Saturday, 1 January 2011

How Local Communities Can Stabilise the Middle East, End the War on Terror and Solve the Energy Crisis.

We mustn't shy away from the simple truth that we need renewable energy now more than ever. And we need it so badly we cannot entrust any part of its development, financing, management or application to the state* But fortunately there is a solution; one that will enhance geo-political stability, end the energy crisis and redistribute power and wealth away from the oil industry and the state and into the hands of the people.

*I'm assuming most of you already know why not, but if you are new to anarchist thinking or are interested in my take on this please click here.

But first, to understand the power of that solution, it's worth re-visiting the often taken for granted premise for why renewable energy is so important. Because believe it or not advocating renewable energy has very little to do with melting ice-caps, CO2 emissions, ecology, protecting the environment or any of that stuff. All those things are important it's true, but at the heart of the issue is something far less esoteric: Freedom. That's a big claim though, isn't it?

Well let's remind ourselves of the alternative; the oil fields. The ones in Iraq and Afghanistan that our political masters are making us pay hand over fist in tax and blood for them to control. The oil fields that produce fossil fuels that are dirty, smelly, bad for the environment, running out and too damned expensive. The oil fields in other people's countries. The oil fields that are funding the western imperialists who seek to install permanent military outposts in the Middle East. The oil fields that are the pawns in a geo-corporate hustle that is daily handing more and more of the world's resources to a smaller and smaller band of elite capitalists who leave a trail of desperate poverty, inequality and war in their wake.

So when we talk about renewable energy as being about 'freedom' it means freedom from the corporatocracy that dominates western foreign policy. To be able to generate the energy we need to run the country ourselves means we no longer need to steal other people's energy resources at gun point, or to prop up despotic regimes and look the other way while they commit atrocities just so we can get our filthy bloody hands on the oil in their countries; to continue the carefree, affluent, safe and easy way of life we live at the expense of the fallen whose blood runs unseen through the engines and the power lines of our towns and cities.

So, how do we wrest control of our energy away from the corporatocracy and end the energy crisis? Surely this will require some incredibly drastic, radical new ideas that have never been tried before? Surely there will be risk involved, even bloodshed? Surely the infrastructure will be prohibitively expensive, the willpower lacking, the resources unattainable?

Surely the governments and corporations are right when they tell us that we need them to sort out things like energy because they are far too complicated for the likes of us!!!

At the very least there will be enormous upheaval that will disrupt power to businesses, schools, hospitals?!?

And what about enhancing geo-political stability? That was a bloody big call me old son. How on earth are you going to back that one up?

Well, the ideas are not new, radical or drastic. In fact they are being used now by Cumbrian farmers and Oxfordshire villagers alike. They all chipped in a bit to get the thing up and running but there definitely wasn't any bloodshed. Their energy networks are controlled by their own communities without the need for government or corporate intervention. In fact sometimes they make a bit more than they need and sell it back to the National Grid. The switchover usually happens at a little local ceremony with some local dignitary or celeb throwing the switch for the first time, the local paper gets involved and there's usually cake and biscuits afterwards.

Oh, and the energy they generate themselves completely negates the need to go to war in Iraq or Afghanistan or anywhere else to steal theirs; so geo-political stability can easily be restored if we all follow the example of these local villagers and their...

Energy Cooperatives!!!

Baywind Energy Co-operative was the first co-operative to own wind turbines in the United Kingdom. Baywind was modelled on the similar wind turbine cooperatives and other renewable energy co-operatives that are common in Scandinavia, and was founded as an Industrial and Provident Society in 1996. It grew to exceed 1,300 members, each with one vote. A proportion of the profits is invested in local community environmental initiatives through the Baywind Energy Conservation Trust. As of 2006, Baywind owned a 2.5 megawatt five-turbine wind farm at Harlock Hill near Ulverston, Cumbria and one of the 600 kilowatt turbines at the Haverigg II wind farm near Millom, Cumbria.

Another community-owned wind farm, Westmill Wind Farm Cooperative, opened in May 2008 in the Oxfordshire village of Watchfield. It consists of five 1.3 megawatt turbines, and is described by its promoters as the UK's largest community-owned wind farm. It was structured as a cooperative, whose shares and loan stock were sold to the local community. Other businesses, such as Midcounties Co-operative, also invested, and the Co-operative Bank provided a loan.
Community-owned schemes in Scotland include a three V27 wind turbine system near the manufacturer Vestas' Scottish base in Kintyre, operated by Gigha Renewable Energy Ltd. which is capable of generating up to 675 kW of power. Gigha residents control the whole project and profits are reinvested in the community.
Findhorn Ecovillage has four Vestas wind turbines which can generate up to 750 kW. These make the community net exporters of renewable-generated electricity. 
Boyndie Wind Farm Co-operative is part of the Energy4All group, which promotes community ownership. A number of other schemes supported by Highlands and Islands Community Energy Company are in the pipeline.
Unity Wind Ltd is an Industrial and Provident Society that intends to install two 2MW wind turbines at North Walsham in North Norfolk. Its key aim is community wind turbines installed and run by community investment and for financial benefit to the community.*

There are schemes like this all over the world and they are growing in number. They don't rely on privately owned enterprise or statism to survive and flourish. They plough money back into local communities as opposed to forcing them to pay exorbitant taxes and fuel prices. All you have to do is champion these schemes, organise one for your area, tell others about the ones already in existence. Stop moaning about fuel prices, tax hikes, the war on terror, the failure of the environmental movement to make any headway and take matters into your own hands. As these schemes show, it's not as impossible as you might think.

Here's a great introductory video about energy cooperatives:

1 comment:

  1. just another example of taking back independence from corporatocracy:
    I'm sure there's many more of these communities out there... keep up the reporting plz, very enlightening article.