Blown Fuse - Energy contest could be a big turn off

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A Government energy contest that will inspire the public to do likewise? Don’t make me laugh says our grumpier than usual old man

So UK Prime Minister David Cameron challenged Whitehall Ministries to compete to reduce energy consumed in their departmental headquarters during October.

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne originally threw down the gauntlet to government departments back in May when he declared they must reduce energy use. The October versus September competition figures are to be made public. The ultimate aim is a 10% reduction across the central government estate of some 7000 buildings in an effort to to inspire the public to reduce their energy use.

Hmmm. One of the ways in which central government is looking to save energy is by negotiating with (imposing upon?) British Gas to deploy a 'payment by results' investment performance contract with the Home Office. Another is to spend money with facilities management giants Amey to deliver energy saving solutions.

Meanwhile, the Department of Media, Culture and Sport is deploying IT virtualisation (whatever that is) technology to reduce the number of network servers it uses. Over at the Department of Energy and Climate Change a trial is to take place using ceiling tiles that store heat during the day and release it in the evening. This initiative is part of the Technology Strategy Board 'Energy Efficient Whitehall' green technology project – now there is a name to conjure with.

Only the deluded or a fool (or Jeremy Clarkson) would decry the ambition of energy consumption reduction. While I am, at times, both deluded and a fool, I would never argue with the sentiments of energy saving – it’s just that I am more concerned with the immediate priority of running out of the stuff than I am about global warming (on which the jury remains out in my view). I would also remind anyone acquiescent enough to listen, that by increasing power from nuclear sources, we also help mitigate for environmental impact.

The other thing that is making me grumpier than usual is the dichotomy government presents between price and cost in all matters including energy conservation. For example, the excellent Building Schools for the Future programme would have seen a raft of new educational buildings that are both fit for purpose and energy efficient. Yet this, along with similar schemes, has been axed. The reason given is the usual nebulous one of wastage in the design and building process (for which I’ve seen no hard evidence).

The message this promulgates, against a backdrop of sweeping cuts, is one cannot spend money (thereby improving the immediate balance sheet), but one must save money in future (without having had the means to do so other than by shedding jobs or turning off lights).

As electrical engineers and contractors will attest, there isn’t much money around right now and where projects have been able to continue, the budgets have come under increasing scrutiny. In other words, there is the strong possibility that anything that’s not statutorily required will likely be removed from the schedule. Could this include niceties such as energy metering, lighting controls and such like? I couldn’t possibly comment.

I must keep this column brief because I feel compelled to write to Southern Electric and British Gas suggesting they improve their performance or I won’t pay my bills. Similarly, I have to look up Amey’s telephone number and see what they can do about my dodgy draught excluders.