Saturday, 17 December 2016

If I were Minister of Energy

With a post title like this, it is probably worth pointing out that Theresa May scrapped the Department Of Energy and Climate Change in July and it became the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Just read that new department title is FOR business and energy. And the energy that they are FOR is more energy consumption to profit the Big Six energy suppliers, along with Fracking. Not FOR the energy efficiency measures that reduce consumption and fuel poverty, or make our industry more efficient and competitive. Climate Change has been completely dropped from the title, along with any pretence that this government gives a damn about reducing carbon emissions.

"The Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) works to make sure the UK has secure, clean, affordable energy supplies and promote international action to mitigate climate change."

The old mission statement replaced with.....

"The department brings together responsibilities for business, industrial strategy, science, innovation, energy, and climate change."

So there is no Minister for Energy and Climate Change in the UK, but if there was one, that was not tied in to business and industry growth targets, there really are plenty of things that they could do to reduce carbon emissions.

One of the cost effective measures to reduce energy would be to send the office workers home. If one person in the office works from home, they will still use energy for their technology at home and in winter some lighting and heating. However they will not be commuting and in summer it is most likely that their home will not have cooling (we don't tend to in UK homes) and the lights wont be on continuously.

Technology has come so far that we can work anywhere. There is really no need to have a separate 'office' to work in when documents can be stored on the cloud, conversations held on skype or facetime and work carried out on 'pocket-sized' portable devices. Wouldn't you rather work from a park bench or sat on the promenade in summer, than in a stuffy office space?

Now if all the workers in the office worked from home the benefits increase dramatically. That company may no longer need to lease a building or maybe just a smaller building that contains meeting rooms and hotdesks, but no permanent desk spaces. Instantly there are less corridors and toilets being lit all day, besides the massive saving in cooling and ventilating many of these densely packed office spaces, so a big energy saving.

Additional carbon savings would be from the reduction in traffic congestion - if you only had to go in to work for a meeting once a week, you would probably avoid first thing Monday morning, right. Traffic congestion is an appalling waste of energy, engines running whilst going nowhere, and a significant contributor to air pollution. Reducing the number of commuters will ease the situation for the people who can't work from home, like nurses, retail workers, police officers and politicians. And of course you could always hold your weekly meeting in your local coffee shop or curry house, which would benefit small businesses outside of the central district.

There is also a community benefit as it would bring more able-bodied adults back into communities during the day, making them a safer place for the elderly. Not to mention how many hours a week extra you could spend with your family or friends if you are not commuting. There are a whole host of other benefits, such as reductions in absenteeism, improved mental health, better work-life balance etc. but you get my point.

And if you think that you can't send people home because they won't get any work done, then you are soooo wrong. Trust me on this. I thought that I am getting a bit slow with work and not as efficient as I used to be, after 8 years working from home, but once I stepped back into an office environment I was vindicated. It is far more distracting working with other people. You are obliged to ask them how they are, get distracted by other peoples phone calls, then discuss any query/decision/irritation/success with everyone, just because they are there. At home you get distracted hanging the washing out or walking the dog, but in between you get to concentrate. There is also the incentive that if you finish all your work quickly you are free to relax, instead of watching the clock until home time.

And if you think you may miss the social aspect, just ask yourself if you have any genuine friends at work? If you do you will stay in touch, but chances are there are a good few people that you would happily not sit next to every day. Do you get up to speak to the people in the office next door or just email them? I rest my case!

It would be a win for the government because less investment would be needed on infrastructure if the roads are slightly emptier, and reductions in carbon emissions and air pollution would help meet some of our legal reduction targets. They could also see significant savings by sending government workers home. The demand for new office buildings would drop, and government support for converting them to dwellings, would help landlords to re-coup their losses and give a good opportunity to require energy efficiency improvements, along with easing the housing shortage.

This is really a biggie and is the next logical step given the way technologies are heading. It is the kind of solution the government likes because it doesn't cost them very much, just a bit of change management required. All it needs is some dynamic companies to demonstrate the potential for reducing their overheads or a Minister of Energy to promote the change! Please feel free to nominate me for that role ;-)


  1. Why not just go straight for Prime Minister?? Love your ideas, it makes so much sense, and no more huge city buildings would need to go up either, and think of the savings in ties and high heels?

    1. Hmmm....Prime Minister.....yes ;-)

      Thanks Jo. Of course, the suit and tie replaced with onsie and slippers. Love it!

  2. I think the energy situation is going to get very interesting over the next decade. This sort of thing will spread like wildfire I think with the governments that are being elected across the west:

    Perhaps you could stand for office, even if only locally? We need smart and brave people to do that.