Energy: Plug us in!

Llangollen FoE will be having a stall on Saturday 18th June outside the Town Hall in Llangollen. We will be asking members of the public to take part in a survey and giving out helpful energy efficiency information.

The survey will take no more than 3 minutes to complete, and the results will help Friends of the Earth to formulate a strategy for a new campaign being launched in September.  It will also be really useful for us as a group to know what local people would like to see us doing.

If members are able to help out anytime during the day, say between 10.30 and 4, even if just
for a short time please let Kay know by email / phone (details found in email circulated last week).

Members of the public including potential and past FoE members are invited to join us at any time during the day – come down and say hello!

School closures and wind turbines

Schools hold small communities together, they give a village a focus point and allow parents to meet up and make friends. They allow children to get to know, and value their surroundings and the people who live within them. Strong communities promote positive, environmentally aware values.

Denbighshire council are currently in the process of what they call, ‘modernisation’ of the county’s primary schools. Closures are amongst some of the council’s proposals. There are many reasons cited for closing small community schools; surplus places, difficultly recruiting headteachers and rising overheads. In the end it all comes down to a lack of funds. By closing Ysgol Llandrillo, Denbighshire council will make a revenue saving of approximately £31,000 per annum. They will also avoid the maintenance backlog of around £140,000.

Between two of villages affected by the school closure, Cynwyd and Llandrillo, Scottish Power Renewables are proposing to build a wind farm. The Mynydd Mynyllod wind farm. The company promises to provide the local community with £2000 for every MW installed per annum. IF all 25 of the proposed turbines are installed, then this equates to an annual income of £150,000.

There are concerns in the area about the visual and economic impact the wind farm could have. The money on offer by Scottish Power, the ‘community benefit’, is seen by those campaigning against the wind farm as being little more than a bribe. The money would be made available to a wide area surrounding the wind farm, and so directing the money towards education in Llandrillo would require cooperation from a number of local communities. The council would also need to find a way of making an alternative funding source fit the ‘Modernisation’ agenda imposed upon them by the Welsh Government.

Wind farm money could present an opportunity for this area. However there are lots of differing interests within the area. If anything positive is to come out of the changes currently being proposed, both to eductation and landscape, then it is community cooperation that will be the key.

North Wales Residual Waste Treatment Project

Below is the briefing that FoE groups have sent out to the councils involved in the “North Wales Residual Waste Treatment Project”

It sets out a very clear case against the building of an energy from waste incinerator, and also highlights some of the alternatives – more details are available on the alternatives should anyone wish to see them.

North Wales Residual Waste Treatment Project
Summary briefing for Councillors, May 2011

Three waste management companies (Sita UK, Veolia ES Aurora and Wheelabrator Technologies) have now been shortlisted for the North Wales Residual Waste Treatment Project (NWRWTP), which seems certain to be an energy from waste incinerator. The cost will be a staggering £600-800 million over 25 years. Friends of the Earth has previously raised concerns over this project that still have not been adequately addressed. We wish to summarise these concerns once again for all AMs and councillors (for the complete version of our comments, please email .

 • The planned NWRWTP capacity is 150,000 tonnes per annum, which is far above the tonnage of residual waste that will be available if the Welsh Assembly’s waste minimisation targets are met.

• Contracts for large-scale projects like the NWRWTP involve guaranteed tonnages with penalty clauses. If, as we firmly predict, there is not enough residual waste available to meet the guarantees, the result will be penalty payments or burning of resources that could have been recycled. Furthermore, there will be a threat of having to import waste to the incinerator from England.

• As a result of the guaranteed tonnages, incineration depresses recycling rates.

• The Welsh Assembly targets for recycling and waste minimisation are achievable. Some parts of the world currently exceed the 70% recycling target for 2025, and South Somerset has already almost met the Assembly’s 2025 waste minimisation target. With improved technologies and packaging, a recycling rate of 85% should become achievable in the relatively near future.

• It has been claimed we need projects like the NWRWTP to avoid EU fines for sending waste to landfill. In fact such fines will only apply to biodegradable waste, and there is no imminent threat of exceeding landfill allowances.

• Against a background of rising commodity and oil prices, it makes no sense to burn resources that could be recycled or re-used.

• Incinerators create potentially harmful emissions and leave a hazardous byproduct in the fly ash that remains.

• There are smaller scale, more flexible, cheaper solutions for dealing with residual waste that would also be a very significant source of job creation. Small mechanical and biological treatment (MBT) plants could be used to treat the reducing volume of residual waste and render it inert and ready for landfill.

• Incineration releases greenhouse gases.

We hope that you will be opposing the NWRWTP and opting for simple and safe solutions that will save taxpayers money and benefit the environment.

Support windfarms? It would be less controversial to argue for blackouts [taken from the Guardian website]

By rejecting all the means by which renewable electricity can be generated, the UK has set a very dangerous course

Why do those who oppose wind power insist on spoiling their case with gibberish? In his column on Friday, Simon Jenkins claimed that onshore windfarms were being planned “with no concern for cost”. But the only reason for building them is a concern for cost. If it weren’t for this issue, they would be the last option governments would choose – God knows they cause enough trouble.

As the government’s Committee on Climate Change reports, large onshore windfarms are “already close to competitive” with burning natural gas, and are likely to get there by 2020. They are the cheapest renewable sources in this country by a long way. Offshore wind costs roughly twice as much, and its costs have been escalating. After attacking the high cost of wind power, Jenkins argued that we should instead invest in “sun and waves”. The committee shows that while the expected price of electricity from onshore wind in 2030 is between 7 and 8.5 pence per kilowatt hour, solar power is expected to come in at between 11 and 25p, and wave between 15 and 31p. Talk about no concern for cost!

Incidentally, the cheapest low carbon option, the committee says, is nuclear power, at 5-10p. But, because of public objections, new plants are likely to be confined to existing sites, which means a maximum of about 20 gigawatts (a quarter of our current power capacity). Planning objections also restrict the spread of onshore wind. The only viable means of getting carbon off the grid, the committee suggests, is a mixture of sources: renewables, nuclear and carbon capture and storage.

But those who oppose wind power can’t help themselves. In parliament earlier this month, Glyn Davies, the MP who is leading the fight against windfarms in mid-Wales, insisted that “Welsh windfarms have a load factor of just 19% – the lowest ever recorded” and that “the carbon impact of the development can never be compensated for by any possible carbon benefit”. Rubbish again. The capacity factor for Welsh wind (the amount the turbines produce as a proportion of their idealised output) is 26%.

Professor Gareth Harrison of Edinburgh University estimates that the carbon payback time for the wind developments in mid-Wales will be roughly 12 months (all references on my website). Davies, like Jenkins, also claimed that “so much more” could have been done with the same money had it been spent on wave and tidal power, offshore wind and solar photovoltaics. Should MPs not be obliged to do some research before they open their mouths in parliament?

Anti-wind campaigners are also highly selective. The Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales, obsessed by windfarms, says nothing about the opencast coalmines ripping south Wales apart. Nor do you hear a word about the destruction of the ecosystems of upland Wales (and England and Scotland) by sheep grazing. These champions of the countryside want to save it from only one threat.

For all that, it’s a real one. While the windfarms themselves divide communities, everyone hates the new power lines required to connect them to the grid. Here in mid-Wales, I have yet to meet anyone who will speak up in favour of them. Because they have to march across so much countryside, their visual impact is greater per pound of investment than that of any other technology.

Though you could see this issue coming as clearly as the pylons themselves, the green movement is completely unprepared. Greenpeace tells me “we haven’t done any work on pylons”. Hardly anyone seems to be aware of how perilous this situation is: how easily renewable energy could be killed by the power lines issue.

This is about to become a national struggle, in which opponents of the new pylons will be cast as heroes. Promising direct action, reminding us of the great battles against the reservoirs supplying England, those who marched against the new lines in Wales last week will put us, unless we act quickly, in a dangerous position. Green activists will be outflanked by green activism. The same battle will then be fought all over the United Kingdom, wherever a new power line is planned.

Many of the areas affected by proposals for new lines are either Tory constituencies or Lib Dem seats the Tories will hope to take (all of which are now contestable). It is hard to believe that the Conservative commitment to low-carbon energy could withstand a major rebellion within the party: Tory environmentalism is easily uprooted.

The greens need to decide where they stand. The only position that makes sense to me is unequivocally to support the campaign against overhead lines. Where new powerlines are built they must go underground. If they can’t go underground, they shouldn’t be built. If we are not against pylons marching over stunning countryside, what are we for?

But here too there’s a problem. Like the windfarms, overhead lines are favoured by the government because of its concern for cost. According to the National Grid, burying the lines connecting the turbines in mid-Wales to the rest of the system would cost 3.2 times as much as putting them on pylons (£562m vs £178m). But how much does that add to the cost of electricity?

Calculating this is easy (there’s an explanation on my website) – as long as you know the capital costs of the whole project. But neither the National Grid nor anyone else I’ve spoken to is prepared to hazard a guess about the cost of the rest of the infrastructure, so I can’t yet tell you whether burying the power lines makes onshore wind here more expensive than competing technologies.

In fact my efforts to obtain relevant data of all kinds from the government, the National Grid and the wind industry reveal that, like the environment movement, they are completely unprepared for this backlash. Dismayed by the collective failure to address the pylons issue, the campaign against windfarms now confidently tells the same story about this technology as others do about nuclear: the turbines are erected by big, greedy corporations; they are unfairly subsidised by the government; they will cause untold damage to human health. In view of the flack you get for supporting any power technology, I’m beginning to think it would be less controversial to argue in favour of blackouts.

So this is where the United Kingdom stands. We cannot keep burning fossil fuels without cooking the biosphere. We don’t like nuclear power. We don’t like onshore wind. We won’t like the costs of the other technologies. We reject all the means by which electricity is generated. Yet no one is volunteering to stop using it.

• A fully referenced version of this article can be found on George Monbiot’s website


Film show success

Last night saw Llangollen’s first showing of the Leonardo DiCaprio Film, “The 11th Hour”. Llangollen FoE organised a showing of the climate change film as a trial run for a series of environmental film showings.

Everyone who attended enjoyed the evening, commented on the excellent venue and thought that a series of publicly advertised showings would be worthwhile. The plan for these showings will be discussed at our next meeting (02/06/2011).

Thanks again to everyone who came along and thanks also to those who helped organise the event.

No to incineration – Please sign our online petition

We call upon the National Assembly for Wales to urge the Welsh Government to revise its planning policy and policy on residual waste to provide a presumption against the building of incinerators, which send most of the carbon from waste into the air as CO2, emit ultra-fine particles that can be damaging to health, and create toxic ash. We believe that incineration is bad for the environment and bad for people.

The petition can be found here;

Bikes on Buses

X94 in Llangollen

The Assembly government has recently announced that the Wales wide TrawsCambria bus network through Wales is to receive £2.2m to fund new buses. The X94 Wrexham-Barmouth bus service, which passes through Llangollen, is part of TrawsCambria network.

Public transport systems work best when they are integrated. By integrating bicycles with buses you greatly increase the flexibility of bus services. People can ride a short distance to their local bus stop, use the bus to cover the majority of their journey and then finish off the last few miles by bike.

The current fleet of buses which serve the X94 route are fitted with bike racks. This is a great idea, especially for the X94 which serves a number of tourist towns.

In reality there are some problems. The main problem is that passengers are not able to actually use the racks! I have been informed by several different drivers on the route that I couldn’t use their rack because it wasn’t working; in fact one driver said that the bike racks have actually never worked.

Let’s hope that the new buses bought with the £2.2 million investment of public money include provisions for carrying bikes that actually work. I have contacted the assembly government regarding this and am currently awaiting their response.

Llangollen FoE Poster

If you have been into town recently, maybe you spotted one of our new posters. If you did you were lucky as so far there are only four posters in the whole town!

Help us recruit new members by improving our poster coverage. Either request a poster from Warren or print your own copy, then simply put it up on a noticeboard of your choosing. A quick, simple and hopefully effective action. Thank you!

Click here to download a printable version of the poster.