Pilita Clark, environment correspondent for the Financial Times, reports that a record 71% of all the new power generating capacity fitted in the Europe Union last year came from solar panels, wind turbines or other renewable energy sources.
Is the EU on course to meet its target of 20% of all energy needs from renewable sources by 2020?
A European Wind Energy Association report shows that the EU power sector is moving away from fuel oil, coal and nuclear while continuing to increase its total installed capacity with gas, wind and solar PV to meet increasing demand. It records that the amount of clean power installed in 2011 rose to 32 gigawatts*, compared with 23GW installed in 2010.
This was largely due to a surge in solar installations in Italy and Germany, whereas the number of wind power stations installed across Europe last year was similar to that in 2010. Solar photovoltaic systems made up 47% of all new installations, more than gas and wind power combined.
Italy became the world’s biggest solar PV market (9GW) for the first time in 2011, according to the European Photovoltaic Industry Association and Germany still leads the world in terms of the total amount of solar installations fitted.
Oil prices predicted to rise this year to a record high
As the chief executive of Vitol, the world’s largest independent oil trader, says today, oil prices could jump this year to a record high above $150 because of the Iranian sanctions. Will some of the electricity generated be used to power electric and hydrogen vehicles?
The New Automotive Innovation and Growth Team (NAIGT) issued a roadmap (above), which – rather cautiously? – forecasts that by 2020, hybrids, electric and hydrogen vehicles will be entering the market on a larger scale.
If renewable power installations and oil prices continue to rise perhaps the market expansion will be brought forward.
* A gigawatt can supply 1 million U.S. households on average, according to Mark Pervan, head of commodity research at the Australia & New Zealand Banking Group.
Pippa Woods of the Family Farmers’ Association asked: “Why did the British apple industry collapse and what future it has now? This is in connection with why we do not see many English apples in the shops.”
Chairman of the South Lakeland Orchard group, Andy Gilchrist, who is a retired agronomist and was involved in the apple industry gave the following answer:
Let’s start with some history:
In 1970, over 2,000 farmers grew about 150,000 acres of apple orchards. Forty years later, less than 500 fruit farmers are growing about 50,000 acres. So the “collapse” is a loss of 67% of English orchards, and 75% reduction in the number of English fruit growers.
There are three main reasons for this decline:
Firstly Britain’s entry into the Common Market in 1973 meant that import duties were removed for Continental European apples, which had a lower cost of production than English apples, mainly because they enjoyed a better climate, their growers were more progressive in adoption of new technology and grew higher yielding varieties. Cox has a low yield, and especially so from the traditional standard and bush trees then grown in England.
The second reason is marketing, both at the producer and retailer level. Continental European (mainly French) growers mostly belonged to grower co-operatives, who kept a percentage of sales to fund a marketing budget, with which they ran some very effective campaigns such as “Le Crunch” for French Golden Delicious. English growers by comparison were fiercely independent so did no effective or coherent marketing, except for relatively weak campaigns funded by the Apple & Pear Development Board from a modest levy. At the same time, supermarkets were fast gaining majority share of the grocery retail trade, and they demanded uniform blemish-free Class 1 fruit which was much easier to supply with French Golden Delicious than with English Cox’s.
Thirdly as a result of the above, it was recognised that many older orchards were in decline and becoming uneconomic, so government grants were made available for grubbing them out. The land was subsequently mostly turned over to arable production because the economics of wheat and oilseed rape production were far superior to apples.
Before addressing the future, let’s address the comment that “we don’t see many English apples in the shops”
Last month, Morrisons in Kendal were offering 13 different varieties of apple for sale. Of these, 4 were English (Cox, Bramley, Spartan, Royal Gala). It does not necessarily follow that 30% of those sold were English, the probability is that it was more like 20%. In fact it is generally claimed that Britain imports 80% of the apples eaten here. Certainly England could grow more than 20% of domestic consumption, but the point is that if consumers continue to demand Golden Delicious, Gala, Braeburn, Jonagold and the newer varieties Pink Lady, Fuji, Elstar, Jazz, Kanzi, Rubens……etc, then English growers cannot compete. English growers can only increase their production if consumers can be persuaded to eat more Cox, Bramley, and even heritage varieties such as Ribston Pippin, Ashmeads Kernel etc which grow better here than elsewhere. But that requires an effective marketing campaign, and nobody will fund that since nobody holds any intellectual property in these old varieties. Marketing campaigns are generally funded by those holding intellectual property (Plant Breeders Rights, Trademarks) who can ensure a return on their investment.
So, what is the future for the English apple industry?
Despite the comments above, the situation is not quite as gloomy as it seems. Although the area grown has declined significantly, the yield has risen due to new technology so that total production has not declined anywhere near as much. In fact over the last decade, English apple production has actually risen by 36%. The UK annually produces over 200,000 tonnes of apples. Yet this is only 2% of total EU production and a miniscule 0.25% of global apple production.
The cost of oil is high and likely to remain so or even increase further, adversely impacting transport costs, which is a plus factor for domestic production. The number of English fruit growers has now stabilised and those who remain are the best. They have younger, higher yielding orchards on M9 rootstocks producing a greater percentage of Class 1 fruit so can easily meet supermarket standards. They are early adopters of new technology and are already growing some of the newer varieties which suit our climate. Unfortunately, some varieties such as Pink Lady which requires a long growing season cannot be successfully grown here, so there will always be limits on the potential.
Any business or industry has to analyse its strengths and weakness, and then optimise opportunities provided by its strengths while minimising its weaknesses. What the English apple industry has achieved to-date is to very effectively minimise its weaknesses. It has not fully exploited its strengths. For example, because of our climate and culture, we grow the best cooking apples in the world. Surprisingly, the other EU countries do not grow cooking apples, rather they use dual purpose varieties (such as Reinette Grise du Canada) for cooking, despite the fact they consume as many apple-based desserts as we do. Bramley therefore represents a significant export opportunity. Unfortunately the structure of our industry means there is no organisation capable of mounting such a campaign.
Finally, are there any prospects for British heritage varieties?
We have to be realistic and accept that however good any of these varieties are, their insignificant production means they are unsuited to the supermarkets distribution channel. However, they are well suited to farm shop retailers, for example Orchard Barn apples from Arnside are sold through Plumgarth Farm Shop.
Farm shops are increasing around the country, and their business is increasing as more consumers try to buy local produce, so this is the route to encourage for heritage varieties, which will help to make them better known by consumers.
Many thanks for that information. I found it very interesting. Unfortunately my orchard is steep and bounded by a stone wall with difficult stile, so I cannot wander and sample the apples! But I get quantities of Bramleys brought in to give away and keep. They grow so well and prolific, each weighing up to a pound! I am still eating this year’s, so they keep reasonably well.
The Fresh Produce Journal reports that sales of English apples have soared by 21% year on year after new plantings and investment. In the first half of the season English Apples & Pears (EAP) figures show 21 and 40% increases in production of English Gala and Braeburn respectively which helped push sales up 21% overall against the same period last year, There was also a significant increase in newer varieties Cameo, Kanzi, Jazz, Rubens, Junami and Zari – rather outlandish names for English apples.
In response to a query from Pippa Woods of the Family Farmers Association, Cumbrian hill farmer Hilary Wilson asked Andy Gilchrist, a retired agronomist who was involved in the apple industry for information, and his remarkable contribution will be posted next week. Hilary is a member of The South Lakeland Orchard Group. She writes that it has just acquired an allotment where they intend to grow new varieties of apple to trial them in their area for taste and disease resistance:
“We also graft old fashioned apples so they can be grown in gardens as well as new farm orchards. Some fruit are too soft to put through a supermarketing system but we can make small sized garden trees. For instance one common one, which was grown by market gardeners is Beauty of Bath. It is an early small red eating apple, good for children to pick from a small tree.
”At our last meeting we had tasted puree from a wide range of cooking apples. Hopefully we will be able to recommend alternatives to Bramley, which is actually one of the sourest apples. Scotch Bridget does well in this area. It is useable in the autumn and keeps till spring. I like one called Belle de Boskoop which is a distinctly ugly russetted apple, but which does not need a lot of sugar. Dummelows seedling is as hard as a cricket ball but cooks to a froth and lasts till at least March.
”I have taken some ‘Rivers early prolific’ plums to a greengrocer, to sell as he only had, what I considered to be, pathetic green Victorias. Mine were designated as grade 111 which is according to EU rules. They were good plums and properly ripe and undamaged except they had russet patches on the skins from being blown about in the wind. EU classifications cover every visual aspect but sadly not taste. However I was pleased my greengrocer said he had taken some home to try and found them extremely good! They were elevated to grade 11!!
”There is a great deal of enjoyment to be had in growing fruit at home, in experimenting in suitable varieties for an area. Orchards are pleasant places to spend time in but one does not need a lot of space if one grows cordons. Whilst it is not possible to overturn the supermarket system there are a lot of orchard and fruit groups like ours involved in talking to people at events and shows, advising individuals and schools, and generally spreading the word.”
Bikes4All is a community bike enterprise which aims to encourage people of all ages to enjoy healthy and pollution free transport. Leicester residents have been donating their old bikes to Groundwork Leicester, which is reconditioning them.
The project was set up in September 2003 to prevent bikes going to landfill when they could be refurbished, and sold to families in deprived areas at prices ranging from £16-£40 for children’s bikes and £60 for adults.
A team of qualified bike mechanics and trainers now delivers accredited and bespoke training programmes. Left: Matt Winning, Groundwork Leicester. Tel enquiries: 0116 2420800
In Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield
Edinburgh Bicycle Co-operative, which opened as a co-op in Edinburgh in 1977, is experiencing a period of expansion with stores opening in Aberdeen, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield as well as through a successful online operation.
This expansion is said to be another sign of the continued health and growth of the UK cycling economy. A report by the London School of Economics has estimated the UK’s ‘Gross Cycling Product’ contributed £2.9bn to the UK economy with the retail sector turning over £2.47bn annually.
The Co-operative News reports that at the Scottish launch of the United Nations International Year of Co-operatives, Jeremy Miles, the Managing Director of Edinburgh Bicycle Co, said that the co-operative plans to double in size by 2017, increase its workforce from 160 to nearly 300 (all with a share in the company) and increase turnover to £20m.
Some time ago we gave a link to to the Birmingham Press for news about the Birmingham Bike Foundry – a new co-operative which is trying “to develop a cycling culture within our city:
“a city with serious health problems and a toxic addiction to motorised transport”.
Until the 1950s many towns and villages generated electricity using water wheels. Most were disconnected with the post-war expansion of the national grid, but there are still 20,000 sites in the UK that could be used to harness river and stream power to help to meet Government renewable energy targets.
When the writer visited Sarehole Mill, in Hall Green years ago, she met the miller who was grinding flour.
She admired the setting and the building. The huge water-wheel, mill gears and grinding stones and bakehouse were an impressive sight.
It was a great pleasure to read this month that – with a grant of £50,000 from Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery Development Trust – work will be done on the mill’s waterwheel so that it can be connected to a motor and generate hydroelectric power for nearby houses.
Other work is needed: three broken sluice gates must be replaced and the mill pond desilted, but other projects around the country show that with determination this one also could be successful.
In 2010, the Government’s Feed In Tariff was extended to domestically generated hydro-electric power and there are loans from several organisations, such as the Energy Saving Trust, enabling householders to borrow money to install a turbine or water wheel.
Some years ago the writer met Paul Lysley, a farmer who wanted to restore the old mill leat to produce electricity at Colham Mill in Wiltshire and also spoke to a member of the South Somerset Hydropower Group which is dedicated to bringing back mills into working condition.
With help from the local district council and part-funded by the Energy Saving Trust, this group has been installing new turbines, restoring blocked water-courses and repairing sluice gates in order to generate electricity.
The first community-owned micro-hydropower project (2009) now provides half the electricity needed in Derbyshire Co-operative Group’s food store. store, using the River Goyt’s fast flow. Grants were made by the Co-operative Fund and the Co-operative Bank. The Co-op plans to extend this support to other micro-hydro schemes across the country.
The Co-operative’s Yorkshire project at Bridge End Weir in Settle will use a modernised version of a 2,000-year-old Greek invention – the Archimedes screw, which easily pumps water to higher level – to generate electricity.
Hydro-electric projects have advantages over wind power, generating electricity whatever the weather. In October 2010, Climate Change Minister Greg Barker explained: ‘Our ambition is to have local communities, families and households generating their own energy and one of the most overlooked sources is water.’
David Timms, Friends of the Earth, said the scheme ‘means we can use part of our industrial and pre-industrial heritage to create a low-carbon economy for the 21st century’.
“If we can get people to understand that by not using peat we can save areas of significant wildlife habitats.
Peat bogs are not renewable – well not in our lifetimes or our grandchildrens or our great great great great etc children’s life times!
“It takes hundreds of years to ‘renew’ a peat bog. We need to stop the plunder of peat bogs now and save wild life! Peat bogs support enormous amounts of wild life not just a few birds but mammals, plant life, some plant life will only grow in peat bogs so if we continue to use peat a lot of these plants could become extinct!”
Earlier this month an article in the Financial Times gave news of a report by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature about peatlands. formed over thousands of years from dead and decaying plants in waterlogged conditions, release the equivalent of almost 3.7m tonnes of CO2 a year – equal to the average emissions of about 660,000 UK households, more than all the households of Edinburgh, Cardiff and Leeds combined.
The report says: “A loss of only 5% of UK peat carbon would equate to the total annual UK human greenhouse gas emissions. It is therefore vital for the UK to avoid the huge losses arising from peatland damage in order to meet its international obligations in tackling global warming.”
The scientists found that much of the UK’s peatlands had been damaged, largely because of the way they had been managed, including drainage for agriculture or forestry, track building and peat extraction.
Read more about the campaign here.
The Ross Barlow: a zero-emission hydrogen hybrid canal boat: http://antidotecounteragent.wordpress.com/2011/02/26/the-ross-barlow-a-zero-emission-hydrogen-hybrid-canal-boat/
The Electric Swing Circus is a live band which takes audiences back to the sounds of the 1920s jazz and fuses modern dance beats, circus skills and burlesque, putting on a show said to be ‘like no other’. Their performance can be seen and heard here.
The band is a co-operative formed this year in South Birmingham by a small group of people with a passion for live events, dance and theatre.
It is owned by the people who work and perform in it – its support team of engineers, technicians designers and choreographers are not just hired help, but members and owners of the co-operative. All important decisions are made by the entire group and profits are shared evenly between the troupe, which has gradually attracted more musicians, performers, lighting designers, sound engineers and set designers – all involved in the creative process.
Members want to enjoy performing, so look for gigs they think will be enjoyable, rather than those that simply bring in the most money.
The Electric Swing Circus has played all over the country – everything from festivals to exclusive private events. In November it appeared at the Hare and Hounds and on December 10th at Bar 78 in the Custard Factory.
For their 2012 events keep an eye on their website: http://www.electricswingcircus.com
Read about the Electric Highway in the Birmingham Press:
Electric car drivers can now travel from Birmingham to Liverpool and Manchester without fear of running out of power after Ecotricity opened two new charging points on the M6 at Keele services – as part of the world’s first national charging network . . .
More on Ecotricity here: Solar progress – http://antidotecounteragent.wordpress.com/2011/06/20/solar-progress/