Wednesday, August 29, 2007

LA stories

I subscribe to a (by invitation to comment I think, but hopefully free to access) website called the 'eco-innovation network, which shares interesting e-snippets and of course subsequent forum feedback.

It just occurred to me that what I write I should share here.

One of the latest struck a chord, whereby a post about grants for alt- energy projects elicited an interesting response from an obviously cluey local Authority officer and prompted me to ask a few questions of my own. It is ongoing and will be interesting to see how it plays out.

Below is what I wrote by way of some questions, which I really hope to get answers to because if there is no such collation of resource there blooming well should be. To much in this country is about fractured empires, and not enough about coherent national policy. Especially when it comes to saving our kids' futures. These guys have a wealth of experience and it should be shared if it is not, and shared better than now if it is.

I was wondering:

a) Is there a single, trustworthy, accurate, easy-to-comprehend analysis anywhere of the relative merits of various alt. energy systems the UK consumer can consider (allowing that there will of course be variations based on local conditions (wind speed/duration, sun exposure, etc))?

b) Is there any listing comparison of the experiences and considerations behind, plus support for (in the form of grants as you have listed) initiatives by local authorities countrywide.

As a simple consumer making decisions based on the enviROI (cost to planet) as much as the ROI (to self) of all such options, I find what you have written of great interest and find it odd that I cannot find (at least easily) such invaluable collected wisdom on what works and may not be so great, with associated cost/benefit analyses.

I'd very much like to see this collated and indeed would consider offering to try and do so on behalf of consumers via my site (your council, as have others, is already always welcome to its own free page to share such information, and anything else of an enviro+ nature already, but this issue could benefit from being tabulated for easy access and comprehension). It's possible the information may exist, but either in fragmented form or in specialist areas. Or simply not in a public-friendly form. Or... I have missed it!

If not, it would seem a very worthy thing to do to try and pull it all together.

Frankly I see such initiatives, and the support behind them by authorities such as yours, as much more valuable to my kids' futures than the bazillions being blown on a few high-profile communications exercises floating about of late.

By my understanding, on a personal/domestic basis the reduction of waste and reduced dependence on energy from fossil fuels will offer the best and most immediate chances for carbon reduction, and I can't quite figure why more is not being done to coordinate and support this nationally.

ADDENDUM - he has kindly replied, if slightly in the way I'd expect from an LA officer:

Every District/Borough/Unitary Council in England has a statutory duty to promote, educate, inform and advise on energy conservation and many have taken this a step further to include renewable, sustainable energy, carbon reduction and climate change.

There are national agencies such as the Energy Saving Trust (EST) and the Carbon Trust that will offer the same advice to householders and businesses respectively.

The EST fund a nationwide chain of 52 energy efficiency advice centres that are designed to advise householders. These are situated in most Counties if not Regions.

If you are fortunate enough to live in the East of England there is a regional agency, Renewables East, set up to promote renewable energy in this region.

I belong to an organisation called the Association of Environmentally Conscious Builders, AECB, have a look at their website it will help plus they have a discussion board.

The British Wind Energy Association, BWEA, the National Energy Foundation, NEF, are both good sources.

If you do searches on any of these organisations you will find their websites, most have further links to others.

As have I in return:

That answers my questions, but also, I'd say, still suggests some opportunities if any agree with my notion that such localised expertise and data could be usefully pooled and shared nationally in a consumer-friendly, and persuasive manner.

All would benefit from knowing what works and would be best to improve one's domestic enviROI (with possible/probable healthy actual ROI, too), from the consumer to the LA to the planet, if we know what can be done, how easy it is to do it ... and what cost savings can be made.

I think this deserves a lot more effort than some others that are getting way too much attention, as reducing energy usage and insulating against waste has to be one of the more sensible areas to tackle first to see some big wins.

I'm sorry, but as a householder with a greater than average interest in, and engagement with such issues, those entities you point me at just don't seem to be reaching me. I wonder if they are others. But I will look at the sites you suggest, ta.

Edie - Councils leading the way with green technology - bearing in mind Dave's comment, that may be 'a' view, certainly.


Dave said...


A really neat idea - but in the immediate future I reckon you've got about as much chance as you have of platting fog!

I'm sure that a lot of the data and knowledge you seek already exists, but unfortunately in the hands and data banks of various government sponsored quangos - whose only reason for continuing existence, is of course, to continue to keep that data to themselves!

Maybe I'm being overtly cynical, but it has been a long hard day! (Part of it fighting with just such a bloody quango!)

Dave said...

Looking at the response from your LA officer, I'm very tempted to just say 'I told you so', but I feel I have to comment as I have spent a great deal of my own time over the last 18 months trying to deal with these people.

As for 'slightly in the way I expect', sorry, but that's exactly the type of stock answer you receive from them. I very nearly put together a forecast answer on the blog yesterday - I wish I had - I would have got it about 85% correct!

I'm not quite sure how they are recruited, but every single LA officer in the energy advice arena that I've had dealings with seems to come out with the same answers - its almost as if they are all trained using a set of mantras that they just regurgitate to order.

In my dealings with such national, regional and local bodies, all set up to 'promote and support energy conservation, renewables uptake, and to provide suitable and accurate advice', I've not yet come across a single person who is capable of looking outside the narrow field of vision that their guidance and training has provided them. And every single one of them, when pushed for an answer to a question that is slightly beyond their scope or ken, refers you back to the EST, the Carbon Trust, the NEF, or one of the regional agencies. These, then, in turn, refer you back to your local authority and/or their local energy advice quango. The result is frustration, zero progress, irritation and occasionally, amazement; and you are left with a feeling that you might as well have spent your time banging your head against a brick wall instead!

Sorry to sound so negative, but having pushed and prodded literally dozens of Local, Regional, and National Authority people into looking at, or simply even considering, other energy saving devices, rather than those on the 'official and approved' list, I have concluded that they are almost all blinkered, blind, obfuscative and unhelpful jobs-worths whose role is to talk the authorised talk, tick boxes (yes, we've spoken to the required 12 consumers today - tick in the box - target achieved - next target please!), happily fill in their target achievement forms for 'handing out the relevant advice', and return home at night with a smile of smug satisfaction that they have helped out the general householder and consumer - NOT!!

Peter, your idea is great, but if you want to get it done, don't even consider the LA people - you will simply be wasting your time. They work to their own objectives, not to any sensible envROI ones.