‘Occupy’ St Valentine’s Day
On Newsnight on 13th February, they said we should ‘occupy’ Valentine’s Day – reclaim it from its commercialisation. To remind myself of the history of this Christian saint’s day, I had to visit Wikipedia. Apparently the day became a celebration for lovers as early as Geoffrey Chaucer’s time. People were already sending flowers, confectionery and greetings cards by the 15th century!
As Christians, we know that one kind of Love surpasses all else (Paul in 1 Corinthians 13), and it is this Love we should show for our neighbours. If you click on this link to the Diocese’s Shrinking the Footprint web pages, you can see how we relate this to our responsibility to care for the earth and the environment which constitute our common home.
Lent Carbon Fast
This letter is also just in time for Ash Wednesday next week, the beginning of Lent.
Every year for some years now, the Bishop of London and the Diocese have supported Tearfund’s Lent Carbon Fast – an occasion for special effort to shrink our impact on the environment and the climate – and our adverse effect on our neighbours’ lives. We should be doing this all the time – but Lent is a good opportunity to focus our efforts. To find out how to take part and to get a flavour of how the Carbon Fast is happening around the world, click on this link.
For an environment-themed Bible study for Lent 2012, see here.
Route around the World
Our responsibility towards those around the world most vulnerable to climate stresses is the theme of this event planned for Saturday March 17th.
The title echoes that of Route 2050, last May’s event which launched our long-term environmental programme of the same name. Route around the World surveys the international dimension, which is equally pivotal to our effort. Here is our invitation letter:
“I have much pleasure in attaching a flyer/poster (it can be used as either – printable either at A4 or A3 or even A2) by way of invitation to this event on the afternoon of Saturday March 17th, 1:30 for 2:00 pm in the truly magnificent church of St George’s Bloomsbury.
“Do a little shopping in Oxford Street in the morning, adjourn afterwards to somewhere suitable to celebrate St Patrick’s Day – but in between don’t miss Route Around the World, in which we will acknowledge and celebrate some of what is being done to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change in poorer communities around the globe, and help build resilience for the future.
“The Rt Rev Peter Wheatley, Bishop of Edmonton has kindly agreed to deliver the keynote address. ALMA, London Diocese’s Mission Partnership with the Anglican Dioceses in Angola and Mozambique will be represented, as will aid NGOs Tear Fund, Christian Aid, CAFOD and Progressio. Our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters are represented by CAFOD, and Progressio is also of Catholic foundation. In addition we will be privileged to welcome Rabbi Jeffrey Newman of Earth Charter UK, to conclude with an introduction to the UN’s upcoming ‘Rio+20’ conference about sustainable development.
“Thus this is an ecumenical event, as befits an effort which crosses boundaries of faith and geography and which is the common obligation of humanity – to serve and cherish one another.
“Route Around the World also forms part of Climate Week (12th – 18th March 2012), ‘One week to show how we can combat climate change’. We are pleased, for the second year, to be taking part in this very widely supported national initiative.
“I will be circulating a detailed programme quite soon. Meanwhile please let me know that you can come. It hardly needs saying that all are welcome. So please cascade this invitation, with the poster, to all your groups, and mailing lists. Let’s be aware. And let’s engage – especially in 2012, when sustainability is coming even more to the forefront, whoever and wherever we are, and whatever we do.”
Please do RSVP to me – (020) 7932 1229, or email (Email: Brian.cuthbertson [at] london.anglican.org).
Solar panels and the Feed-in Tariff
In the last edition of this letter, I wrote about the government’s consultation on the rates of this incentive scheme for solar panels (photovoltaics or PVs). They wanted to reduce the rates, and we responded to the consultation – I later circulated the Diocese’s response.
Two things have happened since:
- The government was taken to court over its intention to backdate the changes to include installations made from last December 12th onwards (although the actual reduction in the rates for those installations would only come into effect from 1st April). The government lost in the High Court. At the same time as appealing this decision to the Supreme Court (outcome to be determined), the government has set a new ‘reference date’ of 3rd March – so installations completed from then on (not 12th December) will drop to the new lower rates on 1st April. That’s unless the government wins its appeal, in which case they will revert to the 12th December reference date. But any installation already installed up to whichever of these dates is finally determined to apply will continue to enjoy the old, higher, rates.
- While this debate about when the changes come in keeps rolling on, the government has just made its substantive response to the consultation.
This government has made a number of decisions. As we understand it:
- Tariff rates are to be reduced to a max of 21p per unit generated (less for larger installations), from 1st April (for installation dates backdated as reported above); this is as previously proposed;
- This new tariff is further reduced for organisations with more than 25 installations (unlikely to apply to the Diocese, we think, unless there are 25 in the Diocese’s direct LDF ownership – which would not apply to churches at least);
- The rate is further reduced to 9p for buildings without an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) Grade D;
- This requirement includes churches as well as all non-domestic as well as domestic properties. This is a bit strange: EPCs are for houses and other properties when they are sold or let – which might include some church halls, but was never intended to apply to a church; so we are considering how we might probe further;
- However there is a waiver for any building that can ‘prove’ inability to reach Grade D. The government has in mind open-sided structures such as farmyard barns. We don’t think this will be workable for churches, especially not when they are listed buildings;
- The possibility is also raised of placing PVs on the roof of one building but wired to another which has a Grade D EPC. This is interesting, and we’re looking at whether we can make use of it, eg by wiring a church to a detached church hall.
This can all be pretty confusing – if in doubt give me a call on (020) 7932 1229, and we can talk it through.
That said, we don’t think it’s as bad as it might seem. For a start, install costs have fallen by 2/3rds, to about £2-2½ K + VAT per unit of capacity – kilowatts peak (kWp). Should the worst come to the worst, a 9p tariff rate is worth having we think, for most churches – especially when funded by grants (as most of ours have been).
Last time I circulated the Director of Property’s report Brighter Picture of Church Energy Use. Since then we’ve estimated how much churches have saved in cost terms since 2005. The results are encouraging – £400K per year for all churches across the Diocese. Of this amount, 1/6th has come from switching tariffs, the rest from actually saving energy. (This is a comparison against what churches would have spent with no change in efficiency or tariffs – but it disregards inflation. Most churches may actually be spending more, but much less than they would have done.)
One of the tools we’ve used to reduce energy consumption is our Energy-saving Benchmarking scheme. Recently this was mentioned in the House of Lords, by the Bishop of Bath and Wells (Bath and Wells is one of 7 other dioceses who are now using our scheme). It has been a great success. 21% of our own churches have taken part. Are you one of them? If not, please consider it and contact me (Email: Brian.cuthbertson [at] london.anglican.org).
There also several schemes to help churches change their energy supply to a better tariff.
One of these is the Church of England’s recently launched Parish Buying Service (which also includes other things such as photocopiers and office supplies).
One option which is now looking very competitive is to buy green electricity from Good Energy.
For example, St John’s Hoxton has just changed their electricity supplier to Good Energy. Good Energy supplies the grid with 100% of the amount of renewable electricity it sells to its customers. Its tariff proved surprisingly cheap compared to competitors.
The Revd Graham Hunter of St John’s Hoxton has commended the company, saying:
“I had used Good Energy for our domestic supply for over 5 years, but recently enquired about their business supply and found that they were quoting us a price 60% lower than our renewal quote (for the standing charge). Not only are we fulfilling our environmental aspirations, but also we’re saving money!”
Why not do the same for your church? We strongly encourage churches signing up to Good Energy.
Click here for the Diocese’s web page with more information about Good Energy.
- You can still call Good Energy direct, on 0845 456 1640. Make sure to quote promotional code GE141.
- Note as a charity you should only pay 5% VAT – check this is being done by your supplier.
Charity Funding Solutions
The Diocese of London still has its own hands-on service to help with tariff changes (and also your telephones and internet service provider), provided by Charity Funding Solutions. Savings of an average of £1,200 per year have been realised for each participating church (up to £4,000 in one case). We warmly recommend this friendly and very beneficial service.
Climate Action Plans
Last but by no means least, if you’ve looked at the links in this letter for Charity Funding Solutions or Good Energy, you’ll have seen that these facilities still form part of the Diocese’s scheme of Climate Action Plans.
This is a suite of tools to help individual churches to save energy, carbon and money.
Are you taking part yet? Once again – please contact me on (020) 7932 1229, or by email (Email: Brian.cuthbertson [at] london.anglican.org).