Hay talks hydro with Ben Fogle

Ben Fogle, President of the Campaign for National Parks (CNP) chaired the hour long session on the Oxfam Stage with key contributions from Grenville Ham from Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Authority and founder of the Green Valleys, alongside Pete Capener from NESTA and Andrew Erskine, Director of the Green Valleys Community Interest Company.  

Wales’ foremost finalist – The Green Valleys – is one of ten shortlisted UK finalists competing in the £1 million National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) Big Green Challenge competition. The aim of the project is to slash CO₂ emissions across the Bannau Brycheiniog National Park through the installation of hydro-electric power and other energy saving technologies.

With plans well under way to develop the UK’s first carbon negative valley in the Bannau Brycheiniog National Park the project may also have the capacity to provide five times more energy than the area needs from hydro schemes alone.  With nearly 100 hydro schemes already identified in Bannau Brycheiniog National Park, old mills, forgotten water wheels, streams and rivers are being looked at with fresh eyes by local farmers, landowners and residents who are incredibly enthusiastic about the enormous potential of hydro electric schemes in Wales.

If the communities have their way, it is intended that the revenue from at least10 small-scale hydro stations will be used for further community environmental projects including running electric cars, electric bike schemes and preserving the area’s fragile peat bogs. So far, the scheme has attracted several hundred local residents and supporters with people from nearly 90% of the National Park’s communities signing up to the project – which hopes to reduce its carbon footprint by as much as 30 per cent over the next year.

Grenville Ham said:  “We are delighted that the Guardian Hay Festival was able to give our communities the opportunity to broadcast this worthy initiative on what is regarded by many as the world stage.  Ben Fogle is such a great advocate of sustainability so getting him to chair the meeting was a real coup.  The fact that he thinks that our models could be suitable for all National Parks and elsewhere in the country will be a real boost for all those who’ve been working hard behind the scenes to make The Green Valleys work. 

“We are pleased to say that we have already had delegations from other national parks visiting the area, taking away new ideas on how they can reduce carbon emissions by allowing their communities to take control of their own power supplies and install green power production.

“The speed with which the communities of Wales need to act is unprecedented and we aiming for all homes, businesses and communities to reduce their carbon emissions by 8% per year from 2011. Any less than this and we are likely to see irreversible and  runaway climate change”.


Picture credits:  Lis Burnett, NESTA
From left to right:  Andrew Erskine, Director of the Green Valleys Community Interest Company; Grenville Ham from Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Authority and founder of the Green Valleys; Pete Capener from NESTA and Ben Fogle, President of the Campaign for National Parks (CNP).  


1. The Green Valleys community project in the Bannau Brycheiniog aims to reduce carbon emissions through a number of initiatives and is hot in the running for the £1 million pound winning prize which is due to be announced in January 2010.

2. Set up by community volunteers, the Green Valleys beat off stiff competition from 350 entrants last October to become Wales’ ONLY finalist in NESTA’s Big Green Challenge climate change competition – submitting grand plans to combat rising fuel costs and tackle climate change in the Bannau Brycheiniog National Park.  Just some of their plans include restoring a network of micro hydro schemes in the Bannau Brycheiniog streams and rivers, assisting local people reduce their fuel bills through community-led energy saving initiatives and to develop large scale peat bog restoration work.

3. The competition was launched by NESTA in response to its concerns that Government policy and investment focuses too heavily on science and technology to come up with a miracle, fix all solution to reduce green house gas emissions.  A high profile judging panel, including Lord Puttnam, will decide on the overall winner – or winners – in January 2010.

4. Over the next 7 months, the Judges will carefully look at which projects are more successful in radically reducing CO2 emissions, both during the year and in the longer term, as well as the projects that best engage their local communities.

5. In the Bannau Brycheiniog National Park 11 communities have already signed up for the Green Valleys with another 7 communities in the process of joining.  They are all volunteers and community members that are working on various projects which aim to reduce our CO2 emissions and also make our communities more sustainable. 

6. Bannau Brycheiniog National Park is a landscape that offers a legacy of unparalleled proportions with spectacular mountain ranges, internationally renowned geology, bountiful wildlife and diverse recreational opportunities. It contains some of the most spectacular and distinctive upland formations in southern Britain and covers an area of 1347 sq km (520 sq miles).