Emergency? What emergency?
By Cllr Vilnis Vesma
The District Council has voted to install solar panels on its headquarters in Coleford. Cllr Gill Moseley and I abstained when the measure was voted through, as did our Independent fellow ward councillor Julia Gooch. We were the only dissenting voices and I would like to explain why. Julia, who was in the Chair, told me afterwards she felt she could not support something that would only repay the investment in eight and a half years. I agree.
What concerned me was not just the poor financial return but the fact that there must be so many other more cost-effective opportunities to reduce the Council's energy consumption and emissions. One green councillor described the solar panel project as a 'no-brainer'. Quite so: it's a fashionable choice, made because of its visibility rather than its viability. The problem is that since declaring a climate emergency in 2018 the Council has not done any kind of technical audit to establish where the best energy and carbon-saving opportunities lie. Their management information on things like office energy consumption is woefully out of date; moreover, I'm pretty certain that they have badly underestimated the impact of domestic waste collection. I would be surprised if the CO2 emissions from dustcarts did not dwarf everything else but action on this front has been notable by its absence and only now are they developing a baseline.
It will be a shame if the solar project crowds out other more effective actions, either because of borrowing constraints or the staff time that it will consume. I asked for assurances on those points during the debate and none were forthcoming, although we were treated to a lecture on the Siberian heatwave. Not good enough.