IN THE ETHER

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ENERGY SAVING IN BRITAIN


Reviewed by ANDRE BEAUMONT


The CBI is a lobby organisation that has lived in a fantasy world for many years now.


The last time it misjudged its importance relative to the government by lecturing it in relation to Brexit the response was a cancellation of a corporation tax cut.

The reason it got little sympathy anywhere else is that it is often seen as a drummer boy for big business to the detriment of small business, which needs a more level economic playing field, and citizens.

The Covid-19 economy has taken out many small and medium sized businesses so it is accepted that the survivors will have an easier time but they also need an environment where properly entrepreneurial challengers can emerge, not just financially engineered companies like middle market restaurant chains in the last cycle.

The CBI is drum beating that no domestic boilers should be sold after 2025.

Yes they should.

Residential properties should once again be properly rewarded for producing solar energy and selling the surplus to the grid. They once were here and they are in Germany and elsewhere. Amortising the cost of solar panels is easier now as the cost of the technology has fallen substantially. The properties can use existing gas boilers to meet surge demand just as the electricity industry burns gas to meet surge demand. Due to transmission losses it is more efficient to burn it in the home. No immensely awkward or speculative technologies like ground bore heat exchangers or hydrogen fuel are involved.

Be in no doubt the domestic sector would like to use less purchased energy and it is not householders who are leaving lights on 6am - 10pm and heating every space full tilt in those hours.

There is a perceived void in what industry should do be doing.

The electricity supply industry should get renewable energy to be 80% of generating capacity by 2025 - but it will be forgiven if it cannot.

Commercial and administrative users are much more wasteful of gas heating than domestic ones. So the CBI should install a ground bore heat exchanger at its HQ by 2025 and cease using gas, if it does, by 2025 - and if it says it cannot on its site well take it from the building sector that most blocks of flats cannot and most existing houses cannot either.

The CBI, and the Labour Party too, should commit to reducing total energy consumption at their HQs by 10% a year until 2025, without offsetting and subject to audit, something they will find easy to do without changing boilers .... or even boring in the interim.

The electricity grid cannot readily meet the increased demand for electricity from new cars and vans going electric by 2030 let alone houses giving up boilers by 2025 so the option of hybrid is not unwise especially as generation has to move to renewable before you can justify substitution.

Traditional building construction has much to recommend it. This is being written by natural light and with no heat on after office hours.

The existing housing stock should not be upgraded by using plastic core insulation or foam insulation which may be either flammable or eventually degrade to release toxic substances. This is not upgrading.

The crisis emerging in tower block cladding replacement is partly due to earlier ill-informed pressure to retrofit them for insulation purposes. The reported costs for replacing known defective cladding is £15 billion. The grants that were to be provided for retrofitting homes amounted to £1.5 billion.

For whatever reasons the latter scheme was pulled it is clear it would not make sense to retrofit homes with similar materials to those that are having to be stripped out. Fitting a solar panel on an elevation or panels on a roof is the low hanging fruit that should be taken first at less risk and at less cost and inconvenience.