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Lagging behind


For a profession that would like to see itself as providing practitioners of sustainable development, the energy debate seems so far to be missing the rather pressing social issues.

We live in a country that has some of the worst rates of 'fuel poverty' in Europe (fuel poverty is defined as where more than 10% of household income is needed to be spent on heating the home to a reasonable temperature).

Our rate of excess winter deaths exceeds those of colder countries such as Norway and Sweden. Tackling fuel poverty means improving the standards of insulation in our homes.

In Cornwall we have set up a partnership (Cornwall Sustainable Energy Partnership) involving the county and district councils, the health authorities, housing associations, charities and utility companies. In the last two years alone, we have installed free insulation (eg cavity wall and loft insulation) in thousands of homes in deprived areas to cut emissions, improve health and reduce bills.

The next phase of our work will be to provide homes with low carbon and renewable energy systems using ground source heat pumps and biomass heating - and in a rural counties such as ours where farming is in crisis, creating demand for new energy crops has great economic development potential.

These types of solutions along with combined heat and power plants linked to district heating in more urban areas, strengthening regulations for insulation in buildings and greater use of renewables (e. g.photovoltaic roof tiles) could cut our consumption of fossil fuels significantly.

We should show greater recognition of social issues like fuel poverty in our State of the Nation report and show how we can meet these challenges in an environmentally responsible manner.

Anthony Weight (A) aweight@cornwall. gov. uk

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