Emissions savings and Energy savings: time to stop talking about it and start doing it

I have for many years criticised the government for talking about the environment and reducing greenhouse gases, but failing to do much more than talk or set up talking shops and advice centres. In fact the talk has become boring to the majority of those who live in the United Kingdom. Talking about a problem does not solve the problem if there are solutions to the problem staring you in the face. I do not suggest that all the solutions for controlling greenhouse gases now exist, but those that can help now, without innovation and speculation. They key features of emission savings of the last government were:-

  • Zero Carbon Homes
  • Carbon sequestration
  • Tightening up building standards
  • The Emissions Trading scheme

Where are they now? I am sure that all those concerned with these bodies can create a computer model of how much carbon dioxide that they might have saved, but they cannot point to any actual savings.

The Energy Savings trust started life as an advice body to give people information on how to save energy. Their main tools have been to encourage the use of good quality insulation and low energy light bulbs. In other words they showed people how to save energy.

For some reason the EST then involved themselves in advising people about generating energy. So, like Topsy, they grew. They now employ 300 people mainly in London, and rather than giving advice those 300 people would in my mind, be put to more effective emissions saving by installing solar panels and the like. I rather think that now the message that we need to reduce emissions and use more renewable energy has well and truly sunk in. Most people have an idea about the options available to them and the web has far more information on it about renewable energy that it ever had.

There was a case for a large EST some years ago, but the times have changed and much of the work they do is now not as important as introducing renewable energy generating measures.

The government has grasped this particular nettle. It has announced that the government, or taxpayers’ funding, of the EST will be halved from 2011/2012. There is a great deal of political criticism of this decision but I for one think it right.

The taxpayer pays for about third of the EST’s requirements; the remaining third comes from large industries, so the overall loss is about two thirds of the budget. Some groups complain that reducing the size of the EST will reduce its ability to provide independent advice. I doubt it. Most of the advice it promulgates can be reduced to a very good website and there must always be a question about the independence of advice where the advisor is funded to the extent of a third from industry.  This gives the appearance of lack of impartiality, which may not be the case, but in these matters the appearance of impartiality is just as important as impartiality itself.

I am sorry for those who will lose their jobs; that is always a consideration, but I hope that with properly funded measures, like the Green Deal and the Renewable Heat Incentive, those who lose their jobs can use their important skills in selling and installing renewable energy and insulation.

I do not think that the cuts at the EST should in any way affect the government’s desire to be the greenest government ever. The proof of achieving that ambition will be found in the fullness of time by calculating the share of renewable energy in the United Kingdom (amongst other things) not by adding up the money spent on advice centres and talking shops.


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