ENERGY saving might not be high on the agenda in many people’s minds in summer but for one dedicated community group in Wharfedale, the issue has become a year-long call to action.
SURE – a not-for-profit group set up just last October with the express aim to get Wharfedale residents to switch on to energy saving in all aspects of their lives, is powering ahead with its eco-friendly plans.
Chaired by Otley resident Andy Walker, the group is already accelerating plans to take the level of public awareness on energy efficiency further.
The group aims to instil the importance of energy efficiency in the home to residents, small businesses and the wider community in the Wharfedale area by encouraging homeowners to make a raft of changes to help slash their bills.
The popularity of the group is now gaining widespread notice.
“SURE is here to simply say we can help people increase their energy efficiency all round, and to reduce people’s domestic energy bills.”
For the past year, we’ve been successfully finding practical ways for people to reduce their fuel bills by reducing their energy consumption and it is this simply, positive message that we are now trying to communicate to the whole of Wharfedale.
Sustainability and The Inconvenient Truth
“I’ve been thinking about the whole issue of sustainability, and climate change and energy usage for a very long time. After a screening of a film called The Inconvenient Truth at Otley Courthouse, I was so captivated by its straightforward single message on the importance of energy use and sustainability that I wanted to get hold of a copy of it, duplicate and distribute it through everybody’s letter box.”
It struck me that very many people genuinely don’t care about energy savings and sustainability, and as group, we are trying to raise the awareness level in Wharfedale.
I hit upon the notion to form the group last year when the (low energy) light bulb of an idea popped into my brain, suggesting Let’s make it easy to show people how simple it is to make energy savings, by staging events that are free to come to, so and so on, and to align self interest with the interest of the community.
“I’m delighted with the wealth of support throughout the Wharfedale community we have received so far.”
We are a community group, it’s a not-for-profit organisation, and we are funded by various grants that we get and through healthy membership, not aligned with any commercial organisation or political organisation or other interest.
Leeds, Otley, Yorkshire Dales
The majority of our members are based in Otley, and the people that were first involved in it wanted to make it more inclusive to a wider area so Wharfedale became a more inclusive name. We have members who live in Leeds, one member who lives in Spain, one who came from a Dales farm etc, so it is a thriving group.
We’re all familiar with low energy light bulbs but they are actually the least useful end of doing anything.
There are three main bands of effort that anyone can employ to reduce energy savings. And this applies to domestic usage, small businesses and the wider community.
The first level involves cheap or even free measures which reduce energy. And the most obvious one is behaviour change – a case of giving people the information to understand where they are using the energy. Because at the moment there isn’t currently a very good linkage (we find) between actual energy use and the bill. So we are here to make people more aware of their energy use.
“There are some very cheap things that can be done. Draft-proofing is an obvious one – other simple things like drawing your curtains when it gets dark. Putting radiator foil behind radiators, turning room temperatures down by a degree. None of this is rocket science and we’ve put together a page full of tips on our website to point people in the right direction towards efficiencies.”
There are three tiers of energy saving/awareness – firstly, small changes in the home. And behaviour which can add up to a large saving on bills, a second stage of smaller scale domestic capital investments such as solar usage and other means which can contribute markedly to changing energy usage. And finally a third stage of wider community involvement and sustainable energy generation.
Members of SURE – which stands for Sustainable and Renewable Energy for Wharfedale. Have fitted the latest energy efficient solar panels to the roofs of their houses to power domestic water heaters. While others have connected solar panels to DC car batteries to replace AC lighting in the home.
“Twenty per cent of energy usage in the home is as a result of lighting needs. There’s no reason why you couldn’t have the entirety of your electric light wiring in your house disconnected from the mains. You could then have it supplied via different means with DC. And there are lots of means you could generate that.”
“Solar panels are becoming far more efficient these days while costs are falling. Amorphous silicon panels are a third of the price of their crystalline counterparts. And even work well in cloudy skies – perfect for any Northern climate.”
Wind turbines, bio-mass fuels, and a plethora of other alternatives are also available.
Andy says :
While it is still only a vision. The group’s energy efficient longer-term goal would be to have a completely energy efficient community in Wharfedale. Otley’s Garnett’s Mill has already been earmarked by the group as the possible site for Yorkshire’s first Centre for Alternative Technology.
“Any longer term community projects remain a vision of course. But the prospect of a community based Centre for AlternatveTechnology (CAT) , is exciting.”
The old site at Garnett’s Mill is interesting because. It already has two water driven turbines which could be utilised to generate power. There’s a great deal of wetland down there where we could grow willows to generate bio-mass. We could even use bio-diesel, put solar panels all over the roof. Utilise a large ground-source heat pump. And put in place many green energy source projects.
“The turbines already there I estimate could generate 150kw of green electricity tomorrow, enough to power about 150 houses.”
In short, SURE is here to provide local solutions to help in the home. With the environment the wider community,and with the pounds in your pocket.