal on installation of Immersun for several households with solar PV
- a solar generation monitor for the village hall, publicly visible
- LED lighting throughout the school
- an electric car club
- a free green transport project providing through 20 volunteers no cost transport using the electric cars for those in needVillage organisations such as HEI are rare. Let us hope that we can continue to serve our community and maintain the momentum achieved so far.