Someone who has influenced my thinking on local government greatly over the past couple of decades has this week published a new book, 'A Guide to Solar PV Projects - in Local Government and the Public Sector'. The first books of Stephen Cirell's that I read were thick local government law encyclopaedias around Compulsory Competitive Tendering, followed by similar tomes on Best Value, then the Private Finance Initiative and Charging and Trading. So how does someone go from this background into the arena of climate change, renewable energy and energy efficiency? And do they know anything about the topic?
For the past three or four years Steve has been studying this area extensively and following a year working for Cornwall Council as Director of Green Peninsula, he came 'back up North' and begun working on a range of renewable energy projects, mainly for APSE, around Solar, Wind, Biomass and Electric Fleet. When most stood back and prevaricated around Solar, Steve was shouting about 'early mover advantage' and evangelising that local authorities should 'fill their boots' before the Feed In Tariff's were inevitably cut. Some did, but many hesitated and lost the initial opportunity. Steve's book now revisits the proposition of Solar PV for Local Government and the Public Sector and finds that due to the drop in price on PV panels it stacks up financially once again. However, if it was only about money then it would be a fairly shallow proposition. It's also about community leadership, energy security, carbon benefits, effectiveness and efficiency, and wider economic benefits.
Steve is someone who has always been slightly ahead of the local government curve and I believe that his new book and the subsequent ones on other forms of renewable energy, will prove to be a sound investment for those who believe that local government has a key role to play in micro generation of energy, energy efficiency and tackling issues such as fuel poverty, which blights many of the poorest families in our communities.