Energy efficiency is not very cool but neither is giving all your money to the big six
As the arguments have raged around energy companies, “green” taxes, the Green Deal and the apparent reluctance of homeowners to upgrade the energy efficiency of their homes, I have come to the conclusion that there are really only two problems.
The first is that the NHS with its free services is facing seemingly unlimited demand but the energy efficiency world is facing the opposite challenge where free work has low demand. Handing over as little money as possible for comfort seems quite attractive to me as a basic principle, let alone the benefits of having a draught free and warm home where you can walk round without Arctic clothing.
The second is that we persist in selling energy efficiency on a payback basis. Excuse me but no-one asks the payback period for a new bathroom or kitchen.
Last time I looked at the kitchen, bathroom and other home improvement areas, the marketing was on benefits such as comfort, usability, safety and so on. Financial payback didn’t feature which is not to deny that reasonable cost isn’t a factor.
“Do you like giving so much of your hard earned cash to those greedy, monopolistic ***** known as the energy companies?”
Here I generally get the hackneyed response that bathrooms and kitchens are something you can see, touch and show off to the neighbours whereas no-one ever says “Come and look at my loft insulation”. But when you have upgraded a seriously cold, draughty and energy gobbling house to something cosy and pleasant, your visitors do actually ask what you have done. They might not want to see all the details anymore than I want to see the workings of an elderly relative’s hip replacement or bladder operation, however, in both cases, we are impressed that it works and appreciate the benefits for all concerned. So why not adopt a new simpler way forward that harnesses people’s views?
My semi-serious suggestion is that we need a new marketing campaign.
The first strand is to harness the public’s anger at the energy companies. First question is “Do you like giving so much of your hard earned cash to those greedy, monopolistic ***** known as the energy companies?”
The follow-up question is, “Would you be interested in some ways of avoiding giving so much of your hard earned cash to those greedy, monopolistic ***** known as the energy companies?”
The next step is to get more locally specific demonstration homes where people can go and see what a properly upgraded home is really like. Spend some of the billions in taxes that are hidden in your gas and electricity bills on a network of homes where low cost upgrades and general home improvements can be seen. Don’t show only ultra deep renovations, but good, sensible stuff appropriate to the area that is no regrets work. I know there are some demonstration networks already but we need more.
As I am not a marketing professional I can’t be sure that my proposed way forward would work any better than the existing marketing but I don’t see the existing system getting any better anytime soon.
John Tebbit is deputy chief executive of the Construction Products Association