On January 28th this year the UK Government launched their anticipated Green Deal campaign, a revolutionary approach that will improve the energy efficiency of our housing stock. On day 1 three homes were signed up to the Green Deal; this well publicised failure to appeal to homeowners began the media onslaught.
The Guardian published on 23rd January 2013 that 80% of the UK public had not heard of the Green Deal, 21 days later the newspaper published an article claiming 61% of the UK public have not heard of the Green Deal. We can therefore deduct that approximately 12 million people in the UK became aware of the Green Deal in the 3 weeks between these articles.
During the 3 weeks between surveys, the Guardian alone published 6 articles publically criticising the Green Deal. This is representative of just one of the tens even hundreds of accessible media clambering over each other to have a swipe at the government.
In all the fuss and criticism, we seemed to lose the essence of a very important issue, energy inefficiency in the UK.
Our homes are responsible for 26% of the UK’s total energy consumption; on average each home in the UK consumes approximately 16% more than the average home across the EU.
To meet our law-binding targets set by the European Union we have no choice but to reduce the energy consumption in our homes. No one has promised that the change will be cost beneficial, however due to our current attitude towards energy consumption reinforced by the onslaught of media criticism, the UK public are expecting to pay less to consume less.
Any mathematician will tell you that this equation does not add up. As a nation we irresponsibly enjoyed low energy prices for decades and have negated to manage a domestic demand that is sustainable. We are now trying to recover from our faults and build a self sufficient energy economy; an economy that the public must realise is going to come at an unavoidable cost.
So the question is, how do we communicate to the public that a switch from irresponsible high energy consumption to low energy consumption is and should incur a capital cost?
Without writing a 100 page policy document covering the marketing approach and economics of lowering energy consumption, we can agree that the answer is not undermining our current efforts. Too often do we listen to the mainstream journalist, and too rarely do we listen to the leading industry experts. And the experts are telling us that fuel prices are rising, as are our bills, and therefore efforts to reduce our consumption should be encouraged and developed so that we can meet our long term targets.
Although our current mechanisms may be flawed, what’s more concerning is our lack of commitment. If we could realign our priorities and focus our efforts on reducing our emissions we can avoid the hefty financial penalty of not meeting our carbon saving targets.
This article should not be regarded as a push for the Green Deal or as a campaign against the media, but as frustration in our ability as a collective to aspire towards the long term goal because we are clouded by today’s imperfections.
Stuart Gray is a recent masters graduate in environment consultancy from the University of the West of England. He is currently a research intern with Sustain and previously worked with Bristol Green Doors. Stuart is passionate about the role low carbon technologies and energy efficiency measures can play in reducing both commercial and domestic GHG emissions