The Government abolishes the Merton Rule now Housebuilders rule, OK?

Last November Ms Yvette Cooper is a graduate of Oxford University where she studied PPE. Perhaps the philosophy part of the course concentrated on Machiavellian thinking because her statements could have been composed by the man who wrote “the Prince”.

Last November Ms Cooper having run a flag up the flagpole and found that no one saluted it, said she would haul it down again. Many people believed her, but she spoke with forked tongue. Continue reading

Biomass or biomess?

I wrote the article below for the Building Services Journal, who have kindly allowed me to reproduce it here.

Biomass is on everyone’s list of an environmentally friendly and sustainable energy sources, even though it involves burning fuel.  Many developers these days have to comply with the Merton Rule, whether they are environmentalists or not. This requires a percentage of the energy used by a new development to be generated on site.

In developments everywhere, developers and local authorities working together believe that the way to comply with the sustainable on site generation required by the Merton Rule happens also to be the cheapest way – installing a biomass boiler. The theory goes that when you burn biomass to create heat all you are doing is accelerating the release of carbon that would happen if the biomass were left to decay. I am not so sure. Continue reading

Mr Fallon’s Merton Rule Bill – another mighty oak from Sevenoaks?

Each year twenty back bench members of the House of Commons names are drawn from all back benchers names in a ballot. The twenty lucky ones will be given some of Parliament’s time and resources to draw up a bill that might become law. Usually only the top few names in the ballot have a serious chance of seeing their bills enacted, and the remainder simply use the time to publicise things that they want to change.  Continue reading

The Merton Rule Stays

Sometimes you feel that your work is worth while. Over the past few months I have written extensively opposing a leaked government proposal to abolish the Merton Rule, which requires councils to insist on a small percentage of on site energy generation as a condition of permitting new development. A number of periodicals have published my words, and my criticisms of the attempt to abolish the rule.

 

Many other people have added their voices and influences to my criticisms. Yvette Cooper, the Housing Minster who first ran the flag of likely abolition of the Merton Rule up the flag pole, has discovered that no one saluted it and has now written to Merton Council (who invented this much admired rule) to confirm that the rule will not be abolished.

 

It probably will not be as simple as relying on the Government’s assurance because Merton Council will be looking at the new Planning Policy Statement, when it is published, to see that the rule has not been watered down or rendered inapplicable by being hedged with exceptions.

 

We all live on one planet and watering down an already insufficient policy, or surrounding it with exceptions will not stop the climate changing and the effects of it, whether they are felt in Ethiopia or Great Yarmouth. I suppose it is a good day when you learn that a small piece of environmentally good policy will not be abolished but still a year when you realise that there is hardly anything else in place in the United Kingdom to augment it.

Climate Change and what we do – Truth and Lies

I wrote this for H&V News, and lots of people wrote to me saying that they agreed with my sentiments. It will be an interesting start to my weblog.

Some truths are virtually self evident; one is that climate change is the greatest challenge facing the world today which we can only really mitigate by emitting less carbon dioxide.

Lies are not self evident. The late and unlamented Josef Goebbels said that if you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it people will eventually come to believe it.  When you couple a big lie with a self evident truth, you cause the greatest harm.

The truth about climate change is being coupled with the big lie that the government is doing something about it and leading the world in the fight against climate change. DEFRA on its climate change web page claims “The UK is acting now to adapt to climate change and to reduce the risk by reducing our contribution to the causes”. I do not believe that. It is a lie. 

The truth is that the United Kingdom government does less about climate change than any virtually of its EU partners, and less than most countries in the world. For example, due entirely to lack of government encouragement the solar thermal industry in the UK is around 5% of that of Germany and we see a very modest growth rate in its take up here.

Countries, like France, Portugal, Italy and Spain which traditionally had only slight more solar thermal than the UK are now experiencing double digit growth as a result of the policies of their own government. Our government it seems need to be convinced that this is a viable technology, or do they? 

We see articles in the Guardian in August that government officials from DBERR have secretly briefed that the UK has no hope of meeting its climate change targets and have suggested ways of fiddling the figures or wriggling out of its commitments.

The Guardian also reported that the Department of Communities and Local Government will now abolish the Merton Rule, requiring all new buildings to generate 10% of their energy needs on site, less than a year after the housing minister urged all Councils to adopt it. 

Whenever I have met officials involved in climate change work, I have been usually surprised at their lack of ability to understand the benefits of renewable technologies; I always put this down to lack of intellectual quality. I thought that they were genuinely attempting to achieve a greater uptake of renewables but were simply incompetent in understanding how to do this. 

Now, with the latest revelations and coupled with the government intention to regulate the solar thermal industry in a way that even a massive market, like Germany would baulk at, I need to change my mind. I think that the government is simply repeating the big lie in the hope that people will believe it while actually by their policies making no real effort to mitigate climate change.

The truth is that the Government is indifferent to climate change.  They are talking a lot but doing very little.

If they had spent the £2 million that the Stern report cost on microgeneration measures I believe it would have boosted the renewable industry tremendously and in the long run saved far more carbon than a report which no one now reads and whose recommendations are parked on a shelf gathering dust. 

I cannot understand the need to regulate closely the heating and plumbing industry in relation to solar thermal. Genersys is the largest supplier in the UK of solar thermal panels and last year we have had no complaints about installers and none so far this year.

Every time I get my electricity bill, and see that they have again taken out too much money or find that they have failed to earth the supply properly, I know who really needs regulation. 

In November last year the Government introduced Phase 2 of the Low Carbon Building Programme, after a virtually secret bidding process which led to the vast majority of solar thermal manufacturers (many of whom have far better products than those chosen by the process) and virtually all of the selling and installation companies being excluded from this significant market for no possible reason; fossil fuel energy companies, are for the government, the best way to deliver renewable micro-generated energy, notwithstanding the lack of experience, expertise and the conflict of interests inherent in the big suppliers of gas and electricity. 

Of course, a big lie can only be maintained if the government can shield its people from the consequences of that lie. You might be able to repress dissent in some cases but the big lie that the government tells about its climate change policy will ultimately be exposed because you cannot shield people from the laws of physics and from nature. I take no pleasure in that thought, because by the time the lie is commonly understood to be a lie, it will be too late.