Recent events have seen the self-congratulatory pictures of co-op executives replaced by more informative and genuinely cheering news – a selection follows:
The Phone Co-op has taken over the teleconferencing operation of the social care charity Community Network which began life in Northern Ireland in 1990 as a six-month project, using telephone befriending groups to bring people from either side of the sectarian divide together.
Community Network has been providing the Third Sector with teleconferencing services since 1990, using its surplus/profit to create and support the development of communities through teleconferencing. Community Network will receive a share of the revenue from customers who have transferred and from new customers recruited by Community Network. The teleconferencing charity has helped people who need emotional support, increasing their self-confidence, physical health and wellbeing. Read more here.
Where would you prefer your energy to come from? Your own rooftops, local farmers and businesses, or Russia and Qatar?
An introduction to the Community Energy Coalition by Jonathon Porritt opens by quoting this question. He is an ardent supporter of these civil society organisations working together to present Government with a united front, highlighting the far-reaching benefits of community energy. He explains: “Through their experience on the ground, they can also testify to the current difficulties that groups face when trying to make community energy a reality in their area. They share a vision for community energy at scale in the UK by 2020, which they are working hard to implement.
Part of this implementation is about engaging and inspiring the wider public about the benefits of this form of energy ownership. To this end, the summer of 2013 sees the first ever Community Energy Fortnight, running from 24th August–8 September”.
The Fortnight features events right across the UK, from a walking tour of hydro schemes in Snowdonia, to an energy-saving workshop in Bridport, Dorset; from a rural community energy masterclass at Hockerton Housing Project, to a tour of Neilston community wind farm in Scotland.
One DIY solar PV workshop aims to introduce low-income groups to energy issues and empower people to begin taking energy into their own hands. Participants will learn how to make a solar panel that will power a 12v system, ideal for charging phones, laptops and off-grid lighting. http://www.ukcec.org.uk/diy-solar-pv-workshop-low-income-groups.
Other energy news includes a report about Valley Wind, a West Yorkshire energy co-operative seeking planning consent for three wind turbines on Slaithwaite Moor which could power 4,800 homes or the neighbouring villages of Marsden and Slaithwaite.
If granted, a community share offer will be launched, with a minimum investment of £250 and an annual dividend for members. A percentage of the revenue would go into a fund which would support community and educational projects over the 20 to 25-year life of the wind farm. Valley Wind has received support from Energy4All, a co-op owned by the energy co-ops it serves and funding from the Co-operative Enterprise Hub, the Naturesave Trust, CO2Sense, Key Fund and the European Regional Development Fund.
The East of England Co-operative Society Ltd is reducing its energy consumption in order to reduce the environmental impact and cost of its ongoing business operations.
Measures taken include:
- installing automatic meter reading (AMR) meters in all trading properties;
- measuring energy consumption and publicising internally a league table of the energy performance of our trading properties;
- specifying energy efficient design of all new buildings, plant and equipment;
- establishing minimum energy standards for refurbishment and new build project and
- reducing carbon emissions associated with all transport and travel.
In its Co-operative news advertising feature we learn that new solar panels at their HQ are now generating 35,000 hours of energy each year and that newbuild and refurbishment projects are now incorporating PV solar roof panels, high levels in insulation and are using reclaimed heat from the refrigeration system to heat the stores and the homes above them.
Then came Paul Gosling’s thought-provoking article, Vultures circle the Co-operative Bank, focusses on the US hedge funds who have been buying ‘large quantities’ of subordinated Bank bonds . . .
And Nigel Sweet reminded readers of the need for change, repeatedly advocated by so many co-operators. Writing in a personal capacity, he refers to failures of decision-making and reminds us about ‘the lack of a meaningful working democracy at the root of our society’, focussing on area committee elections with ‘pitifully low election turnouts’. He called for a review into the way our democracy works and the urgently needed improvements – alongside sensible democratic safeguards.
A request for Anthony Murray, the new editor
Nigel Sweet was writing in the Letters section of the News’ – hard copy only; placing members’ interesting and informative letters on the website would be an excellent move towards transparency.