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Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Bristol's Green Capital Plans



Last week I went to a Green Leadership conference organised, in part, by my good friend David Saunders who is right in the drivers seat with regards to green issues and renewable energy in the city. It was certainly an inspiring event I can tell you.

But of course, David wasn't the only inspiring personage to appear at this event. The beauty of these things is that such events draw lots of people together, each with a whole set of very good ideas and eager to join in and help build a green future.

For those who don't live in Bristol, I can tell you that this city is vibrant and exciting, particularly with regard to the renewable energy and sustainability sectors which are rapidly becoming major growth industries in the region. Furthermore, in 2008 Bristol was the only UK city to be shortlisted for the European Green Capital Award, a scheme which recognises and rewards those cities making efforts to improve their local environment, economy and quality of life for urban populations. We narrowly missed winning the award for Green Capital City 2013, but we're having another go this year, hoping to win the 2014 prize. And that means there's lots of exciting things going on in the city, as usual.

The Green Leadership conference is essentially a successor to last year's Zero Carbon Bristol event and I personally found the conference to be very productive and truly inspirational in terms of the commitment and breadth of ideas and imagination displayed by those who attended.

In the forefront of this, as to be expected, is Bristol City Council. The first speaker therefore was council leader Barbara Janke who explained to the audience what the council is doing for sustainainability in the city. Her talk included lots of interesting references to smart meters, smart grids, wind turbines, a neighbourhood governance scheme intended to try and motivate Bristol's populace into making their lives greener and so on. It seems that the council is involved in some £23 million worth of sustainability projects, so that's not too bad really is it?.

Furthermore, David revealed later on in the day that the council is also planning 30 percent tree cover in the city and a level of 40 percent of Bristol's energy to be drawn from renewable energy sources. Another speaker from Bristol City Council, Marika, told the audience that two more wind turbines are planned and that the council are about to modernise the city's entire street lighting. I've read about this elsewhere and it appears that this particular project involves reverting back to white, as opposed to orange, lighting, as its more sustainable.

Bristol University are getting in on the act too. At least two departments are working towards a 50 percent sourcing of energy supplies from solar PV.

The Bristol Power Co-operative are working towards a solar allotment idea based on shared roofs. This would be great for those who are least available to afford solar power and would be a real solution to those who routinely suffer from energy poverty, particularly the elderly. The co-operative wants to run this programme through community centres so that entire streets can be switched over to solar PV at a stretch. Furthermore, it seems that some local companies are already interested, including AS Solar and Triodos Bank.

Clean Slate is an organisation that works with low-skilled people including ex-offenders, one idea being that they could be re-trained to become solar power installers. I certainly think there is going to be a demand for this as the green revolution speeds up and its also a great way of helping the local economy and assisting those who, for various reasons, haven't been able to help themselves.

There are many more organisations in Bristol actively helping the city to become a greener city. Low Carbon South West for example are actively involved and Transition Bristol are looking at ways in which Bristol's food supplies can become more localised, thereby helping to guard against climate change and the effects of oil depletion on transportation.

But there are many more smaller and less obvious groups within and around the city too. So when it comes to environmental matters, Bristol is certainly helping to lead the way.

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