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Energy transition: from Devon to Ungersheim

  • by JW

“We know how to build a low carbon society, the technology is there – the bit that is missing is the longing.”


Everyone’s talking about an ‘energy transition’:

AOC says Biden’s plan to ‘transition’ away from oil and fracking by 2050 is a good ‘first step’ | Daily Mail Online

As South Australia now knows, local jobs must be a priority in the clean energy transition | Energy | The Guardian

Twin problems for India: Energy transition and energy poverty | Deccan Herald


The UK government wants to transition away from the combustion engine:

U.K. Set to Ban New Petrol and Diesel Car Sales in 2030, FT Says – Bloomberg


It also wants to transition towards more renewable energy production:

UK government commissions space solar power stations research – GOV.UK

UK government launches taskforce to support drive for 2 million green jobs by 2030 – GOV.UK

New plans to make UK world leader in green energy – GOV.UK


However, it’s proving very difficult, as reported recently by Forbes:


U.K. Spending 32 Times More On Fossil Fuels Than Renewables: New Report

The U.K. government is squandering an opportunity to move towards a zero carbon future by pumping billions of stimulus cash into fossil fuels and all but neglecting renewable energy, according to a major new report released today.

Contrary to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s claim that Britain could become the “Saudi Arabia of wind power,” the report by Finnish power firm Wärtsilä Energy reveals that the U.K. has allocated $5 billion in stimulus commitments to fossil fuels, while clean energy will receive $158 million—just 3% of the injection intended for hydrocarbons.

The disparity indicates that current stimulus measures, intended to kickstart an economy ravaged by the coronavirus crisis, will cement fossil fuels’ place in the energy system, making it harder for the U.K. to achieve its target of a 57% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

U.K. Spending 32 Times More On Fossil Fuels Than Renewables: New Report


However, the government is also trying a regional approach:


UK Export Finance (UKEF), the Government’s credit agency, aims to help businesses grow their overseas trade and build back from the impact of coronavirus. UKEF is expanding its network of regional Export Finance Managers to help businesses secure the financing they need to trade internationally by appointing renewable energy specialists to put small businesses at the heart of the global transition to clean energy.

Government launches £3.6m fund to help SW firms grow exports – Business Live

UK Government Announces New Export Growth Plan | techUK | Official Press Release


Local authorities are also working on transitioning to a low-carbon energy future:

Cornwall Local Energy Market: trials prove successful – Vision Group for Sidmouth


But how would an ‘energy transition’ happen in Devon?


This is from an interview earlier this month with Rob Hopkins of the Transition Network and Totnes in Devon:


The community-led revolution

When Transition works best is when the network can collaborate with local authorities to help the members bring their vision to life.

For example, the Transition Town of Ungersheim in north-eastern France is an amazing story of what Transition looks like when it is led by a mayor.

Ungersheim is the first network to be launched by a local authority and thanks to this collaboration in the past decade, they have successfully introduced a more participative democracy, formed a citizens forum about renewable energy, launched a local currency, returned a former waste heap created to nature and installed a 120m2 solar thermal installation at the local swimming pool. Ungersheim has become a well-respected example of the magic that can happen when Transition and local authorities work together.

But according to Rob,  we need more than just collaboration to create the momentum needed to tackle the climate crisis. ‘We know how to build a low carbon society, the technology is there – the bit that is missing is the longing. To create this, it is not down to the works of facts or figures or policymakers, if that was enough, action would have started in the 1980’s – it’s about imagination and storytelling and nurturing the memories of the future.’

For Rob, the future doesn’t look like a world filled with Transition Networks, but a world where this revolutionary approach has become the norm. ‘I hope that we will get to a stage where we don’t need to talk about Transition because those ideas and this way of thinking will become so mainstream it is no longer different. I hope that we see towns and cities combat climate change, improve the economic health, and regenerate by bringing all of these things together rather than seeing them as separate. We need to reimagine how society works – that has to happen, it is what our survival depends on.’

Feature: The community groups tackling air pollution – Air Quality News

Feature: The community-led revolution – Environment Journal


Finally, there are ‘hidden costs’:

The True Cost Of The Global Energy Transition |


photo: Ungersheim, Village in Transition, France. – Transition Network

Transition Town Ungersheim – Fenster zur Zukunft