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Bring some heart into renewable energy

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 12 January 2009 at 4:31 pm

I’m fascinated by the psychology of how we spend money. Is it our heads or our hearts that rule? While we probably like to think of ourselves as rational, logical human beings – and we even sometimes spend lots of time researching things to back up our beliefs – my feeling is that the heart generally wins.

There are plenty of mp3 players out there that function as well as (or dare I say, better than) Apple’s iPod, but they don’t sell as well. What’s that about? Does it fit with rational and logical? Or is it about taking pleasure in a product that’s well designed and makes a fashion statment?

If we functioned only on the rational, no one would buy Jimmy Choo or Manolo Blahniks: shoes that are virtually impossible for most of us to totter more than a couple of yards in and are surely bad for our feet. Similarly there wouldn’t be waiting lists for handbags that cost more than £500.

Mercedes Benz and BMW would be out of business: there are lots of other cars that get us from A to B just as well, cost half as much and don’t have such a thirst for fuel.

So, why is it that with cars and shoes, mobile phones and music players we buy things because we like them (although I guess that the credit crunch is making people rather more careful now), but in others, such as how we heat and light our houses, the heart is banished from the equation and the head takes over?

Read anything about renewable energy and soon the word payback appears. In the world of microgeneration payback is king or at least crux, even though research has shown that generating your own energy with wind turbines or solar panels does make people feel good.

There are lots of benefits of renewable energy:

  • lovely free energy from sun or wind for the next 20+ years
  • self sufficiency and security – no need to worry if Russia is cutting off the gas supply to Europe
  • smaller (or no) energy bills
  • no carbon released into the atmosphere, contributing to climate chaos.

But – and here’s the rub – there’s a hefty up front bill to be paid.

Then again, when we buy a car, there’s a big cost up front. As soon as we drive the car off the forecourt it plummets in value. All it does over its whole life is gobble up our cash – in maintenance and fuel. Oh, and it gives us the freedom to sit fuming in traffic jams and indulge in a bit of road rage. At no point in this process do we ask what the payback is.

So why don’t we bring some heart into the renewable energy debate and relish the freedom it gives us from the big six energy giants and enjoy the satisfaction of growing our own. Go on, you know makes sense!

Photo by Aussiegall


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