By Rod Webb

Green energy, and how it might power our future, was the focus of a recent Sussex Coast College symposium where 12 high-profile energy ‘champions’ met students and other guests as part of ‘Green GB Week’. The symposium, organised by Energy Sussex Coast and Community Energy South, was also attended by Amber Rudd MP, Peter Chowney, leader of Hastings Council, Nigel Sinden, Mayor of Hastings, the local Green Party leader and other councillors.


Education, innovation, vulnerability
During the morning session, the future energy champions addressed the mainly student audience and helped them explore ‘Big Green Great Britain’ ideas. Sitting in seven groups with two champions per table, they developed green initiatives around the issues of education, innovation and vulnerability.

Education looked at the role of students in the future development of green energy.

Innovation considered how the energy market could be transformed, making housing and transport more sustainable.

Vulnerability examined how de-carbonisation of the energy market could benefit those currently in fuel poverty.

Activism endorsed
Amber Rudd took questions from the floor and endorsed the role of activism in the process, saying: “It is the only way of getting change.” Each table then shared the ideas they had come up with, which ranged from the low tech, such as rainwater harvesting, to the high tech, such as electrified roads for charging cars on the move.

The afternoon session was an open-table discussion building on ideas generated during the morning. Although the whole tenor of the debate had been about localism, not everyone felt this was the way forward, as there are so many obstacles to overcome.

Local Heating
One very positive example of a local initiative came from Anthony Walters of South Staffordshire Community Energy, who talked about the importance of joined-up thinking when looking at savings. He described how he’d been involved with reducing hospital admissions and helping elderly people get out of fuel poverty in partnership with a hospital in Stoke. By installing community solar panels on the hospital roof – and using the profits to make sure that local houses are properly heated – elderly people could be released from hospital much earlier.The size of the saving can been seen by comparing the cost of keeping someone in hospital overnight – £2,274 according to Anthony Walters – with the cost of giving effective energy advice resulting in an energy efficient home – £124.

Popular vote
However, the meeting’s popular vote went to developing education in primary schools, something that Liam O’Sullivan of UK Power Networks offered to support in Hastings, where £8 million is being invested by the company to upgrade the local grid this autumn.

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