Tag Archives: Green Party

Could London run on more sun?

Written for the Hackney Citizen and first published here.

A fifth of London’s electricity supply could come from solar power, according to a new report commissioned by Green London Assembly member Jenny Jones. Yet the capital has the lowest uptake of the technology of anywhere in the UK.

Perversely, London is beaten into last place by both Scotland and the North East, in spite of the fact that these areas get much less sunshine.

Just one in 260 London households has solar panels on the roof, compared to the UK leader, the South West region, where one in every 32 homes generates its own solar power.

London’s 13,000 installations could meet the annual electricity needs of 12,000 houses, while on the other side of the country, the South West’s solar panels can supply the equivalent of some 110,000 homes.

Hackney is in the bottom 10 in London for the number of solar panels per household, with just one in every 441 dwellings generating its own solar energy. Waltham Forest comes out as the clear solar star, while Tower Hamlets finishes in last place.

Solar photovoltaic (PV) cells capture the sun’s energy and convert it into electricity. They still work on a cloudy day, although the stronger the sunshine, the more energy produced.

An average system for a domestic property will set you back between £6,000 and £7,000, with the cost falling all the time, but it should generate enough electricity in a year to power a typical household.

And under the Government’s Green Deal, people that choose solar can get cash back for their investment.

So why can’t we keep up? Germany, where the climate is not dissimilar from the South of England, recently surpassed its own record of generating 50 per cent of its energy from the sun. Here, the focus has been on community, commercial and industrial installations over domestic.

The Greens argue this should be London’s focus too, just like the installation on Blackfriars Bridge that produces enough solar energy to power 333 homes all year round.

“We need a City Hall team who can visit residents in flats, community groups, or business with advice and kick-start support,” Jones says. “We need to harvest solar generated electricity from the underused and empty roof tops of London’s commercial and industrial businesses, supermarkets, car parks, schools, transport and public buildings and other spaces.”

London’s first community energy project was set up by Repowering London in Brixton, emerging from one of the ten ‘Low Carbon Zones’, which were dropped by the London Mayor in 2012.

Repowering London is now supporting Hackney Energy, the first project of this kind in the borough, which is due to go live in the
coming months.

“London has enormous potential for solar,” Millie Darling, chair of Hackney Energy, says. “On my cycles around London I look up to see rooftops all around that could play a part in powering our city.”

“London has an important role to play in leading the way in the world’s transition to renewables,” she adds.

Hackney Energy is also working with Repowering London to set up the borough’s first solar energy co-operative, planned for the Banister House estate in Homerton, whose large, flat roofs make them ideal.

The project will be funded via a community share offer, which both local residents and non-residents can invest in. All income created by the electricity generated will go back to co-operative members and into the Banister House Community Fund for energy efficiency initiatives.

Meanwhile, Jenny Jones is calling on the Mayor to develop a London-wide solar strategy, with targets in place by the end of next year.

On being a domestic extremist in the UK

Written for Open Democracy and first published here.

After the news emerges that Green Party Assembly Member and peer Jenny Jones has been monitored by the Met for 11 years, it’s time to question what it means to be a domestic extremist.

Kirsty Styles: domestic extremist

I’m not sure how long I’ve been a domestic extremist, or even whether I really am. But if my name has made it onto Scotland Yard’s list, I’ll be therealongside Green peer and London Assembly member Jenny Jones. And no doubt the information compiled about me would be nothing a seven-year-old couldn’t find in 10 minutes using their mum’s tablet.

I may have set alarm bells ringing when I arranged for Guardian journalist David Leigh to come and speak at my university, which is heavily linked to BAE, about dodgy arms deals during the 1980s and 1990s. Or it could have been when I entered the public ballot for a ticket to see my arch nemesis Tony Blairgive evidence at the Iraq Inquiry in 2010. Or maybe it was when I joined the Green Party last year and ran in the most recent local election in Hackney.

For, as the Guardian outlined this week, this is a database filled with names of people who have never been arrested. They simply “seek to prevent something from happening or to change legislation or domestic policy, but attempt to do so outside of the normal democratic process.” I admit it. That’s me. But, police explain, in Minority Report pre-crime-style, these people may be planning to break the law…

I’ve just got back from a weekend of talks, workshops and even a wonderful ceilidh, a well-known extremist pastime, with Friends of the Earth at their annual Basecamp. There, we heard about the genuinely scary TTIP policy, the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, that seeks to bring in unparalleled deregulation that could see food standards, workers’ rights, the environment and just about everything in between ripped up in the name of free trade between the US and the EU.

Everyone at Bascamp was also worried about, and organising around, fracking. At its worst, many campaigners believe this could kill people and animals. At best, it’s investors trashing our natural environment and prolonging our reliance on fossil fuels, all in the name of profit for the few. Friends of the Earth has just launched its own Run on Sun solar campaign for schools, which could save them up to £8,000 per year on fuel bills. The stuff that only radical fanatics could dream up.

While at the event, I also dared to speak to strangers and had a very interesting conversation with a fellow ‘extremist’ about SLAPPS, Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, which are legal proceedings that are increasingly used to prohibit dissent among the UK population. The criminalisation of protest. Along with the Gagging Law, Boris’ unsanctioned purchase of water cannon, the Bedroom Tax, and the list goes on and on, over the past few years, we have faced an onslaught of transformative legislation from government, all of which politicians had to no mandate to bring in. And we, the people, are the extremists.

Everyone’s secret best friend Wikipedia says that extremism is an “ideology considered to be far outside the mainstream attitudes of a society”. I don’t see my very varied campaign work as part of any ideology, but it seems like arranging discussions about the UK government’s involvement with selling weapons, attending public inquiries on war crimes and standing for the Greens could count as extremism. Green attitudes in general – anti-war and for social and environmental justice – hardly sound like ideas that stray too far from popular opinion.

Our political system is derided by almost everyone you come across in near-equal measures for being out of touch, serving vested interests and scrabbling for the middle-ground, for greed, hypocrisy, elitism, cheating, lying or incompetence. There are probably many more accusations besides. But, after people get over the shock of meeting a young person, any person, who is deeply interested in our democratic process, they commend me for bothering to get involved. They feel like they should, but they just can’t overcome the feeling that it’s a waste of time, that things won’t change.

When I’m not peacefully involving myself in campaigns that I feel passionately about – local youth unemployment and community energy are two recent developments – I write about technology. Here is where activists, politicians and the general population need to focus more of their attention.

The government and its spies knew they would never be able to get the entire population to wear an electronic tag or carry an ID card, to be tracked. But now they know they didn’t need to. We’re all wandering around working as a band of gullible voluntary agents. Checking in, taking snaps and tagging. Spying on ourselves. And as Google’s helpful search algorithm ‘gets to know you’ it shows you more of what you like, which means you’re less and less likely to happen upon things by accident, like grassroots campaigns. What member of government has ever asked: ‘how we do democracy in the digital age? How do we empower people to act, what part do corporations play and how do we make powerful groups accountable?’

So I’d rather be considered a domestic extremist than indifferent, but actually I’d rather my government supported my right to have ideas and my passion for being involved in building a good society. Jenny Jones is a democratically-elected person who dares to think differently and has been monitored, just like thousands of other normal people, who are being watched and having their groups infiltrated by police even today.

I believe that the world can be different and it doesn’t matter if I can’t change it, at least I gave it a shot. I want to make sure that more people feel the same, because we have to work together if we want to make a real difference to our future course.

And, if they are monitoring me, I truly hope GCHQ enjoys trawling the Manalogue group, something one of my friends created on Facebook where we used to post pictures of ‘fittie celebrities’. Needless to say Tony Blair did not make the cut.