EurActiv - Letters to the Editor

Sir,

Regarding ‘Commissioner: Farm aid should be a third of EU budget‘:

I was one of the contributors to the recent Centre for European Policy Studies report ‘For a Future Sustainable Competitive and Greener EU Budget’. The report came out in favour of restructuring the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) whilst predicting that such restructuring would prove contentious. All parties to the current budget negotiations are failing to address two core issues: the CAP is there to provide some food security to Europe and some stability to farm incomes. The two tend to go hand in hand.

With respect to farm incomes, the question that needs to be asked is ‘are there any other revenue-generating activities which farmers could undertake and which would offer reasonably stable incomes?’.

As it happens there are. Feed-in tariffs (FITs) for renewable energy are a feature of the European energy landscape. However, projects involving, for example, wind or ground-based photovoltaics tend to be held up by lengthy and tortuous planning processes.

Taking the UK as an example, the recently enacted FIT could generate incomes for farms in the range Euro 100,000 to Euro 200,000 with payback in terms of capital within 3 -4 years (based on the erection of two 250kW wind turbines). A lengthy UK planning process is slowing things down despite generalised political support.

Interestingly, the country that is least keen on CAP reform – France – is also the one that recently made it even more difficult to erect wind turbines. They now go through the same planning process as petro-chemical plants (no, I’m not joking).

In summary, renewable energy coupled to FITs could provide a stable income stream for farmers. They could continue to farm the land and provide food for Europe whilst also helping meet European targets for renewable energy.

It would be nice to think that politicos could, for once, pull their heads out of the sand and recognise that a win-win situation is staring them in the face.

Mike Parr

PWR

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  1. Mt. Elgon Self-Help Community Project

    by Wakhungu
    (Mbale- Uganda)

    Harnessing the sun and the wind: Solar and windmill project

    The Mt Elgon solar and windmill project was launched in October 2009. The aim of this project is to provide alternative sources of energy to our people.

    At present, 99.9% of our people depend on firewood for cooking and this has had far-reaching negative effects on the environment. What’s more, there is no electricity and therefore no lighting in the vast majority of homes here.

    Now we are building our own solar panels which will provide energy for small solar lamps and cookers. This will bring light to our community. It will also enable us to use water pumps to assist us to cultivate our crops. This will mean we do not lose our crops in drought and it will prevent famine. By using solar power for cooking we will also reduce emissions into the atmosphere. And the project will provide jobs for young people creating the panels. The next step will be to build windmills so that we can harness the power of the wind.

    This is very significant to us. Our people have always been at the mercy of the heat of the sun and the power of the winds. Often the winds have destroyed our crops and blown the roofs off our houses. And sometimes we have wilted under the heat of the sun. Now, however, when it is too hot we will know that this heat will bring us light in the darkness. And when the winds are blowing, we will know they are bringing us power.

    Acknowledging achievements
    The most powerful thing we can do is to enable people to do things themselves and then acknowledge their achievements. When the solar project was launched, we gathered all the members of the school community.

    We also gathered a range of international guests and distinguished speakers from the region. The media was also there. The first solar panel was assembled by young people from Mt Elgon. It is their achievement. And so, we created a ritual of acknowledgement to celebrate this. There were songs and speeches.

    We acknowledge the achievements of our young people. They may not have had shoes, enough clothes, and books to use at school, at times they may have gone without food, but they persisted through adversity to go on to higher institutions of learning and now they have done something that no-one else has done in our community. They have made our first solar panels. They have assembled these themselves. Over so many generations, our people have struggled to protect their crops from the heat of the sun and the strength of the winds. Their sacrifice has not been in vain. Now the dreams of our ancestors have come true. The hard work of our young people has made it possible for us to harness the heat of the sun. We acknowledge the achievements of our young people. It may have not been so easy for them along the way, but we are so happy that they raised their heads above the clouds.

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