Opinion: Under the lighthouse it is always dark

POSTED: 02/28/12 1:41 PM

The government will implement an energy efficiency program to stimulate consumers to reduce their energy consumption.

This is one of the more humorous elements of the draft energy policy. As usual, the government is now going to tall others what they have to do to, apparently without spending some time on introspection.

We figure that consumers who are tight for money are well aware of the utility-bills that fall on their doormat every month. There are already plenty of citizens who are extremely careful with the way they use their air conditioning systems, and with the amount of water they use.

For wasteful behavior, we have to look in places where energy seemingly does not cost anything. In those places air conditioning systems are humming like there is no tomorrow and temperatures are kept so low that you don’t really need a fridge to keep your beer cool.

Where are those places? Well, we all know the answer to that one. Let’s start with the A.C. Wathey Legislative Hall. The place is always so cold that it’s a small wonder the island never got hit by a pneumonia pandemic. And not only that; on many occasions we have witnessed that the door was open. That way warm air comes into the hall, forcing the airco to work even harder to keep temperatures inside at freezing levels.

Example two: the parliament building. This is another place where wasteful behavior seems to be the standard. Example three: the airport terminal building. Four: the GEBE offices. And on and on.

The bottom line is that the people who are working in these places have no inhibition about running their air conditioning. Why? Because they think that they are not paying for it. This is of course a mistake, because when those bills come in, everybody is paying for them – at least the 30-35 percent of our citizens that pay taxes.

To put a stop to these wasteful practices, the government really needs to take action. If it wants to run an awareness campaign telling citizens to save energy, it will have to lead by example. That is not our government’s strongest point so far; but let’s give credit where credit is due, and let’s give the government the opportunity to show it is serious about this. There is nothing wrong with the plan or the policy – it is the execution that is critical. This is where the government ought to take the lead – better late than never.

It is not necessary to re-invent the wheel, because everything there is to know about energy saving is already out there. An entry-level civil servant could cobble together probably one hundred golden energy saving tips in one afternoon by Googling the subject.

We’d say that for larger projects like buildings where many people work, the government ought to look at building management systems. There are a lot of smart systems out there that will help reduce energy consumption. Air conditioning is probably the largest consumer of electricity. Therefore, government buildings require systems that set parameters for maximum and minimum temperatures. That will still give employees some leeway to set their own comfort levels, but total freedom must be a thing of the past.

The second big consumer is light. Motion detectors could regulate this. When there is nobody in an office, lights will always be out. As soon as an employee or a cleaner arrives, the light will switch on. People who don’t move a lot behind their desk will realize that this will cause lights to go out occasionally as well, but this is easily solved by waving an arm, or by simply getting up.

The bottom line of this story is: we applaud the initiative to do something about energy saving. But charity begins at home, and before the government starts producing expensive brochures or setting up websites nobody visits, it ought to take action within its own organization.

Communicating these initiatives and explaining how much savings are or will be realized is the kind of information that appeals to citizens. But telling others what to do without addressing the government’s own wasteful behavior is not going to work.

Everybody knows this piece of wisdom: under the lighthouse it is always dark. It would be inspiring if the government became the exception that confirms this rule.

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