I live in a street of 14 terraced houses, built around 1900. They were built to be heated by seven fireplaces each – almost 100 chimneys – no wonder they went black early in their lives. In the 36 years I’ve been here they have cleaned up considerably, fires have gone, with them the acid rain (made acid by smoke products) which has now cleaned and eroded the stone. Not that we need so much heating now, cold winters have gone – I was a boy in 1963 when the snow lay for 3 months and my bedroom window had ice on the inside all day. In 1967, the Gas Man came to convert our cooker from coal gas to North Sea Gas. I asked him how much gas there was to suck out of the sea bed “Don’t worry sonny, there’s at least 25 years supply that we know of”. So we don’t need so much heat, and there is still centuries of fossil fuel (coal).
Today, we are sitting in a mess of our own creation – the 20th century changed the atmosphere to keep heat in – and already it is changing life. Gardening is different, wildlife has changed. A Scottish Government minister in the late 1990s warned of “Warmer, Wetter, Wilder” – no one took much notice but here we are: torrential rain in hot summers, food crops drying out, energy bills through our uninsulated roofs.
So someone should do something! But what? How to run our lives using less/no fossil fuel? In the Town Hall we have two huge gas boilers, for heat and for hot water. Both are at end of life and will need replacing within a few years. The building is vast and difficult to insulate, and it is a “B” listed piece of architecture. Portobello Central faces a large example of what each of us at home need to address. Portobello Central is working with the 20 minute neighbourhood idea – providing the necessities and niceties of life without the car.
In my street, the right answer would be for all 15 households to work together on a mini-district heating system, with a ground source heat pump supplying us all. We know each other quite well – it should be easy to organise this but even I am daunted by that.
All of this is to be examined at the Heat Fair in Bellfield on Guy Fawkes Night (5 November) 2-5.30pm followed by the Hot Ceilidh 6.30-10pm.
An in-depth retrofit workshop called ‘Retrofit Roadshow’ for people who really want to understand what is possible and necessary to do with their homes. This has been developed by EALA Impacts, EVOC and Dark Matter Labs in a 90 minute session from 2 – 3.30.
A Drop-in Fair event in the large hall at Bellfield from 2 – 4pm. There will be stalls from Scottish Power, Home Energy Scotland, Scotia Gas Networks, Sisotech, Novoville, Vattenfall, the Retrofixers/Tool Library, Transition Edinburgh/Our Future Edinburgh and a make your own draft excluder workshop and kids activities and treasure hunt.