I wasn’t the only delegate at the CIBSE conference struck by an interesting theme emerging from the presentations. This started with Professor David Fisk’s discussion of the problems with “eco-babble” and “sustainability fairyland”.

It built up during the first day to the finale of James Thonger’s demonstration of how trigeneration is about 20% worse for real carbon emissions than an equivalent conventional cooling system and how CHP is, at best, of marginal benefit.

As we have heard in the past, the devil is in the detail of carbon factors and fair comparisons with conventional systems.

In other presentations, however, we heard how CHP and district heating are an important part of the EU and UK government drive to achieve the 2050 carbon targets.

If the policymakers are misguided, don’t be surprised if we see significant shortfalls in the projected carbon savings for 2050. Challenging policymakers can be a risky business, however, with accusations of environmental heresy often their knee-jerk defence, which does nothing to get us closer to the realities. Services engineers generally have retreated, muttering to themselves “this won’t actually work”.

I left the conference feeling that at last there is some sense coming out of the CIBSE membership on this issue, but we need a concerted effort to influence policymakers and must not simply be reactive, moaning about impractical impositions. It is time to start finding solutions that deliver real, achievable and practical carbon savings.

Glen Irwin, sustainability director, Gifford