… for local groups such as the VGS looking at local issues?
To what extent can AI help in doing research and putting together policy documents?
Yesterday’s posting on the controversial local issue of parking fees featured some googling carried out by Bing Chat – the AI app provided by Microsoft – and which some would consider better than ChatGPT
Asking Bing Chat to “create a vision for Sidmouth Devon” simply ends up at the VGS; and to “create a biodiversity brief for the Sid Valley Devon” sent us to the SVBG. The perhaps more specific request “to create a biodiversity plan for Sidmouth” resulted in links to the biodiversity plans from central and local government.
Asking AI apps such as the Bing Chat to do some writing resulted in this “vision statement for Sidmouth” – which is rather bland and cobbled together:
Sidmouth Devon is a vibrant and sustainable coastal town that celebrates its rich heritage, natural beauty and community spirit. Sidmouth Devon aims to enhance its biodiversity, resilience and livability by promoting regenerative practices, green spaces and local initiatives. Sidmouth Devon welcomes visitors and residents alike to enjoy its diverse culture, leisure and learning opportunities.
Then asking it to “put together an energy descent plan for Sidmouth Devon”, the result is much more helpful:
To put together an energy descent plan for Sidmouth Devon, you may want to:
- Understand what an energy descent plan is. It is a local plan for preparing for a future where fossil fuel energy will be much more scarce. It goes well beyond issues of energy supply, to look at creative adaptations in the realms of health, education, economy and much more123.
- Learn from the examples of other communities that have created or are creating their own energy descent plans, such as Transition Town Totnes4 , Transition Town Lewes , or Transition Town Kinsale .
- Engage with the local stakeholders, such as residents, businesses, organisations and authorities, to identify the current energy situation, the challenges and opportunities, the vision and goals, and the actions and projects for energy descent in Sidmouth Devon.
- Monitor and evaluate the progress and impact of the energy descent plan, and update it as needed to reflect the changing circumstances and feedback.
And when asking Bing Chat to actually “write an energy descent plan for Sidmouth”, it came up with this:
Here is a possible outline of an energy descent plan for Sidmouth Devon:
Energy Descent Plan for Sidmouth Devon
This document presents an energy descent plan for Sidmouth Devon, a coastal town in the south-west of England. The aim of this plan is to prepare for a future where fossil fuel energy will be much more scarce and expensive, and to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. The plan covers the following aspects:
- The current energy situation in Sidmouth Devon, including the sources, uses and impacts of energy.
- The challenges and opportunities for energy descent in Sidmouth Devon, such as the availability of renewable resources, the potential for energy efficiency and conservation, and the social and economic implications of energy transition.
- The vision and goals for energy descent in Sidmouth Devon, based on the principles of resilience, sustainability and community.
- The actions and projects for energy descent in Sidmouth Devon, organised into four themes: transport, buildings, food and waste.
- The monitoring and evaluation framework for energy descent in Sidmouth Devon, including the indicators, targets and methods for measuring progress and impact.
Current Energy Situation
Sidmouth Devon is a town of about 13,000 people, located on the Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage Site. The town is mainly dependent on tourism, agriculture and services for its economy. The town has a relatively high proportion of elderly residents, and a low level of deprivation.
The main sources of energy in Sidmouth Devon are electricity and gas, which are supplied by the national grid. The electricity mix in the UK is mainly composed of gas (40%), nuclear (20%), renewables (20%) and coal (15%). The gas supply is mainly imported from Norway and Russia. The town also uses some oil and wood for heating, and petrol and diesel for transport.
The main uses of energy in Sidmouth Devon are heating, lighting, appliances, cooking and transport. The average annual household energy consumption in Sidmouth Devon is about 18,000 kWh, which is slightly lower than the national average of 19,000 kWh. The average annual household carbon footprint in Sidmouth Devon is about 6 tonnes of CO2, which is slightly higher than the national average of 5.5 tonnes of CO2.
The main impacts of energy use in Sidmouth Devon are environmental, social and economic. The environmental impacts include greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, noise pollution, habitat loss and resource depletion. The social impacts include fuel poverty, health problems, inequality and vulnerability. The economic impacts include energy costs, dependency on external suppliers, price volatility and risk of disruption.
Challenges and Opportunities
Sidmouth Devon faces several challenges and opportunities for energy descent. Some of the main ones are:
- Renewable resources: Sidmouth Devon has access to abundant renewable resources, such as wind, solar, hydro, biomass and marine energy. However, these resources are variable, intermittent and dispersed, requiring appropriate technologies, infrastructure and management to harness them effectively.
- Energy efficiency: Sidmouth Devon has potential to improve its energy efficiency by upgrading its building stock, appliances and vehicles, adopting smart technologies and behaviour change measures. However, these measures require upfront investment, technical expertise and public awareness to implement them successfully.
- Energy conservation: Sidmouth Devon has potential to reduce its energy demand by changing its consumption patterns, lifestyles and values. However, these changes require cultural shift, social support and political will to achieve them widely.
- Social and economic implications: Sidmouth Devon has potential to benefit from energy descent by enhancing its resilience, sustainability and community. However, these benefits require careful planning, coordination and participation to ensure they are fair, inclusive and democratic.
Vision and Goals
The vision for energy descent in Sidmouth Devon is:
Sidmouth Devon is a resilient and sustainable coastal town that meets its energy needs from local renewable sources while reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. Sidmouth Devon celebrates its heritage, natural beauty and community spirit while embracing innovation, diversity and learning. Sidmouth Devon welcomes visitors and residents alike to enjoy its culture, leisure and opportunities.
The goals for energy descent in Sidmouth Devon are:
- To reduce the total energy consumption in Sidmouth Devon by 50% by 2030 compared to 2020 levels.
- To increase the share of renewable energy in Sidmouth Devon’s electricity supply to 100% by 2030.
- To increase the share of renewable energy in Sidmouth Devon’s heating supply to 80% by 2030.
- To increase the share of renewable energy in Sidmouth Devon’s transport supply to 50% by 2030.
- To reduce the greenhouse gas emissions in Sidmouth Devon by 80% by 2030