Posts Tagged energy efficiency

Let there be (energy-efficient) light

Good news from Monday’s church council meeting.

Our church has adopted eco-congregation status and as part of this we got an energy audit done. Traditional church buildings are a nightmare to heat in an environmentally conscious way. In fact, they are a nightmare to heat full stop. High ceilings, big windows, and sometimes only used for a few hours a week. Our energy audit came up with lots of proposals: from lagging the roof space to replacing all the lights, converting the heating and installing solar panels.

And now Islington Council’s climate change fund has awarded us a grant towards the cost of the solar panels and the new lights, and advice on getting help with the rest. So often people have good ideas for going green, but just don’t have the capital to hand to make that investment. Islington’s climate change fund is a fantastic initiative and I hope other local groups will be encouraged to apply as well.

Several people on the church council are among those who gave up our £20 direct debit discount in order to boost the Climate Change fund. So we’re delighted by this kind of recycling!

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Thornberry’s indifference helps kill Fuel Poverty Bill

If your MP could help pass a Bill in Parliament which could save lives, help the poorest people in Britain, help in the fight against climate change, and what’s more create jobs in a recession, don’t you think that would be worthwhile?

I do, and that’s why I backed the Fuel Poverty Bill introduced by Liberal Democrat MP David Heath.

With the spring weather we may forget the tragedy that 20,000 people needlessly die from the cold each year, and many more become ill. Fuel prices have more than doubled over the last five years. Many homes are poorly insulated so that energy is wasted.

The Fuel Poverty Bill would end fuel poverty by 2016 by bringing all homes up to standard and cutting fuel bills for the poorest families. It would mean fewer people face illness or death from cold and damp. It would help to reduce the wastage of energy which contributes to climate change. And it would produce work for thousands of people when we desperately need it.

The Bill has been backed by many major charities, including Help the Aged and Friends of the Earth. I want to thank all the Islington residents who signed my petition supporting the Bill. I would have voted for the Bill, and I congratulate MPs from all parties who did so.

Sadly I have to report that despite their hard work, the Bill will not go forward, because it just missed getting the 100 votes needed.

I am totally disgusted with Emily Thornberry, the Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury, who once again did not bother to vote.

This comes after she failed to vote on Heathrow or on knife crime, she voted in favour of Post Office closures, against tax cuts, and against more money for social housing in Islington.

It is a disgraceful record.

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Back the Fuel Poverty Bill

The Government has admitted that unemployment is now over the 2 million mark.

To quote Work & Pensions Minister (and former Islington councillor) James Purnell, “these are bad figures. There is no gloss that anyone is going to try and put on them.”

It’s hard to take in the scale of the figures – the latest rise, an extra 165,000 unemployed at the end of last year, is roughly equal to the population of Islington.

Just this week, I spoke to three different friends who are affected by this: one is preparing to reapply for his job, one is doing voluntary work while she’s job hunting and another is worried about his partner’s job in a round of redundancies. These are uncertain times.

The Government could and should take a bold stand and tackle the economic and the climate change crisis together: by creating jobs in the work that needs to be done insulating our homes, developing renewable energy, producing more food and goods locally, and providing better public transport.

Tomorrow sees the 2nd reading of David Heath’s Fuel Poverty Bill. By calling for major energy efficiency programme, to bring existing homes up to the current energy efficiency levels enjoyed by modern homes, it could tackle both unemployment and the impact of climate change.

I hope that for once, Emily Thornberry, Islington South’s Labour MP, will swallow her partisan pride and back this excellent Bill. Watch this space.

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Fairer fuel bills campaign in the Tribune

The Islington Tribune has printed my letter on the need for fairer fuel bills:

“THE snow may have melted but Islington residents are still facing freezing weather and high fuel bills. Everyone needs to heat their homes, but the way we have to pay for it is unfair.

“It’s unfair that customers on pre-pay meters pay more per unit than customers on direct debit. It’s unfair that the energy companies charge us all more for the first units we use – the essential ones – thereby punishing light users. It’s unfair that ‘social tariffs’ are complicated and confusing.

“And it’s unfair that, while the government sets high energy efficiency targets for some new homes, one in four households is missing out.

“This particularly hits poorer households and pensioners in Islington, where housing costs are already so high. We need action from the government for fairer fuel bills. And we need investment in energy efficiency to fight fuel poverty and climate change.

“Islington Council is doing its bit, with the Safe and Warm programme and “energy doctor” advice from the Green Living Centre.

“But to tackle unfair fuel bills we need action from the Labour government. So far, it has let us down.
Liberal Democrat MPs are putting forward a new Fuel Poverty Bill in Parliament to help change things for the better. Many charities are supporting us. I’m backing the Bill and hope Islington residents will too. Tribune readers can sign the petition at http://www.ourcampaign.org.uk/fairerfuelbills”

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Nick visits Islington to launch schools policy

An exciting day yesterday as I spent my lunch hour welcoming party leader Nick Clegg and David Laws MP to Islington, to unveil the party’s new schools policy.

Council leader James Kempton chaired the group that produced the proposals, so it was great to have the launch in our borough. You can watch a section on the BBC Six O’Clock news here – it is about 20 minutes into the programme.

We toured New North Community School, hearing from pupils and teachers the difference that high levels of staff attention can make for all children; appropriate as reinvesting the money squandered on Gordon Brown’s baby bonds to cut primary school class sizes is at the heart of the proposals.

Mind you, it nearly didn’t happen. At the start of the week, with snow blocking the streets and local schools closed, hosting a VIP visit was the last thing on everyone’s mind. But by Thursday, New North was open and the unflappable head Mary McStay was delighted to welcome us to her school.

It’s an amazing place; a transforming school (the children’s performance scores have doubled in the time there), winner of the London Schools Environment Award, and with a strong civic sense. School governor Barbara Smith showed the photos from the school election. The children are fired up about democracy and looking forward to visiting Westminster this month (‘that’ll put them off’ said Nick drily).

New North is full of unexpected delights from the minature orchard to the roof garden to the Tracy Emin quilt.

And it’s as much a community centre as a school; there’s a children’s centre next door, plus New North run groups for parents, sewing groups for Somali women, parent and child maths lessons in Turkish, an outreach project on the Packington estate.

It was a really heartwarming visit on a cold day.

Talking of the cold, Nick also launched my fairer fuel bills petition (you can sign up here). Nick used his first ever Prime Minister’s Question Time to press Gordon Brown on the injustice of the poorest paying more for their fuel; and it’s great pleasure to have his backing on this campaign.

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Reasons to Believe: Lightbulbs

Great Greenpeace video, here.

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Turning up the heat on the energy companies

It may be August, but we’ve just had our boiler checked for the coming year. And there’s a chill in the air as energy prices continue to rise.

This week the Sunday Express was even offering ‘have your gas bill paid’ as a competition prize.

We need a fairer deal for energy customers. A cross-party campaign organised by the Local Government Association is urging the Government to take more than £500M from the record profits of the six biggest energy companies to invest in a massive scheme to insulate half of all homes in England and Wales. In this first half of 2008 BP made a £6.7billion in profit – up 23%.

The Local Government Association hopes that the windfall tax would lift 500,000 people out of fuel poverty, knock £200 a year off the energy bills of ten million households, and cut domestic carbon emissions by 20%.

And I want local Labour MP Emily Thornberry to join me in backing the plan to raise £500 million from energy companies to fund a massive programme of home insulation.

Many Islington households are already paying over the odds for heating, while energy companies have benefited from a huge £9bn windfall: yet the Government does little or nothing to help. It’s desperately unfair.

A windfall tax on energy profits, to pay for energy insulation, would fight fuel poverty, improve homes and help tackle climate change.

All Labour offer is giving a few people a few extra pounds in the winter fuel allowance. We need real action from the Government now so that local residents don’t suffer more when winter comes.

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