In a report published on Wednesday, experts at the Royal Academy of Engineering ridiculed a trend that many homeowners had thought would help save the planet (or at least its human inhabitants). According to the report, the installation of so-called ‘eco-bling’ devices such as solar panels and wind turbines does not sufficiently contribute towards reducing carbon emissions.
In fact, the Royal Academy of Engineering has claimed that installing eco-bling will make virtually no impact on the UK Government’s carbon emission targets, which aim for an 80% reduction by 2050. Although new homes built in the UK must be zero-carbon by 2016, this does nothing to address the myriad old homes in the country that heavily pollute the atmosphere with carbon emissions.
The author of the report, Doug King, who is a professor of Building Engineering Physics at the University of Bath, described eco-bling as “unnecessary renewable energy [devices] visibly attached to the outside of poorly-designed buildings” and went on to claim the installation of solar panels and wind turbines offers a “zero-sum approach”. Professor King’s report is based on the view that although it may be fashionable to install eco-bling in an otherwise environmentally unfriendly home, it does little to address the real issue that is the environmentally unfriendly home itself; indeed, as King argued, “if you build something that is just as energy-hungry as every other building and then put a few wind turbines and solar cells on the outside that addresses a few per cent of that building’s energy consumption, you’ve achieved nothing”.
The Royal Academy of Engineering’s report will leave a bitter taste in the mouths of homeowners who had laboured under the apparent misconception solar cells and wind turbines contributed more favourably to the environment. Of course, the substantial argument of the report does not heap criticism on renewable energy devices so much as it criticises their use on energy inefficient homes. The crux of the report is that, in order to achieve the Government’s lofty carbon emission targets, more must be done to improve the energy efficiency of existing homes. Installing solar cells and wind turbines, it would seem, is unlikely to do the job.