Machynlleth: Sustainable Capital of the UK

CAT is based in the buzzing Dyfi Valley awash with active environmental and sustainability  projects- according to a Guardian article:  “if any place in Britain could be called its sustainable capital, it’s Mach.” We have counted up the projects and gathered them here under relevant subheadings below – although many themes are interlinked.  We don’t have everything so if you think you should be on the list, write to us and tell us 



Ecodyfi is a regeneration organisation that supports local projects including; Mentro Allan (Venture Out); Dyfi Footprint Project; Dyfi Biosphere; Communities First and Lifelong learning amongst others about Sustainability; Transport; Tourism; Energy; Waste and Fair Trade:

The Dyfi Footprint Project aims to estimate, monitor and reduce the carbon impact of the Dyfi Valley.

Communities First (Welsh Assembly Government programme) provides local people with opportunities to play an active role in their community.

Community Action Machynlleth and District Local Volunteer Bureau, (CAMAD) is a scheme to connect people wanting to volunteer with sustainable organisations in the Dyfi Valley.


Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth Rail Passengers Association (SARPA) is a local rail users group campaigning for enhanced and improved rail services in Mid Wales.

Sustrans, is a sustainable transport charity developing the National Cycle Network, Safe Routes to Schools and other projects to encourage walking and cycling in the UK. It also includes trails in the local area.


Swap Shop, Machynlleth is an online community that enables you to swap unwanted items for items that you need for free.

CRAFT (Ceredigion Recycling And Furniture Team) collects and accepts donations of unwanted goods and furniture to sell or recycle in Aberystwyth.


Dyfi Vally Seed Savers is a not-for-profit organisation based in Machynlleth that promotes saving and swapping seeds with the aim of preserving old or unusual vegetables; nurturing local knowledge and plant heritage; and promoting sustainable gardening. Current Seed Saver Projects Include; The Welsh vegetable Project; The Powys Orchard project; and The Apple Mach Register.

The Mid Wales Food & Land Trust
has recently launched an associated website for all local food and drink producers, retailers and restaurateurs in providing online promotion and exposure, whilst also acting as a comprehensive business database available to the public and the media.

Cwm Harry Land Trust are a social enterprise picking up food waste around Newtown, Llani and now Welshpool, and processing it into compost. They also work with socially disadvantaged and children’s groups on their allotment, and are working with local small-scale growers with a veggie bag scheme.

This is Rubbish is a food waste campaign that set up in Machynlleth to raise awareness and tackle concerns about food waste within the UK supply chain.

The Dyfi Valley was also awarded with Fair Trade Valley status in 2004 by achieving over one thousand signatures during the Fair Trade Fortnight that year.

Dyfi Land Share is working to match up people who want to grow food with available land in the Dyfi Valley, they work to promote local food production and better enable people to grow food in the Dyfi Valley.

Woodlands and Biodiversity:

Dyfi Biosphere is a global network where knowledge and experience of local heritage, culture and economy can co-exist in the natural environment.

Aberystwyth Forest Education Initiative
educate School groups in Mid Wales about woodlands and woodland crafts.

Coed Lleol provides information and contacts in Wales whether a woodland manager, forest school tutors or individual nature enthusiast.

Coed Cymru, based in Newtown, is an all Wales initiative to promote the management of broadleaf woodlands and the use of locally grown hardwood timber.

Wales Wild Land Foundation (WWLF) is a group that has just set up to create an area of native woodland near Machynlleth. As part of the same group: The Cambrian Wild Woods Project, are planning for a beaver enclosure near the Artists Valley.


Bro Dyfi Community Renewables is a community energy co-operative for community-owned renewable energy projects including two community wind turbines near Machynlleth.

Mid Wales Car Share  is an online networking site and has a function to allow you to search by specific journeys in Mid Wales.

Anemos Renewables a Machynellth based wind energy company offering consultancy, design and installation services for small to medium sized wind energy schemes.

Dulas Engineering are a renewable energy company based in Machynlleth that provide expertise and consultancy in biomass, wind, solar, and hydro power.

clock tower

John Cantor Heat Pumps is a website of useful basic information about heating-only applications with heat pumps. It covers environmental issues, and supports the appropriate use of this technology in high-efficiency eco-friendly applications.

Mid Wales Community Energy Trust links income from renewable energy with rural regeneration through sustainable energy projects in Mid Wales.

Llanidloes Energy Solutions, a voluntary community group based in Llanidloes.

Open Energy Monitor  is a project to develop open-source energy monitoring tools to help us relate to our use of energy, our energy systems and the challenge of sustainable energy.

Clear Solar solar PV and heat pump systems


Dyfi Architecture  is a registered, award winning architectural practice based in the Dyfi Valley, they aim to bring added value to the built environment through designs that can be constructed and operated sustainably and have the potential to be adapted to suit future needs.


Free range designs uses recycled and sustainable sourced wood to create bespoke pieces of outstanding furniture, from story telling chairs to enchanted beds.

Green Holidays

Green Holidays Wales  Comprehensive website with links to green accommodation providers and activities in Mid-Wales


PIRC (Public Interest Research Centre), based in Machynlleth, is an independent charity that integrates technical research on climate change, energy and economics, and translates this into a range of social mediums and materials.

Eco Centre Wales provides sustainable energy education for West Wales run mainly by volunteers.

Cyberium is a design and content company that specialises in working with ethical, socially constructive and environmentally positive clients or projects.


Mach housing co-op

If you are involved in a local project related to Sustainability and the Environment, or know about something we should include here, please send a web link or brief description to the CAT Media department; , or include in the blog comments.

We are Energy!

Guest blog post from  Global Justice Now ( formerly the World Development Movement) who have recently published Rays of Hope, a booklet about energy alternatives. 

“As the UK is edging closer to blackouts and millions are struggling to pay the extortionate fuel bills from the Big Six energy companies, small energy co-ops are showing how we can build a sustainable and affordable energy future. From Scotland to Spain communities are taking back control of their energy to provide renewable energy and create local jobs.”

In Scotland, some communities have benefited from land reform legislation to take control of the land and renewable energy resources in their area. This has particularly been the case on some of the Scottish islands, many of which had single landowners who lived away from their estates, or were under state control.IMG_9818

 Increasingly, these communities have taken back control of the land, and then used their renewable energy resources for the first time to generate an income for the wider community trust which now owns and runs their estate.Community Energy Scotland, an organisation with its roots in one of Scotland’s regional development agencies, has led the community energy movement in Scotland resulting in numerous community-owned wind and hydro schemes across the country.

 Examples include South Uist (Storas Uibhist) and the Isla of Gigha. Gigha is a small island which had suffered from a succession of remote private landlords.  Many islanders had poor housing and no security of tenure under these landlords. In 2002 the land was bought out by the community, which then repaid in full the loans raised for this purchase. In 2005 they commissioned three small wind turbines which have produced a steady income which has been used to upgrade the housing stock. In 2012 they built a fourth wind turbine. This adds to the green energy that is in islanders’ control and uses a valuable resource to support local businesses.

 An important aspect of the Gigha turbines is the confidence they have added to the community. Because Gigha was the first place to have a community-owned windfarm, the island has benefited greatly from interest from other communities in the scheme. The turbines themselves are also a physical statement that the island is in community control and positive about a sustainable future.One clear sign of this is the fact that the island’s population has now risen from less than 100, ten years ago, to over 150 now. 

 A similar project by Storas Uibhist, the community trust which now runs the island of South Uist has three larger turbines. Elsewhere in Scotland, other community trusts are leasing land from the National Forest estate for hydro schemes where the community is the developer, owner and the full beneficiary of the project.

 Co-operatives can also function on a larger scale. For example, Costa Rica has four large rural energy co-operatives that are run by the communities that they serve and function alongside the state energy company. They have played an important role in increasing energy access using the bills paid by consumers to develop local electricity grids or extensions to connect households onto the national grid. The co-operatives do not have to rely on government subsidies and use some of the funds generated for projects like education programmes. Access to electricity in Costa Rica now stands at 98 per cent nationally.

Community Energy Co-operative in Barcelona

 In total, these four co-operatives account for 15 per cent of the electricity distribution in the country and provide around 40 per cent of service in rural areas. Initially established in the 1960s, since the 1980s they have also been involved in electricity generation, running two small-scale hydro-electric plants. The co-operatives have regular public meetings where decisions are made about pricing and leadership.

 In Spain, Som Energia(‘We are Energy’ in Catalan) co-operative was set up in 2011 in response to the high bills of the large energy companies, the largest two of which account for 80 per cent of the Spanish energy market, and the lack of green energy options. Four years after being established, it has set up eight solar roof installations and a biogas plant, and is in the process of building Spain’s first community wind turbine. It has 16,000 members who purchase electricity from the co-operative.

 In the wake of the Indignados protests against austerity following the financial crisis, many people have joined Som Energia, welcoming an opportunity to invest their savings in a project which create social value, rather than leaving it in the care of corrupt bankers.

 The co-operative is trying to make it as accessible as possible for those on low incomes to join, and its membership fee of €100 is relatively low compared to similar projects. While Som Energia does not receive the state subsidy that the big energy companies do to enable them to offer lower prices to poor consumers, it aims to offer some kind of social tariff financed from its profits. 

It has also pioneered democratic inclusion, offering a high level of transparency through publishing information on its website and having a structure based on local working groups which decide on their own priorities, whether training to members, increasing energy generation or making links with other organisations. Its annual general assembly takes place via the internet with trial runs available beforehand to ensure that those who are less familiar with online technology are able to participate.

As well as producing energy, Som Energia also aims to act as a platform for social and environmental campaigning, supporting existing organisations and providing space for discussion and making the links between the different issues people are facing. It is campaigning hard against reforms by the Spanish government which look set to protect the interests of the big energy companies while making life more difficult for small producers like Som Energia.

This is an excerpt from Rays of Hope, a booklet about energy alternatives. 

We need to fight for energy justice

Global Justice Now (formerly the World Development Movement) have just launched a new report called Rays of Hope – Clean and democratically controlled energy for everyone’. This is an extract from the new report by Christine Haigh, Climate and energy campaigner with Global Justice Now.

Our current energy system is deeply unjust. More than 1.3 billion people living without access electricity – many of them living in countries like Nigeria that exports huge amounts of energy to the global north. Communities across the world are experiencing the disastrous effects of fossil fuel extraction such as land grabbing by coal mines, oil spills and water polluted by fracking.

We urgently need a more just energy system. But what does energy justice look like?

Corporate control of energy has failed to ensure that everyone can access the energy that they need. It is also keeping us locked in destructive ways of producing energy, so it’s clear that fairer, more democratic alternatives are needed. There is no one-size fits all solution to meeting people’s energy needs in a sustainable way and in different places people are using different terms to describe their vision for a more just energy system. But there are a number of common threads.

No one disputes that energy should be provided in a way that gives everyone enough to meet their basic needs. In some parts of the world, this means public investment to provide a physical link for everyone to access electricity grids – something that has been achieved in countries like Costa Rica and Uruguay.

It also means ensuring that everyone can afford the energy that is available. In many places this is done through pricing systems which mean that the poor pay less. For example, in Cuba, the government provides enough energy for people’s basic needs at a very low price, with prices increasing steeply above this level, and the cost of power to run luxuries like air conditioning costing over 50 times that of the basic allocation.

It also requires that the rights of workers in the energy system are respected, and the production process does not cause destruction to other communities. Campaigns by trade unions and climate change campaigners in the UK and elsewhere have highlighted how a million good quality jobs could be created by investment in shifting to a green economy. Globally, the International Trade Union Confederation has estimated that 48 million new green jobs could be created over five years with enough investment.

There is growing consensus that control of energy should lie in the hands of those who produce and use energy, whether this is through public ownership or co-operative structures. In many parts of the world, people are experimenting with different ways of giving people a direct say in the decisions that are made about energy production and use. For example, Spanish energy co-operative Som Energia has pioneered ways of using the internet for decision-making, taking care not to exclude elderly members and those with less experience.

These democratic approaches are also taking care to move towards operating in a way that respects environmental limits: using renewable technologies or planning a phased transition away from destructive fossil fuels.

In Denmark, thanks to government support and tax incentives, wind power provides one-fifth of the country’s energy and three-quarters of the country’s turbines are owned by co-operatives. This model has inspired a similar approach in Germany, where over half of the renewable energy capacity is now owned by individuals or farms, much of it through co-operatives, rather than big energy companies. As a result there is far more support for renewable energy: 90 per cent of Danes support wind power as their favoured source of energy.


Rays of HopI


In Uruguay, the government has adopted an ambitious plan to transition away from fossil fuels and anticipates becoming an exporter of energy to neighbouring Argentina and Brazil.

One advantage of renewable technologies for communities that invest in them is that once the initial costs of buying the solar panels or wind turbine have been covered, the running costs are very low. In many projects, this has enabled the revenues from selling the power produced to be put to other uses. For example, in Zschadrass in Germany, the money generated is used to help cover the costs of running the local kindergarten and pay for free school meals and an annual holiday camp for local children.

The path to renewable, democratically controlled, accessible energy can be long. But if we work together we create an energy system that works for people rather than for profit. At Global Justice Now (formerly the World Development Movement) we work with people across the world to take back control of our energy system. You can read more about the campaign and how you can get involved on our website.

This is an extract from the pamphlet ‘Rays of Hope – Clean and democratically controlled energy for everyone’ 

The sun shines on Mynydd Gorddu Windfarm.

The sun shines on Mynydd Gorddu Windfarm.


A REBE trip to Myn ydd Gorddu Windfarm.
A REBE trip to Myn ydd Gorddu Windfarm.


Yesterday the REBE (Renewable Energy and the Built Environment) students were taken to visit Mynydd Gorddu Wind Farm located near Tal-y-bont, Ceredigion, West Wales and given a tour by the site manager. As a media volunteer I get to document all the interesting excursions students make, and so I thanked the weather gods for a sunny day, pulled on my long johns and packed my camera. After bumpy ride down narrow roads on the local coach, we arrived and were greeted by the sites operational manager, a sharp man in his forties. With the sun on our backs, we huddled round like penguins as he explain how this wind farm, which has been successfully running for nearly 20 years was started.


IMG_9713     IMG_9722_1


Developed initially by Trydan Gwynt Cyfyngedig in 1997 – a company owned by a local family, Dr Dafydd Huws and Mrs Rhian Huws, npower renewables was involved in the early stages but in 1993 ceased to be involved with the project. Beaufort wind Limited are listed as the owner now, RWE Innogy as the operator. Dr Dafydd Huws had been inspired by the turbines at CAT and later through visits to Denmark where the technology has been developed further. In 1997 however, npower renewables agreed to assume responsibility for the financing and construction of the wind farm. Trydan Gwynt Cyfyngedig became a co-operative venture between npower renewables, now called RWE Innogy and the Huws family company, Amgen, the welsh for “positive change”. Dr Huws and his company Amgen continue to have, a leading role in the development of the wind farm and its operation.


By all accounts this wind farm was remarkably successful, with a good track record of fulfilling its potential, but like all machines they do need maintenance.It was interesting to hear direct from the horses mouth what its like to manage a site such as this, what kind of decisions you have to make when lightening strikes and melts the conductors. Calling crane companies and having to pay them double so they can come lift off the hub and propellers the next day, and get the turbine back in action as quick as possible. These kind of quick financial calculations, mixed in with practical monitoring and maintenance are all part of a days work for a wind farm operational site manager.



The site was awarded European grant of £1.3m to trial four different types of turbine but today there stands 19 turbines, with two different diameters, as the planning authorities weren’t so happy with the idea of too many different machines scattered across the hills. The planners also ensured that the sub-station, where the electricity is sent into the grid and where the turbines are monitored (with P.C’s STILL running from 1995, a little fact to amaze the techo- heads) is built in a true vernacular style, with stone walls, wooden doors and iron detailing.


Myn ydd Gorddu Windfarm
Myn ydd Gorddu Windfarm


If you are interested in the performance of these medium sized wind turbines then you may be interested in the following; 7 of the turbines are each rated at 600 kilo Watts with a hub height of 34 metres  and a rotor diameter of 43m. The other 12 are rated at 500kW each with a hub height of 35m and rotor diameter of 41m. The rotors on both turbine sizes turn at an approximate speed of 30 revolutions per minute (rpm), driving a gearbox within the nacelle which is in turn connected to a generator. The turbines start to generate electricity automatically when the wind speed reaches around 11 miles per hour (mph), and achieve maximum output at around 33 mph. They shut down when the wind speed exceeds 56 mph, which is rare. The farm has a combined maximum output of 10.2 megawatts.


IMG_9818IMG_9834REBE Students taken notes about the Mynydd Gorddu windfarm.

I have no pretentions of being an engineer, and so many of these technical details the REBE students were avidly scribbling down passed me by and I tuned into the gentle sound of the blades swooshing above me in the cold winter wind and their majestic white silhouettes cutting into the crisp blue sky, a symbol to me of beauty and hope. I was also noticing the red kites sailing high in the sky, the fresh strong blast of cold wind whipping around my ears and noticed a suprising birds nest above one of the windmills doors at the base.

I am interested in the politics and people behind these endeavours and was intrigued to hear how carefully Dr Dafydd Huws tried to maximize the returns to the community by ensuring the windfarm infrastructure spread across more than one owners land. There is a fund, “Cronfa Eleri” that’s administered by Amgen, who have set up the Cronfra Eleri Advisory Committee, ensuring that people who understand the needs of the community decide how the money is spent to provide the widest community benefit. The fund yields about £10,00 a year and in 2011 the fund helped buy a new heating system for a community centre in Ysgoldy Bethlehem, Llandre, a new shed for the local Talybont nursery,  the re-wiring and renovation of the local church in Bontgoch, and towards a new tennis court in conjunction with the Playingfield Society Rhydypennau.


the wind blows us back to


As we wandered back to the coach, we waved good-bye to the beautiful bullocks, (the wind farm was fully integrated with the traditional farming practices of the area, with sheep and cows grazing beneath the turbines) and all looked forward to a delicious lunch awaiting us at CAT. The electricity from the farm traced our steps, passing along a cables supported by wooden poles from Bow street to Machynlleth, carrying clean electricity to the local electricity grid network for use in local homes, schools and businesses.  All in all it had been a very successful trip, but lets see what Alexandra King, a REBE student who came too had to say;


An interview with REBE student Alexandra King.
An interview with REBE student Alexandra King.


Who are you and what do you do when your not studying at CAT?


“I’m Alexandra King. I live and work in Bath. My husband is a consulting engineer, I work with him, mainly as a support at the moment, but hope that after finishing this course, I will be more involved in the engineering design.”


Why did you decide to study at CAT?


“CAT is the obvious choice – to my knowledge it is the best place in the country to study renewables. Why? For a long time now I was a mecologist by choice. I believe in sustainable lifestyle. We’ve installed PVs on our roof as soon as we had a chance. Renewable energy is clean and available everywhere, even in the most remote locations. It will not run out anytime soon, unlike fossil fuels. And if we start making changes now, by the time we do run out of coal and gas, we should have good enough infrastructure to keep us going. I don’t know if we could slow down the climate change, but there is always hope.”


What did you learn from the trip to the windfarm?

“I’ve always liked wind turbines, and this visit just reinforced this affection. They are so elegant and not at all noisy. The footprint of a turbine is very small. I love the possibility of the double use of land (cattle or crops), turbines scale easily, the construction time is relatively short, unfortunately so is the lifespan of a wind farm. But I am sure we can overcome this in the future.

One more thing, I’ve visited several wind farms and yet to see a single dead bird, yet, driving home a few days ago, saw 8 corpses on the motorway…  one of them was a badger, I think, but still.”



How do you find the teaching on the course, and is there anything you would change about your student experience with CAT?


“I love CAT, wouldn’t change a thing. Except I wish I’d started earlier, like several years ago, but never mind now. I think this course is well balanced; it will give me a broad understanding of principles and technologies that will be very useful in my future work.”


Many thanks Alexandra !



Renew Wales wins community category at Wales Green Energy Awards

Renew Wales, a project all about supporting communities developing renewable energy projects in Wales, has won an award in the coveted Wales Green Energy Awards. CAT is a partner in the Renew Wales project, providing training and support. Peter Davis, Sustainable Development Commissioner for Wales commented on the project:

Kit Jones, Media Officer at the Centre for Alternative Technology said:

“Over the next few decades we are going to have to completely overhaul energy infrastructure across Wales. There is a massive opportunity to create a new renewable infrastructure which is widely owned within the local community. This would bring many benefits to the people of Wales. Community Energy is really important for making sure technologies like wind, solar and hydro power which are delivering environmental benefits are also delivering social benefits. We are really pleased that this is being recognised by the Wales Green Energy Awards, and to be part of the project which is leading the way.”

Catalan independence is about energy as well as politics

Paul Allen, who heads CAT’s Zero Carbon Britain project, is in Girona Province talking about the possibility of Zero Carbon Catalonia. 

From almost every balcony, rooftop or garden, flags have been flying the hopes and dreams of their owners, for the 9th of November is decision day for Catalonia. In many ways the decision of the central Spanish Government to refuse an official referendum on independence for Catalonia has deepened their resolve to press ahead, albeit with a less official status. For many there is a clear link between energy independence and political independence for Catalonia, hence an enthusiasm for hearing about the Zero Carbon Britain research.

energy independence Catalonia
Paul Allen heads for Catalonia

Girona Province has a long tradition of cooperatives and energy projects. Every year the Girona Province regional government supports a day-long education programme for all environmental educators in the area to increase their knowledge and skills in a particular area, and this year the topic was energy. The key aims of the event were as follows:

  • To provide environmental educators with practical tools and concrete ideas needed for energy education activities.
  • To encourage and support more environmental educators to offer activities on energy education.
  • To exchange ideas and best practices.
La Fábrica de Celrá
La Fábrica de Celrá

At La Fábrica de Celrá, the newly refurbished industrial heritage building which would host the event, the final panes of glass were being fixed in place as we arrived. This 19th century dye and pigment factory, with its vast chimneys and castellated roofline, was an icon of the fossil-fuelled industrial revolution and offered an ideal backdrop for the ‘Extraordinary Story of Human Beings and Energy’ I use as a scene-setter for the Zero Carbon Britain scenario, which was to open the conference proceedings. This was followed by a series of presentations exploring practical projects active in the Girona area, from improving the energy efficiency of sports facilities to arranging ‘Green Drinks’ sessions to bring people together in any particular locality. The emphasis then shifted to practical workshops designed to give educators new skills in addressing four key target groups:

  1. Kids and youngsters
  2. Municipal Councils, employees, buildings and facilities
  3. Citizens (in general)
  4. Private companies (both employees and customers).

I had been given client group B, and a clear steer to be very practical, giving examples, showing specific tools and practices, etc. This allowed me to draw on my work around the Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill in Wales and the ‘Wales We Want’ national conversation to devise a workshop that could share the practical experience I have gathered as a Climate Commissioner for Wales in engaging local councils. The initial part of the workshop offered space for smaller groups to gain both the tools and confidence to envision a positive future, followed by a session exploring how the municipal decision-making in their areas could be enhanced to consider the wellbeing of future generations in the choices they make today.

It was a fascinating gathering, provoking many interesting questions and conversations. There is clearly strong enthusiasm to re-think the energy future in Catalonia, and an increasing desire to establish a physical site like at CAT.

A La Cucina information display
A La Cucina information display

My old friend Josep Puig Boix has been a long-time motivator behind ‘Ecoserveis’, the educational charity running the event, and is now spending a happy retirement getting the area’s first fully community-owned large wind project up and running. Wind is by no means new to the area, but Josep is devising this project in such a way as to make the process behind its development accessible to all. The costs for large wind power projects have now come down so much that it is viable with no subsidies at all, so it could be replicated anywhere. In addition Josep has been part of a group that are just publishing an economic analysis of the energy costs of running both Catalonia and Spain on both business as usual and a high renewables transition. The initial figures I saw make a clear case that – even with conventional economic analysis – the switch to renewables is a very good investment.

Although this was a long train journey, it felt like a very worthwhile trip: helping to support the vision for a Zero Carbon Catalonia, which has led to an invitation for a return visit to present at a 100% renewables conference in 2016, planned to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Chernobyl.

by Paul Allen


Masters Courses Open Day November 2014

16 November at the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT)

10:30 – 4:30

Join us on Sunday the 16th November to meet tutors and decide which environmental masters degree at CAT is most suitable for you. There will be an opportunity to:

* Have a tour of the Centre, including accommodation and teaching facilities *
* Meet past and current students *
* Meet tutors on the courses *
* Experience a taster lecture *

To book a place, including a free lunch, please email Kit Jones by 9th November. If you can’t make this date but would like to know about future open days please contact the same address.

Masters degrees open day

Leading Environmental Centre

Based in a stunning setting in the Welsh hills, the Centre for Alternative Technology has been providing sustainability education for over 40 years and offers a range of inspirational postgraduate programmes. A unique combination of leading professionals, academics and authors teach and lead the the courses, offering GSE students the ability to develop not only their theoretical and academic knowledge, but also their practical skills.

Who should study at CAT?

Anyone who wants a flexible, challenging masters course in an environmental field will find studying at CAT rewarding. CAT offers MSc courses in these areas, and tutors will be on hand to talk about all of them on the open day:

Environmental science and policyEnvironmental policy masters

Degrees at CAT are for anyone who wants to understand the implications of environmental change for our society. The MSc Sustainability and Adaptation degree encourages you to develop a deep understanding of environmental challenges. It interrogates the social, political and economic transition that adapting to and mitigating climate change involves. Many students from CAT have gone on to work in local, national or international policy in the public sector and for NGOs and campaign groups.

renewable energy mastersRenewable energy

For people wanting to build a career in the renewable energy industry the MSc Renewable Energy and the Built Environment degree programme is an ideal launchpad. Graduates of CAT have gone on to work for large engineering firms, energy companies, have developed their own projects and set up their own firms. It is a technical degree that gives you the skills to be involved with both the practical and strategic side of developing renewable energy.

Buildings and the built environmentenvironmental building courses

Students interested in sustainable construction and design are able to develop an in depth understanding of issues related to buildings and environmental change. The MSc Sustainability and Adaptation in the Built Environment course offers students practical experience in ecological building design and methods, as well as a detailed understanding of environmental building issues including energy management, renewable technology, building performance assessment and water and waste management. CAT graduates have gone on to a broad range of careers including facilities management, consultancy, ecological building and policy jobs. Many have set up their own companies.

sustainable planning mastersPlanning and strategy

Sustainability and climate change resilience are becoming the twin pillars by which new developments will be assessed. The MSc Sustainability and Adaptation Planning masters degree is the route to understanding these twin challenges on both the practical and strategic level. The course includes master planning exercises, applied projects and units covering cities and communities, water management, buildings and energy provision.

Lecturers from all these courses will be available on the open day to answer your questions

Sustainable architecture

Students wanting to study on our Professional Diploma in Architecture should contact us about arranging a visit during one of our teaching weeks instead of coming to the open day:

Student experience

Watch the film to find out why masters degrees at CAT are different

Flexible Learning: Distance learning or on site?

Degrees in sustainability and adaptation (including the built environment and planning pathways) have been designed with a completely flexible approach to learning. Students can choose for each module whether they want to study it on site at CAT or by distance learning. You can choose to take the whole course by distance learning, the whole course on-site or a mixture of the two.

What our students are saying

“Enjoyed every minute of the course. I now, for the first time in my life, have a job I truly enjoy”

“I have rarely felt so motivated, happy and focused. I have never danced so much either”

“I found the course exhilarating from the start”

“The MSc had a huge positive impact on my life. Now I have a job I love”

“Helped me work out how to go forward in life”

“I can totally recommend the course, particularly as its flexible and you can tailor it to meet your needs”

“Without it, I wouldn’t have my job. I only had the opportunity when my interviewer noticed that I had been to CAT!”

“The MSc is one of the most rewarding and enjoyable things I have ever done.”

Postgraduate open day

16 November at the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT)

10:30am – 4:30pm

The open days will be held on 16th November 2014. Please contact Kit Jones to book (includes free lunch), or if you can’t make this date and wish to be kept in touch about future events

Guest Blog: To achieve Zero Carbon Britain, we must steadily withdraw our consent for high carbon Britain

Guest post by Tim Gee, author of “Counterpower: Making Change Happen”

The Centre for Alternative Technology’s Zero Carbon Britain report is a gift to the environmental movement; proof that zero carbon is not only possible, but possible with current technology, without nuclear, without reducing population, and in line with the time-frames dictated by climate science.

Last month, I was one of 300 people at the report’s London event. As is usual at public events, the very first question from the floor once the presentations had finished, was ‘how do we generate the political will?’

The question is a pressing one. Through the lens of the scientific necessity, the report is realistic. It is also completely different to the stance of any major UK political party. The transition then, over the next 16 years will need to be transformational, and to take on the structures preventing such common sense proposals from having been adopted already.

Fortunately, history shows us change can happen, and points to some suggestions for how. Even better, it is possible without an authoritarian methodology. That no ruler can rule without the co-operation of the ruled is in some ways obvious. But considered carefully it is the key to possibility.

Certain studies also help cut through the environmental movement’s interminable debate about whether political lobbying, community projects or direct action are the route to such change: Almost every theorist of past movements seems to more or less agree that there are different points in a transformations when different tactics are more or less useful.

For me the best summary of this is offered by George Lakey, who advises that change happens in cumulative stages. First comes cultural preparation and awareness-raising, and then the building of resilient community organisations and institutions. Once the movement is growing, acts of ‘propaganda of the deed’ become useful, alongside ongoing, more radical community organising. All of this paves the way for the all important fourth step; mass non-cooperation – in this case with the carbon system. Only through such a route comes the opportunity to switch to and consolidate the parallel institutions built earlier. Seen this way then, the question is less about creating the will of the existing politicians who have failed so spectacularly, and more about shifting the balance of power away from them, so that the people rather than the politicians are the drivers of change.

After the report presentations I ran a short workshop asking what kinds of tactics might be needed to get us to zero. People suggested ways of awareness-raising like Zero-Carbon Britain events, getting the message across through television and film and a focused cycle of lobbying – especially of those parties currently in opposition who could form the next government. But as most of us know too well, there’s a difference between winning arguments and winning campaigns. Policies leading to overhauls of unsustainable land use and fossil fuel subsidies won’t be adopted without a push. And even if politicians promise things they shouldn’t always be taken at their word.

So then to the stage of building the resilient movement and institutions. As the participants pointed out, we’ve already got small-scale practical examples of energy co-ops, tree-planting schemes, bike buses, re-use initiatives, insulation drives and community food growing projects. In every place, different methods of expanding them will be appropriate. The challenge, thinking strategically, will be to find ways to help them act as structural drivers of behaviour change as well as inspirations for wider environmental policy.

So far, so comfortable, and so familiar. We can keep switching on renewables and enjoy doing so, but at some point we also need to switch off the dirty energy that is polluting the atmosphere in the first place. And that means also preparing at these early stages to seriously tackle power.

Perhaps the Quakers’ recent decision to divest from fossil fuels could be seen as a gentle, early act of ‘Propaganda of the Deed’, with the potential to create a rolling precedent for faith groups, universities and other collective institutions to do likewise. Similarly the bravery of people putting their bodies in the way combined with determined community action to challenge local authorities, has so far delayed the roll out of fracking for gas in the UK. Indeed similar methods also helped hold back a third runway at Heathrow and a replacement for Kingsnorth Coal Power station in the late 2000s. Imagine how much more progress could be made if willingness to engage in such tactics was widespread.

Quakers have joined the global divestment movement


The next step – moving from isolated actions to mass non-cooperation is where our social science will need to be as innovative as the technology that will eventually be part of the alternative. Could workers in dirty industries help lead the replacement of their power stations with renewables? Could faith communities en masse go beyond disinvestment to civil disobedience which would challenge the powers that be? Could whole estates or towns, or even cities, declare themselves independent of the dirty energy system, eventually reaching a critical mass?

The answer to all these questions, is, in theory, yes. All of these have their equivalents in other transformational changes of the past. And whether it is these or other approaches we ultimately go for, they represent the scale of action for the scale of change we’re working for, if we want the practical examples of existing alternatives to be anything more than drops in a rapidly swelling ocean.

I’ve long been inspired by the idea that what in hindsight seems inevitable, at the time usually seems impossible. In this case we’re in a slightly different situation. Thanks to the Zero Carbon Britain report, what before seemed impossible now seems plausible. Now that the scientists have done us the favour of giving us a vision of a sustainable future, it is up to those of us who want to live in it to make it happen.


About the author

Tim Gee is the author of “Counterpower: Making Change Happen”, which was shortlisted for the Bread and Roses Prize for radical nonfiction. He has campaigned as part of Occupy, Climate Camp, the Traveller Solidarity Network and the National Union of Students amongst others. He writes for the New Internationalist magazine.


Statement on Conservative Party plans to cut the onshore wind industry

Today the Conservatives announced plans to pull public funding of onshore windfarms and change the way planning permission is granted if they win again in 2015. Renewables UK have said this would kill the onshore wind industry. Tutors on CAT’s Renewable Energy and the Built Environment masters course reacted to the news:

“The effect of removing subsidies for onshore wind will be to seriously damage British industry and increase energy prices for consumers. Onshore wind energy is the cheapest source of renewable energy, which means with support cut a future government would have to rely on more expensive technologies – pushing energy prices up.

“The IPCC report last week showed that the world urgently needs to switch to renewable sources of energy. We need investment in all forms of renewable energy, but the government should in particular be supporting those that already have the capacity to deliver for Britain and have thousands of skilled workers.

“The cut in support for onshore wind would be an arbitrary political move designed to appeal to a very small proportion of the population. More than 60% of people would prefer to live near to a windfarm than a fracking site, yet this government continues to support environmentally irresponsible fracking rather than the British wind industry.

“We would like to see increased political support for community ownership of wind and other renewable sources. Those countries like Germany and Denmark which have achieved high levels of renewable capacity also tend to be those who have broad-based ownership of their electricity generation.”

Kit Jones, CAT Media Officer 

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The first community owned wind turbine in the UK

The first Community owned wind turbine in the UK was installed just behind CAT’s site in Mid Wales