WINTER is approaching and with it worries for many about how to heat their homes.

Every year it seems energy companies announce inflation-busting price rises with little explanation as to why they are doing it other than to boost their profits and dividends to shareholders.

But in a world where populations are rising and, significantly, growing older, more and more homes need to be built with energy requirements growing all the time. The current system is not sustainable.

In a few years the majority of us will have to plug in our cars along with the rest of our multi-media devices, all of which demand power.

That means we need to prioritise the development of a low-carbon economy at a local level and examine how we achieve it.

Energy-saving schemes abound from solar panels and wind turbines to ground source heating. What we need to do is bring together the most effective systems tailored to a particular locality and help cut the county’s estimated £1.5bn carbon-based energy bill.

As a result, a housing development could feature carbon-neutral homes. Circumstances may allow the construction of a wind turbine or mini solar farm which will exclusively provide that community’s energy needs at a cost that is affordable for all.

A generation ago this may have sounded like hippy thinking but today it is a necessity and central Government is very much looking to support such projects.

The reality is that in West Oxfordshire we know that we will have to build thousands of new homes and indeed entire communities in the coming years.

We need to go about this in the cleanest, most sustainable way possible with minimal impact on our environment while at the same time ensuring the cost of living here is kept as low as possible.

Economic growth also needs to be supported and the development of a low-carbon economy promises to create jobs, particularly in green technologies, and promote investment.

A smart, flexible approach to energy will be able to meet the demands of a rapidly growing population while still cutting carbon emissions.

It is an ambitious target given rising energy demand in that period but it is achievable and essential for future development.