Today we met with Roger Godsiff, MP for Birmingham Sparkbrook and Small Heath, at Balsall Heath Church Centre which has solar PV laminate on its roof to provide electricity for the church and local neighbourhood.
After a quick round of introductions and an update on the success of the first phase of the final demand campaign from Kara, Roger expressed enthusiastic support for the campaign, describing the big six energy companies as an ‘appalling cartel’, saying that their practices have been ‘absolutely outrageous’ and that there has been no benefit from the de-nationalisation of energy.
Reverend Catherine Grylls of Balsall Heath Church Centre then explained how the centre had decided in 2007 that they wanted to reduce their carbon footprint. A couple of years later a number of organisations in Balsall Heath came together wanting to do something for the neighbourhood and Balsall Heath Is Our Planet (BHIOP) was born. Together they raised the £40,000 needed to install the solar PV onto the church centre’s roof.
BHIOP’s John Newson explained how the roof was constructed before we went out to look at it. A thick layer of insulation was laid down beneath a rain protection layer, with solar PV laminate tiles on top. John explained how the laminate was more expensive than panels at the moment (though its output is higher than panels) but as they were the first in the UK to install it they received a discount. The tiles are much more discrete than panels and were barely visible.
John talked about how the lunch meetings held at the church coincide perfectly with the roof’s highest output, and at weekends the surplus electricity goes out into the neighbourhood. BHIOP’s next step is to convert the Jericho Foundation’s roof so that the neighbourhood is drawing even less energy from the national grid.
Roger said that he was ‘100% committed to solar’ as it is ‘less contentious’ than wind, which he remains sceptical about due to the aesthetic issues of wind turbines. He suggested a national campaign to replace electricity pylons with wind turbines, running electricity lines underground instead.
Joe told Roger about what the other Birmingham MPs had done to support the campaign, such as Gisela Stewart writing to the Minister to ask why community projects receive a lower feed-in tariff rate than domestic. Joe asked if it might be possible for the Birmingham MPs to come together and issue a position statement on this. Roger suggested an EDM to applaud Balsall Heath Church Centre’s project and call for similar projects to be rolled out across Birmimgham. He agreed to propose the EDM and ask the other Birmingham MPs to sign it. He also agreed to find out Labour’s position on the Electricity Market Reform.
Finally, we explained the one thing people can do is to switch to green energy suppliers such as Good Energy and Ecotricity Roger agreed to lead the way by switching his own energy supplier to one of these.
We also got a great picture and a very supportive statement from Roger which you can check out in the news article and see in the video which will be uploaded shortly.