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Applying ‘Victor’s razor’ to UK energy policy



Chris Farrell, managing director of Zenex Energy, describes how the business sentiments of US entrepreneur Victor Kiam could help improve the UK’s energy policy.

You may remember Victor Kiam, the US entrepreneur of television fame who “liked the product so much he bought the company”.

In fact, he bought the Remington Shaver Company out of collapse and turned what was a $30m dollar loss into a $47m profit. Now, isn’t that what our chancellor is currently trying to do? Turn a huge loss into a profit? But Victor’s motto was somewhat different to our government’s: blood, sweat and a 50% bonus if you win.

What we are getting from our government is a soft, overcomplicated and frankly ineffective approach to energy policy and the wider economy.

I guess you’ve all heard the expression, ‘the simplest strategy is usually the best’. This is an idea which has its roots as far back as Aristotle and has been applied to all manner of human endeavour for centuries, including developing the scientific method, politics, religion and business.

I would encourage you to read more about Occam’s razor and the KISS principle of design for some good examples of this approach.

However, this approach seems to be distinctly lacking in our government and public sector. Our current energy policy is a mess of overcomplicated, EU imposed regulations that stifle innovations in the energy efficiency sector, ignoring simple approaches that could actually help the UK, whilst promoting a carbon savings policy that only really benefits the energy companies and the sales of less than efficient consumer energy products.

Head of BusinessEurope Markus Beyrer recently said that the EU “doesn’t have an energy policy. It has a climate policy”. This is something I wholeheartedly agree with, and it seems that the longer the EU (and therefore the UK) continues with this approach, the further behind the US we will slide.

Our current energy policy is a mess of overcomplicated, EU imposed regulations that stifle innovations in the energy efficiency sector, ignoring simple approaches that could actually help the UK

The simplest answer is usually true, and this applies to our energy policy. We do not need to promote costly, complex policies and technologies, as we are currently doing with our renewables-centric, carbon saving policy.

Instead, we should look to simple, proven strategies such as improving energy efficiency of our current infrastructure, and reducing our energy usage. There is a tendency for societies and even humanity at large to seek out complex, flashy answers to problems, to be seen as a success and making progress, when the boring, simple or even ugly solution is actually the best option.

Going back to the Occam’s razor principle, I like to think that Victor Kaim’s success represents a more modern approach to the razor: “the closest shave you can get, or your money back”.

So what is Victor’s razor? Well, you can think of it as the nearest statement to truth that can be pared down to its absolute minimum, and what Professor Robert Winston calls ‘tat for tit’; that is, how we can better separate fiction from fact.

So often in our society, subjective conclusions, for example, what the government might want us to believe, are presented as objective truth, especially when collectively it suits those in charge to accept it as such.

Take DECC’s recent announcement as an example. It has stated that green policies will put bills up £280 in the short term, but bring them down by £450 in 2020. To me this seems like a self-congratulatory statement – one which they cannot claim with any certainty and which goes against the reality that rising energy bills are linked primarily to our failing climate policy, rather than global gas prices. Others agree.

Money lies at the heart of our purchase led economy and its influence is often used to present the subjective as an objective truth as in the case of short-term political will

From a human perspective, empirical objectivity is always applied subjectively. As in Heisenberg’s principle of uncertainty, we can choose to know what we know only to a degree of certainty, and there is always a balance to be struck.

As I described earlier, humans often take the optimistic view, especially when it comes to wanting to ‘cross the bridge’ and appear a success. Subjectivity enables us to present the multi-faceted dimensions required of objective problem-solving into a single dimension so as to help us come to a conclusion. This is what Victor’s razor really is: the ability to reduce uncertainty, the subjective application of objectivity.

Personally, when I hear the government tell us how well we’re meeting this target or the next, I can only ask myself, “What do they really know?

When putting our current climate change policies to the measure of this Victor’s razor principle, it may surprise you to find the extent of the distortions applied through subjective meddling.

Our current policy focuses our attention not on the matter of reducing the impact of climate change through reduced energy consumption but rather ‘carbon savings’ that are deemed through the sale of products. Money lies at the heart of our purchase led economy and its influence is often used to present the subjective as an objective truth as in the case of short-term political will.

Given that there is a total lack of objectivity in climate change policies, and the political establishment is locked in a spiral of subjective policies that are designed to fool, rather than fix, then I think it’s about time we got out Victor’s razor and gave the UK the close shave it needs.

Chris Farrell is the managing director of Zenex Energy, a British company founded in 2003 specialising in innovative energy saving products for both the domestic and commercial markets. This post originally featured on his blog, The Green Entrepreneur.

Further reading:

Why supporting innovation is vital for UK energy policy in 2013

We need a credible green innovation growth strategy

Time for a change in energy policy

EU faltering on low-carbon energy investment, says House of Lords committee

Britons want government to tackle climate change and grow economy

Chris Farrell is the managing director of Zenex Energy, a British company founded in 2003 specialising in innovative energy saving products for both the domestic and commercial markets


How to Build An Eco-Friendly Home Pool



eco-friendly pool for home owners
Licensed Image from Shutterstock - By alexandre zveiger

Swimming pools are undoubtedly one of the most luxurious features that any home can have. But environmentally-conscious homeowners who are interested in having a pool installed may feel that the potential issues surrounding wasted water, chemical use and energy utilized in heating the water makes having a home swimming pool difficult to justify.

But there is good news, because modern technologies are helping to make pools far less environmentally harmful than ever before. If you are interested in having a pool built but you want to make sure that it is as eco-friendly as possible, you can follow the advice below. From natural pools to solar panel heating systems, there are many steps that you can take.

Choose a natural pool to go chemical free

For those homeowners interested in an eco-friendly pool, the first thing to consider is a natural pool. Natural swimming pools utilise reed bed technology or moss-filtration to naturally filter out dirt from the water. These can be combined with eco-pumps to allow you to have a pool that is completely free from chemicals.

Not only are traditional pool chemicals potentially harmful to the skin, they also mean that you can contaminate the area around the pool if chemical-filled water leaks or is splashed around. This can be bad for your garden and the environment general.

It will be necessary to work with an expert pool builder to ensure that you have the expertise to get your natural pool installed properly. But the results with definitely be worth the effort and planning that you have to put in.

Avoid concrete if possible

The vast majority of home pools are built using concrete but this is far from ideal in terms of an eco-friendly pool for a large number of reasons. Concrete pools are typically built and then lined to stop keep out any bacteria. This is theoretically fine, except that concrete is porous and the lining can be liable to erode or break which can allow bacteria to enter the pool.

It is much better to use a non-porous material such as fibreglass or carbon ceramic composite for your pool. Typically, these swimming pools are supplied in a one-piece shell rather than having to be built from scratch, ensuring a bacteria-free environment. These non-porous materials make it impossible for the water to become contaminated through bacteria seeping into the pool by osmosis.

The further problem that can arise from having a concrete pool is that once this bacteria begins to get into the pool it can be more difficult for a natural filtration system to be effective. This can lead to you having to resort to using chemicals to get the pool clean.

Add solar panels

It is surprising how many will go to extreme lengths to ensure that their pool is as eco-friendly as possible in terms of building and maintaining it but then fall down on something extremely obvious. No matter what steps you take with the rest of your pool, it won’t really be worth the hassle if you are going to be conventionally heating your pool up, using serious amounts of energy to do so.

Thankfully there are plenty of steps you can take to ensure that your pool is heated to a pleasant temperature while causing minimal damage to the environment. Firstly, gathering energy using solar panels has become a very popular way to reduce consumption of electricity as well as decreasing utility bills. Many businesses offer solar panels specifically for swimming pools.

Additionally, installing an energy efficient heat pump or boiler to work in conjunction with your solar panels can be hugely beneficial.

Cover it!

Finally, it is worth remembering that there are many benefits to investing in a pool cover. When you cover your pool you increase its heat retention which stops you from having to power a pump or boiler to keep it warm. This works in conjunction with the solar panels and eco-friendly heating system that you have already had installed.

Additionally, you cover helps to keep out dirt and other detritus that can enter the pool, bringing in bacteria. Anything that you can do to keep bacteria out will be helpful in terms of keeping it clean.

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4 Ways To Get a Green House in 2018




green house and homes
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Demand for green houses is surging. In 2020, almost 20% of all homes on the market will be green.

If you would like to buy a green home, this is a great time to look into it. Prices are still pretty low and there are a lot more financing options available than there were right after the recession.

If you’re thinking about buying a house, now could be a very good time to make the move! A number of factors in the housing market right now mean that you might be able to afford your dream home. Although in many parts of the country house prices are still rising, if you do your research and plan wisely, there are lots of good schemes to help you get your foot on the property ladder, or trade up to the house you’ve always wanted.

Interest Rates and Stamp Duty

Although the Bank of England raised interest rates by 0.25% recently, they remain very low, which is good news if you’re thinking of taking out a mortgage. However, rates may not stay low and it’s predicted that there’ll be a further rate rise during 2018, so don’t wait too long. Another factor that’s going to help first time buyers in particular is the Chancellor’s decision to abolish stamp duty for first timers purchasing properties for under £300,000.

Different options

For many people looking to buy a green home, raising a deposit of between 5% and 20% may not be a realistic option, in which case there are a growing number of schemes to help. Increasingly popular are shared ownership schemes, through which the buyer pays a percentage of the full value of the property (typically between 25% and 75%) and the local council or a housing association pays the rest, and takes part ownership. This is suitable for buyers who may struggle to meet the up-front costs of buying outright. There will often be a service charge or management fees to pay in addition to the mortgage. The Government’s Help To Buy scheme is a good place to start looking if you’re interested in this option. This scheme is now available to people looking to buy green homes too.

ISA Options

If you’re still saving for a deposit, another scheme is the Help to Buy ISA. You can get a 25% boost to your savings on amounts up to £200 per month with this scheme. It’s only open to first time buyers and you can claim a maximum of £3000.

Other costs

Green home buyers are going to run into a number of other ancillary costs, most of which are common to other homebuyers.

When calculating how much you can afford, it’s vitally important to remember that buying a house comes with a whole host of other costs. Depending on the cost of the property that you’re buying, you may have to pay stamp duty of anywhere between 1% and 5%. There’ll be estate agents fee if you’re also selling a property, although there are a wide range of online estate agents operating such as Purple Bricks or Right Move that have lower fees than traditional high street companies. Conveyancing costs to a solicitor can add another £1000-£3000 and you may need to take out life insurance and hire a moving firm.

There are other initial costs such as, fixing parts of the home that aren’t upto your taste. Getting new furniture to fill up all the new-found space in your new home. If you are moving away from the city, you need to consider the cost of transportation as well, as it can take up quite a lot over time. Take your time, do your homework and shop around and soon you could be getting the keys to your perfect home.

I hope this article was useful for you to learn more about the basics that you need to be aware of before you start the process of buying your first home. If you have any doubts with regards to this, let us know through the comments and we will be glad to help you out. If you have any suggestions regarding how we can improve the article, let us know them through the comments as well for us to improve.

Do you have any other reservations against buying your first home? Do you see your house as an asset or a liability? Do you think it is important for everyone to get themselves a new home? Let us know through the comments.

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