Carlisle loses the plot with green homes advice

I have previously written about the excellent work that Suzanne Burgess’s team of energy advisors do at Carlisle’s Energy Efficiency Advice Centre. Their efforts, expertise and commitment over the years have saved tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. They were one of the first energy efficiency teams to support solar thermal and provide an economic high quality local program, which provided for people in Carlisle, and then Cumbria to undertake high quality energy efficiency measures, including renewables, at low cost.

When Hilary Benn announced that there would be a new Green Homes Service to replace the work that Energy Efficiency Advice Centres were doing, my reaction (20th November 2007) was that it “ain’t broke, so don’t fix it.” I have always thought reinventing the wheel never improves locomotion, but simply ties up resources in doing something that has already been done well. It now seems that they have tried to reinvent the whell and come up with a triangle!

I was initially much heartened to learn later that Carlisle City Council were going to back Suzanne’s team to bid for a Green Homes Service to cover the whole of Cumbria and Lancashire and I was very pleased to be able to offer support in this venture from Genersys.

I had no doubt that with Carlisle could expand the knowledge and experience that it had developed to the benefit of a much wider region and to the benefit of the environment as a whole.

I have now learned, much to my intense disappointment, that Carlisle decide against supporting Suzanne’s team’s bid at the very last minute – the day before the tender was due to be delivered. It must have left her and those who work with her very bewildered and disappointed.

Carlisle’s web site explains that its environmental policy was drawn up and signed by the Chief Executive and Leader of the Council in August 2006. It aims to make Carlisle greener and cleaner, and as a part of this wants to develop suitable objectives, targets and programmes to manage and reduce its environmental impacts and implement actions to manage and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, through energy conservation and greater use of renewable energy.

These are very laudable aims. However Carlisle had the means of achieving them through the expertise of those people who had been running its award winning energy efficiency advice centre for the past twelve years. That centre had not only won awards but was universally admired throughout the country.

Whenever I spoke to people involved in insulation, renewable energy of all kinds, fuel poverty organisations and environmentalists they knew about the Carlisle Energy Efficiency Advice Centre, and only spoke of it in the best possible terms.If any reader of this post can explain why Carlisle has decided to abandon the knowledge expertise and experience, universally admired, I would be very interested to hear from them.

I am feel that there what has happened with Carlisle’s Energy Advice Centre is very similar in a way that what happened with Mr Darling’s ill fated and deeply flawed Phase 2 of the Low Carbon Building Programme. In each case there were groups of highly committed highly experienced people, not solely motivated by profit, who had built up expertise in their fields. In each case they had over the years learned and invested time and money to reach positions where they were trusted by local communities to provide environmentally sound solutions. In each case, at a stroke, a framework type policy excluded them and their expertise.

In the case of the Low Carbon Building Programme the work was handed to multi million pound businesses without experience, often directly conflicting with their core business aims.Mr Darling and his then sidekick Lord Truscott showed incompetence in designing and creating the Low Carbon Building Programme and now Hilary Benn is showing equal incompetence by devising a scheme to replace Energy Efficiency Advice Centres which also destroys the best of what we have.

Oil is now around $100 a barrel. Wholesale gas prices are on the rise. The average home is paying nearly twice as much in real terms for heat energy than it was ten years ago and that figure is going to rise even more, beyond the control of governments who are at the mercy of world markets. We need all the energy advice we can get.

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