Recession sets off great interest in efficiency

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

It is official now. The recession, or should we start calling the child by the “D” name, has triggered interest in the kind of environmental innovation that makes a difference today, and not the kind that might make a difference someday. Instead of looking at getting a Prius or solar panels that will likely never pay for themselves, consumers are thinking of low-tech, quick-return energy-saving measures.

According to a new survey from The Shelton Group, 71% of people considered buying energy efficient products "to save money" in comparison to 55% who said it was "to protect the environment." That's a direct switch from the group's 2007 and 2006's surveys. Then consumers who were buying or considering to buy energy efficient products said they did so because of their concern for the environment. In this setting the recession could be good for the environment and those that produce such energy efficient products.

Consumers were looking at taking (or had already taken) a bunch of energy-related decisions that would likely save them some green.

  • 44 percent responded they are likely to buy a programmable thermostat; 32 percent already have.
  • 43 percent responded they are likely to install insulation in their homes; 26 percent already have.
  • 42 percent responded that they are to install a higher-efficiency water heater; 26 percent already have.
On the other hand, decisions that might help only the environment, and not their wallet were much less desirable.
  • Installed natural/indigenous/low water landscaping – 13 percent.
  • Participate in utility’s green power program – 9 percent.
  • Buy carbon offsets for plane trips or for home – 6 percent.
This shows that, during this crisis, which may yet turn into a Depression, people are voting with their pocketbooks and the green products manufacturers and vendors much ensure that they do not price the products out of the market, as some seem to do.

Whatever, the greatest amount of good we can do right here and right now is to use less energy through efficiency. We must, however, also look to the future and green power programs must create incentives for people to build more renewable energy at a time when renewables are young. The governments too must do their share by making grants available for the erecting of small wind turbines at people's homes, make legislation that “forces” the power companies to buy surplus power from micro-generators, and this includes individual homes, at the going rate for power and not, like in the UK, at a pittance, and government must do away with the need for planning permission for small wind turbines, whether at a detached property or on a balcony in a block of apartments.

Government and all of us need to direct money to these young utilities now, because every Dollar and every Pound and every Euro make a huge difference in these early years.

Even though sometimes may not make our money back, at least not immediately, buying green cars and green power is an investment in our future and in the future of our Planet and the future of our children and theirs.

When it comes to green cars and green transport we may have to get away from the infernal combustion engine and find alternatives, for even the Prius and other every so efficient cars still use gasoline or biofuels, the latter which are not without problems and some problems bigger even that those cause by gasoline, and that is where the problem lies. There are other ways. It would appear, however, as if no one wants to explore those. But why not? Maybe someone should ask government and the oil companies.

© 2009