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24 TVs and a hotel breakfast


We mustn’t waste energy argues WWF Ambassador, Alistair McGowan

Rather than using the self-pitying, neo-Dickensian phrase that we may not be able to ‘keep the lights on this winter’, we should use any concerns about the security of our electricity supply to make us look at how much energy we currently waste.

Forth Bridge lights before Earth HourForth Bridge lights before Earth Hour © @WWF Scotland / Maverick

Think of the unnecessary lights we work by during the day; the lights we all see left on at night in empty office buildings and shops; the heaters blaring away above open shop doors on every high street; the plasma TV screens left on day and night in gyms, hotels, hospitals, railway stations and, seemingly, every modern office reception; the millions of homes and offices and public transport systems that are overheated in winter and over-air-conditioned in summer because no-one dresses appropriately for the season. Add your own favourite waste-of-energy-grump here…

Like many, I remember the ‘Save It’ campaign of the 70s where ubiquitous stickers encouraged us all to save energy by turning off lights in empty rooms. Now – in the majority of offices – lights cannot be switched off at all because there is no isolated switch! Due to the wonders of modern design, the switch is often in a different room or a different town.

In the Sandman Signature Hotel in Newcastle recently (and, yes, we should start to name and shame the energy wasters) I counted 24 plasma TVs blazing away in the breakfast room – none of which were being watched by anyone – not to mention the coal-effect fire, ‘looking so homely’, blazing away in reception.

We should embrace this chance for change, this chance to wise-up to our energy use and abuse.

But in a world which sees the horrible irony of an energy company bafflingly using the image of an orang-utan in its publicity – when that beautiful animal’s very survival is being put in doubt because of deforestation and their ancient rainforest home is under additional threat from climate change, some of which stems from dirty UK coal-fired power stations – I doubt very much that we will.

We could probably cut our energy use by as much as a third – and bring down bills as a result – by simply using more common sense. Sadly, in the twenty-first century, that seems to be in shorter supply than anything.

It may be the best energy policy we could have.

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