As a Development Officer for Welsh Government’s Renewable Energy Support Service since 2010, I offer expertise across all aspects of developing renewable energy projects in a wide range of technologies. I’m a long-time proponent of sustainability in the broadest sense seeing the solutions to climate change through a lens of social justice as well as the existential threat posed by exceeding our ecological limits. That’s really why I got involved with Renew – because action planning seeks the common ground between the needs of organisations already doing important work in communities, and delivering action on climate change. Over the last 30 years I have worked with very diverse groups from youth, mental health and traveller communities doing theatre work, to social enterprises developing ambitious businesses. I also act as a voluntary Director of Community Energy CIC, which is involved in delivering a range of ambitious sustainable energy projects across Pembrokeshire, and is the host organisation for my Renew Wales work. My sustainability consultancy, SpiraLife, delivers action plans for Renew as well as wider outdoor learning and design services. Last but by no means least, as a musician I provide creative conference interventions (musical minutes) and sing silly songs about serious subjects.
Tell us about an experience of your work with Renew…
Friends of Narberth Pool (FONP) were faced with the prospect of Pembrokeshire County Council closing their local swimming pool on the basis that it was losing money. I assessed the budget and recommended an action plan to take over the pool as a social enterprise. I found that through changing from oil heating to wood pellet, and by installing solar photovoltaic panels on the roof, they could reduce losses substantially, and close a further gap in the budget due to the income generated by Feed in Tariff and Renewable Heat Incentive. Of course, we looked at the energy efficiency savings as well – I secured funding from Carbon Trust for an energy efficiency study, and the findings from that were incorporated into some ambitious refurbishment and extension plans provided free by a local architect. The community formed a Community Benefit Society on my advice and raised over £150,000 in the end in community share investments and donations.
We recognised that while this saved a lot of CO2 emissions and fixed the budget in the short term, the pool still had a longer term economic sustainability challenge. I helped the group secure support with an ambitious business plan from Wales Co-operative Centre, and much of the development outlined in that is still being pursued as the pool goes from strength to strength.
As well as action plans delivering sustainable energy outcomes, I like to work with local food, outdoor activity and transport issues – all of which have clear links with climate change which we can deliver on while getting immediate social and health benefits – and having a lot of fun!
What is your vision of your region in 2050?
Well, trains in Pembrokeshire will run on hydrogen largely generated from community energy schemes, as will most lorries and buses. There may still be a few communities that don’t have local food growing co-operatives, but they will be regarded as a bit weird and old fashioned. Like the rest of the country, we will have adapted to huge job losses due to automisation and abundant renewable energy sources by working a lot fewer hours on “employed” work and using all that time to be a lot more involved in managing our local environment, growing our food, and getting together to celebrate all of that with our neighbours!