Publications round-up: focus on energy
A round-up of recent sustainable development publications highlighted by our partner, the Sustainable Development Research Network (SDRN). For more news on sustainable development research and publications, join the network and receive regular SDRN mailings.
In this round-up:
- The heat is on (CBI): delivering an integrated heat policy
- Green Streets (ippr): exploring the potential of community energy projects – interim report
- You just have to get by (CSE): coping with low incomes and cold homes
Read about more recent publications in the latest SDRN bulletin…
The Confederation of British Industry has recently launched a report urging the Government to develop a clear strategy to reduce carbon emissions from heat, including encouraging the use of surplus industrial heat to warm homes.
The report stresses that cutting emissions from heat is crucial to meeting legally-binding carbon reduction targets by 2050 and mitigating rising energy costs. However, it warns that existing heat policy is fragmented and complex, and calls on the Government to review the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), which will subsidise homeowners and businesses that want to install low-carbon heat technologies.
Among the measures the CBI is calling for are:
- an early review of the RHI with a presumption that support levels will decrease as needed to ensure the total subsidy cost does not escalate disproportionately;
- the Government to encourage better energy management in buildings by creating a one-stop advice service;
- more resources should be put into heat mapping to uncover where there is surplus heat and where demand is high enough to facilitate the development of district heating networks;
- the public estate, including schools and hospitals, should commit to procure heat and cooling services from district heating networks;
- the Government should consider pump-priming support for the infrastructure to enable waste heat from industrial processes to be linked to district heating;
- the Department for Energy & Climate Change (DECC) and Treasury should consider opening up the competition for Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) to industrial projects;
- the original plans to fund the RHI by a levy on fossil fuel users should be reviewed.
Green Streets is a unique challenge, run by British Gas, which seeks to generate important lessons about the role community projects can play in cutting carbon emissions, and about the opportunities and challenges involved in creating the ‘Big Society’.
Acting in an independent capacity, the Institute for Public Policy Research (ippr) is conducting a range of quantitative and qualitative research, to generate lessons from Green Streets about the potential of community energy projects, the barriers to these projects, and the solutions needed to overcome these barriers.
At this interim stage, the evidence suggests that there are major opportunities to be had from community groups installing renewable technologies, both for the finances of the community groups and for the wider impacts these technologies could have on public attitudes to energy use. Yet, the research has also identified significant barriers to community groups taking up these technologies, such as capital and financial, technical and organisational expertise, as well as the time to pull a project together.
To increase the number of these projects, community groups will need to work in partnership with a range of different actors, such as support providers, local authorities and technical delivery partners, and it is vital that central Government plays an enabling role by remaining committed to the financial subsidies that exist for renewable technologies.
To get a picture of what life is like for the individuals and families affected by fuel poverty – many of them elderly, disabled or otherwise vulnerable – the Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) interviewed 50 households as part of a study (published September 2010) into the realities of living on a low income in a British winter.
The starting point of the study was a survey of 699 UK households living below the official poverty line, followed by in-depth interviews of vulnerable households. What became clear is that families or individuals on low incomes will fear the onset of winter as rising energy bills and promised cuts to welfare benefits threaten to push them beyond the limits of their already hard-pressed budgets. Among households with an annual income of £6,000 or less, nearly two-thirds said their homes are cold in the winter, with single-adult and lone-parent households hit especially hard.
Many interviewees expressed a determination to make ends meet despite the financial pressures of everyday life, yet often the cost of avoiding debt is going cold and going hungry. The study found that low-income households with highly constrained budgets typically cut back their spending on both fuel and food.
The Sustainable Development Research Network (SDRN) is an initiative funded by both Defra and the Department for Transport, and is coordinated by the Policy Studies Institute in London.
SDRN aims to facilitate and strengthen the links between providers of research and policymakers across government, in order to improve evidence-based policymaking to deliver the UK government’s objectives for sustainable development.
SDRN Annual Conference 2010
This year’s SDRN Annual Conference will take place on 9th December 2010 at the Wellcome Collection Conference Centre, London. The Annual Conference is SDRN’s flagship event, bringing together over 150 sustainability practitioners, policy-makers and researchers and to share and discuss recent findings, and to review how research efforts can better contribute to the achievement of sustainable development goals.
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