Energy Plan

Neighbourhood Energy Plan for Balsall Heath – A Summary
‘Balsall Heath is our Planet’ asked John Newson to write an Energy Plan for the neighbourhood, during 2011. The main points of it are summarised below.

The Challenge
Rising prices of oil, gas and electricity are a major challenge to the neighbourhood; its households, community organisations, public bodies and private businesses. This problem can only get worse, as fossil fuels are becoming scarce and world demand is pushing against a limited supply. We have to create a more energy-efficient neighbourhood, and one that uses energy sources available in the area.

The report identifies the opportunities most applicable in Balsall Heath for creating a more energy-efficient lifestyle.

Community Buildings
Community organisations own many of the largest buildings. These are mostly costly to heat, due to heat losses. The many services provided to local people are under threat unless energy bills can be controlled. There are large savings potentially to be had, as shown by energy audits on 6 buildings. These buildings have large roofs, suitable for electricity generation from solar PV panels. They can meet some of their daytime electricity needs and be paid to supply energy to the local grid. Upfront capital costs are the issue for community organisations.

Community Renewable Energy
An industrial and provident society for the benefit of the community has been formed with Moseley and Kings Heath, called Community Energy Birmingham to raise money from a community share issue. This approach is happening in many other areas. The benefits from renewable energy can be shared between the organisation that owns the building and the wider community.

Combined Heat and Power
Using the waste heat from generating electricity is 90% efficient, compared to 60% for conventional power stations. A ‘Balsall Heath power station’ is proposed that would supply waste heat to the swimming baths, health centre and adjoining buildings on the Moseley Road.

We are too dependent on the car and rising petrol prices will make this unsustainable. The report proposes re-opening the railway station, as a ‘transport hub’, also providing spaces for car clubs and making streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians.

We need to store and use rainwater, to save drinking water and prevent flooding.

Rising costs of imported food are a threat to health and well-being. Space must be found to create community gardens for residents to grow fruit and vegetables.

Many unwanted items could be re-used and sold instead of thrown away and destroyed. There are many examples of Re-Use Centres, which support jobs and prevent waste.

Many people are afraid of their fuel bills. Much of our housing is old and we need to make Balsall Heath’s housing stock much better insulated, to stop heat loss.
There was a new way to pay for such improvements has been called The Green Deal. Homeowners  have energy savings measures done and then pay for them over the years, balanced by future savings, so ‘no cost’ overall – so-called ‘Pay As You Save’. There are  several options;
1. A national Green Deal scheme
2. Birmingham City Council’s own ‘Energy Savers’ Scheme (unfortunately since failed)
3. A ‘Community Green Deal’ for example led by housing associations in Balsall Heath.
Many roofs are suitable for solar pv panels. Occupants could benefit from daytime electricity and there is a payment called the ‘feed in tariff’. Some people are able to pay the full cost and get all the benefit. A community scheme could get people discounts and reductions on the cost. Many will need to have ‘free’ solar panels and there are ways to organise such a scheme at local level. Balsall Heath may benefit by joining with initiatives in Moseley, or other adjoining areas to retrofit our housing for energy efficiency.
If these opportunities are taken, new learning opportunities and new enterprises and jobs can be created for local residents.

Full report is available 50 pages

The Neighbourhood Plan
Many of the ideas above have been included in the Neighbourhood Plan which is led by Balsall Heath Forum. Residents and organisations were consulted from December 2011 onwards. A Plan showing improvements of many kinds to the area was prepared, to guide future development. This has never happened before. It could be the first chance to plan for a low energy neighbourhood and a more sustainable future.

Balsall Heath is Our Planet
Contact; John Newson , development officer BHIOP
0121 440 7919

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