WITH WIND speeds of up to 70mph forecast to batter the region it really does feel like a tempting time to batten down the hatches…
Earlier this week, Cabinet approved budget savings worth £24.47m as part of our ongoing battle to find a massive £60m in savings over the next two years.
I said at that meeting – and I make no apologies for repeating it now – that the only people who will be able to help Oldham is Oldhamers, and we need to come together now.
With that in mind, one way people can do their bit and help in facing up to our challenges is through our newly-launched Generation Oldham scheme.
I’ve invited Councillor Abdul Jabbar, Cabinet Member for Finance and Human Resources, to guest blog here this week and explain more about how we’re asking local community groups to ‘go green’ and create their own energy…
“As the holiday season approaches and with winter weather patterns firmly setting in, the subject of energy use is once again making headlines.
Whether it is stories about families having to choose between buying a hot meal and a keeping their homes warm, forecasts of more flooding misery for homeowners and businesses in low-lying areas, or warnings that the National Grid is nearing the point of blackouts due to the closure of power stations, it seems clear that energy is something we can neither do without nor continue to be able to afford on our present course.
The publication of each new report from the scientific community continues to sound ever louder warning bells about the connection between the burning of fossil fuels and the increasingly extreme weather we’re experiencing with our changing global and local climate.
But for so many of us, the more pressing issue is whether we are going to be able to afford our lighting and heating bills when they finally land on the doormat – and whether we’re at risk of losing the valuable contents of our freezer if there is a power cut.
The ‘Big Six’ energy companies don’t seem to have any answers. We only seem to hear about more price rises, and plans to burn more fossil fuels through new, controversial extraction techniques like “fracking”, so it’s hard to agree they have our best interests at heart.
At Oldham Council we believe that by working together in a cooperative effort across our borough, we have the power to take collective action to solve our energy problems, improve our buildings and keep all the benefits that come from generating energy within our own communities.
We can take ownership of our own energy supply and reduce our dependence on the ‘Big Six’.
Through our new ‘Generation Oldham’ initiative, the council will actively support communities to improve their buildings with solar panels, new heating systems and better insulation, to make them fit for decades to come.
The scheme will also support young people – the next generation – into training and employment opportunities, and engage with local ‘green’ businesses to ensure this crucial sector of Oldham’s economy can see strong growth in the future.
The continuing commitment of the council and our partners to the award-winning ‘Warm Homes Oldham’ scheme will also ensure that the most vulnerable households have access to the best possible support to enable them to get through the winter staying happy and healthy.
We also know that Oldham Council has to lead by example, so we’re aiming to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 48 per cent in the next six years – and our aspiration is to be completely self-sufficient in energy by 2020.
To do that we must find new ways to cut our own energy use even further. That’s why surveys are now underway on our buildings, schools and publicly-owned land, which will tell us what potential there is to build our own renewable energy generating infrastructure, to cut our energy bill, become more self-sufficient and safeguard our environment for the next generation.
Here in the UK we have been very lucky. The North Sea has given us plentiful supplies of cheap oil and gas for decades, but supplies are now running low.
There has never been a better time to make the shift to cleaner, more sustainable forms of energy and this is not ‘pie in the sky’ thinking: far from it.
Around 5,000 community groups in the UK have already set up their own energy projects: proving you don’t have to be one of the Big Six to generate your own energy and make money to invest back into your community.
Generation Oldham held its first information event last week and there was a fantastic turnout with more than 40 people, including seven community groups like Oldham Credit Union, Greenacres Community Centre and St Pauls Church.
Those present got to see presentations about hydro technology (Saddleworth Hydro), solar energy generation ( St. John’s Sunshine), biomass energy (Biomass Energy Co-op) and energy efficiency measures (Carbon Co-op).
There were some interesting discussions afterwards about what schemes might potentially best fit with existing community assets with ideas ranging from installing solar panels on church roofs to retrofitting community buildings.
If your community group owns a site or building that you want to improve – and you want to find out more about Generation Oldham – you can contact Andy Hunt by calling 0161 770 6587 or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Without the basics like heating, lighting and transport that we all take for granted, our way of life simply could not continue.
We hope you will join us in affirming our commitment to clean, affordable energy for everyone in Oldham and ‘do your bit’.”
Councillor Abdul Jabbar
Cabinet Member for Finance and Human Resources