I was screwing up old newspapers to make firelighters when I happened upon the Free Press Property section from February 25th 2011. The headline read “Saving the plant and saving money at the save time”. Hmmm. Save the “plant”? The what?
Putting aside the ludicrous typo in the headline I decided to read on. The piece concerned a local volunteer for “The Green Organisation”. I thought it was another journalistic mistake so I Googled it. Sure enough an organisation with this bizarre name really does exist at http://www.thegreenorganisation.info. Imaginative. The article went onto explain that this green hero has renovated his home using something called “green technology” to end his “dependency on power and its costly bills”.
I guess he has no power then? I read on to find the claim that the power generated by the house is sold back to the grid for 50p/kilowatt. It was enough to make my head spin. Give me a break. The ONLY “Old Home Superhome” in the entire of High Wycombe is “Superhome 59” in Totteridge. I know it intimately. I live in it. It has an independently verified 90% lower carbon footprint than the identical house next door. There is only one other such “Superhome” in this area and that is in Marlow. Now I am not saying there can’t be more. One day all homes will be like Superhomes but when somebody gets in the paper claiming to live in such a home (and I don’t know them) I get a little suspicious. In this case, for good reason. Let me explain.
The Feed In Tariff doesn’t pay for electricity exported to the grid. It doesn’t pay 50p/kilowatt. A kilowatt is a measure of power, not energy. The Feed In Tariff currently pays 41.3p/kWh. A “kWh” is a “Unit” of electricity. It is energy not power. It is the equivalent to the energy expended in running a one kilowatt device for one hour. The current export price of electricty is an abysmal 3p/kWh. It was claimed that our green hero’s solar panel “will have paid for itself in five years”. I would LOVE to know how. Payback on the FiT is likely to take around twice that.
In essence NOTHING about this story makes any sense. The article went on to tell us how the architect had designed this house to “hold heat”. What does that even mean? He designed it with windows? WHAT? All homes hold heat in. That is their job. If they don’t we call them “the outdoors” and nobody lives there. There are homes that are BETTER at keeping warmth in. Really good ones are called “Passivhaus” but there are all kinds of different standards and ways of rating their performance.
….but don’t let me stop there. The article expanded upon how our green hero wasn’t a tree hugger. No, he was doing it to save money. Apparently he used to spend £2500 on energy. £2500 a day? A year? What? £2500 is a LOT of money. Even a badly insulated five bedroom house is probably going to cost less than that per year. Just how big is this house?
And on and on it went: we learnt that “nuclear has been cancelled and there are no new power station being built”. NONE of that is true. New Nuclear is likely to be built. New power stations are being built all the time. A new Gas Powered plant was announced only last week. The green hero went on to tell us that we “could face an energy shortage in 15 years”. By my reckoning that is in 2026. (Finally something vaguely accurate. To be honest the International Energy Agency has scheduled the “energy crunch” for 2016 but, what the heck, what is ten years between friends? We’ll forgive him that much.) Don’t get me wrong. I am all for this good work and the local paper reporting upon it. But when you mate-up an ill-informed (if enthusiastic) home-owner (he thinks he is a bit “green”) with a clearly clueless newspaper reporter you end up with an utter mess.
Please guys, if you want to write such an article the “Superhome 59” in High Wycombe is open for business. Just come and see it. Go to www.superhome59.info and we’ll give you all the facts and answer all your questions. This is an important topic and it deserves to be well reported. There is a better way.