Ian Martin meets resistance to his energy efficiency ideas
MONDAY Lunch with my fixer, Rock Steady Eddie.
He’s decided ‘we should put MORE energy into LESS energy, wanna write that down mate, you finishing those chips?’
There’s a new report on the government’s Right to Be Cosy initiative, which offers grants to hard-working householders who want to stay warm in the run-up to the next general election.
It looks pretty convincing. There’s a picture of a cheerful bloke in green overalls laughing like a donkey at a hole in someone’s wall, with a bag of granular stuffing.
‘It’s not just lagging old gaffs,’ says Eddie authoritatively through a mouthful of chips. ‘They wedge you up for like solar pumps and I don’t know, warm air recycling bins, same again, I’m going to the toilet…’ He slides his iPad over, its smeary, sneeze-freckled screen not quite managing to mask an Executive Summary.
It makes for pretty grim reading. Despite several relaunches of the scheme – variously badged ‘Feel The Benefit’, ‘Turn That Light Off’, ‘Come On Britain Let’s Save Some Energy Yeah?’ and ‘Please Yourself DON’T Use A Passive-Aggressive Heat Exchanger Then’ – people just aren’t that interested in hooking up with private contractors trying to profit from the system.
The summary notes a ‘surprising resistance’ to cold calls from UK energy efficiency contractors mysteriously based in the Far East, offering a free home survey and also while they’re on, noticing that your PC has been infected with a poisonous virus. I still don’t see why any of this should interest me and my business associate, who has arrived at the bar sniffing loudly and zipping up his trousers.
‘Scroll down, you doughnut,’ he says, pointing me to the nub of his argument: ‘At the current rate of 13,000 homes a month being assessed, it would take 160 years to survey all the homes in the UK.’ So what?
‘So what? Say we’re energy efficiency contractors and we’re pitching for the whole lot…’ He pulls out the heavy Amstrad pocket calculator which has guided his thinking since the 1980s. ‘Even allowing for fluctuations in interest rates, at say five hundred quid a home you’re looking at about…three billion pounds. Each.’
TUESDAY I offer up some possible snags to Eddie’s masterplan. Neither of us is going to be around in 160 years, for a start.
Furthermore, the logistics of carrying out an energy efficiency survey of every home in Britain? Frankly, I’ve been inside some of them and they’re horrible. Carpeted bathrooms. Weird fabrics thrown over furniture. Artificial log fires. People are idiots, and their anecdotes are often long and tedious…
Eddie, however, is focused on the much bigger picture.
WEDNESDAY ‘All they’re worried about is take-up, right? Here’s my five-point plan, I’ll have a large one cheers.’
I have to admire his logic, which as usual takes a direct path from idea to payoff.
- Go into department of whatever and tell them we can deliver 90 per cent take-up for their hippie house-warming bullshit if they appoint us sole contractor from now on.
- Put a notice in one of the good papers that it’s all being done on an opt-out deal. If you don’t tell us you don’t want a free survey, you’re taking it up.
- Department of whatever announces a stonking 90 per cent take-up, Lib Dems are happy, looks like the government’s doing something to stop heatwaves in Scotland and the sea going mental with polar bears floating tits up in it, cheers.
- Invoice department of whatever for six billion.
See 3 above.’
THURSDAY Initial approach to the Department of Energy and Climate Change less than encouraging. They believe that an open market for energy efficiency contractors offers the best value for money for hard-warming householders, and also that six billion seems pretty steep.
FRIDAY Eddie refuses to be downhearted. ‘Sod this, let’s have a pop at overseas. Google “government in crisis, high energy cost fix sorted” and get us some cheese and onion.’
Search results: Iran, Greece and the Isle of Wight.
SATURDAY Greece and the Isle of Wight have blown us out but Iran is game.
Eddie’s formally requested the addresses of everyone in the republic and an estimate of how long it would take to survey everything. Now desperately looking for 160 years’ worth of fax rolls.
SUNDAY Form autonomous republic in the recliner.