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We need to radically change the way we heat our homes to tackle both climate change and fuel poverty as architect and TV presenter George Clarke explains.

It’s time to wake up.

We are destroying the environment at such a rapid pace its frightening. We all know it, and yet we blindly continue to live in a world where profit, business and growth is put before the planet.

It’s difficult to change. I get that. I’m sitting typing this blog on an iPad and a dread to think the number of components inside it and how many air miles it has travelled to land on my desk. Maybe I should go back to writing by hand in ecological ink on recycled paper and sending it by post to the editor. But I doubt I will, and I’m not sure how ecological it will be for the post-person to deliver my letter in their diesel van.

Energy companies need a new business model and should see the opportunity in renewable technologies.

George Clarke George Clarke Architect, writer and TV presenter

Completely bonkers

But, it really is time for change.

I’m not saying we should all opt out of the modern world and go back to living like they did in the medieval age, that’s completely unrealistic.

But, what I do believe in is embracing technology and sophisticated research, design and development to be able to build products that allow us to live a greener and more harmonious life with nature.

Next month I get my first ever fully electric car. I cannot wait. I have felt guilty for years, every time I’ve gone to the petrol station.

It has always seemed completely bonkers to me why we pay an absolute fortune to savage the planet of fossil fuels and then go on to pollute our towns and sees causing all sorts of diseases and illnesses too people in the process.

Future generations will look back at the level of dirty energy we use and  pollution we’ve caused in the 20th century and early 21st century and think we were completely stupid. We are.

But, it has taken a brave and bold leap of faith by the very best car companies to do things differently. The investment into R&D and looking at alternative forms of green technology for cars has been remarkable. It has been too long in coming, but I’m thankful that is happening.

It won’t be long before the stigma of driving a fossil fuel powered car will be the same as smoking a cigarette. Which is also daft.

Boy are we stupid!

And what is important to realise is that at the moment fossil fuels and energy are cheap. Really cheap!

You might not think so every time your gas and electricity bill falls through our letter box, but think about it. As the levels of fossil fuels dramatically decrease over the next 50 years, and they will, the price of those commodities with sky rocket.

It is going to cost us way more in the future to heat and power our homes that it is now.

So, to put that in perspective we are stripping the planet of natural resources, we are polluting the planet by burning what we take, we are causing death and illness through high levels of toxic pollution and its costing all of us an ever-increasing fortune at the same time.

My word, we are stupid. So, we need a revolution in how we build our homes. Why? Because fuel poverty is already at a frightening level in Britain and it is only going to get a lot worse!

Rising energy prices

It has recently been announced that the number of households in debt to their energy supplier before this winter has even begun has grown from 2.62 million to 2.93 million. That is nearly 3 million households in fuel poverty!

They owe an average of £134 each. That is not a debt you need when the cold weather has hardly started and there are many other things to pay for leading up to Christmas. This is yet another level of stress and anxiety placed onto so many people who are already struggling.

Energy consumers have been hit by two years of price hikes with some of the big six suppliers putting up tariffs twice this year.

Time for a new approach

We need to build, heat and power our homes differently, both existing homes and new build.

The building regulations need to dramatically increase the ecological standards of new build homes.

Developers will frighten the industry by saying all this will do will put up house prices. If all of the big house builders come together to promote sustainable homes it won’t drive up house prices, it will drive down land prices.

Development land is far too expensive. It is massively overpriced. To drive up the standard and quality of homes of course the cost of building homes will increase, but that cost should be reflected in the price paid for the land, not the price of the home.

We need to build better, greener homes. Not in the ‘future’ but now. This is going to take a radical change by everyone involved in the home building industry. The government, developers, manufacturers, councils, planning departments, builders and energy suppliers.

Changing the business model

The energy companies should really be helping us invest and pay for green technology to heat and power our homes.

Imagine if they sold us air source heat pumps, ground source heat pumps, photovoltaic panels, solar thermal panels, triple glazed windows and high performance insulation rather than burning fossil fuels and selling us gas and electricity?

I’m sure we would be happy to pay them £1000-£1500 per year for the next 25 years for truly green energy, rather than the devastating stuff they sell us now.  

An air source heat pump, at an installation cost of around £7,000-£10,000 will allow you to get rid of your gas boiler for life and get free, renewable energy to help heat your hot water and power your radiators.

You may get a government subsidy for this too, but people may still struggle to pay that up front capital cost. Being able to rent one or pay one off over time could be a great solution!

If only the energy companies saw the business opportunity in technologies like this.

Their business model is going to fail soon as fossil fuels run out, so it is about time they woke up too.

George Clarke is an architect, writer, lecturer and TV presenter, a founder of TV production company Amazing Productions, and creative director of George Clarke + Partners.