By Paul Homewood
Plans for Whitby village sound like an extract from an early draft of George Orwell’s 1984. Targeted as the Government’s first “Net Zero village”, as part of a pilot project it would have all heating systems removed and replaced by either hydrogen or heat pumps. Once a choice had been made by the villagers, they wouldn’t be able to opt out of the trial. Gas companies could force entry into their homes to switch appliances if necessary.
But there was a twist. The residents protested so much that the project was scrapped. That is, surely, proof that we should go a step further – and scrap all top-down Net Zero targets.
There are probably worse fates than being selected as a Net Zero village. You might be chosen as the site of a new reservoir perhaps, or right in the line of HS2. But the list is not a very long one. As part of its drive to hit its grand-sounding climate pledges, the Government is planning to make a handful of villages laboratories for testing out new green technologies. Under the plan, traditional gas and electric heating systems would be switched off and replaced with hydrogen or heat pumps. If anyone objects, that’s just tough. The concern was that, if necessary, engineers would enter their house, rip out the old boiler, and replace it with a new one.
Here’s the problem, however. The residents of the villages on the shortlist for the honour turned out to be less than enthusiastic about the experiment. And who can blame them. No one really wants to rely on a heating system that is largely unproven to get them through the winter (it is chilly in Cheshire around January, in case no one had noticed). If it needs to be tested, it should be done in a few houses first, not in a whole village. Nor do they want to be forced to install a heating system that might turn out to be ridiculously expensive, ineffective, or quickly overtaken by superior technology.
In reality, the revolt against the hydrogen village neatly illustrates that when green technologies are rammed down our throats we don’t like it very much. Heat pumps? Despite massive subsidies, there is very little demand, possibly because they don’t work very well. Electric cars? Even with the tax breaks on offer, sales are now falling again, with the AA finding last week that only 18 per cent of us plan to buy electric next time, compared with 25 per cent last year, possibly because costs have risen and there aren’t enough chargers. Windmills on the local farmland, or local nuclear generators? No one actually wants them in their community.
The list goes on and on. It is very easy for politicians to make virtue-signalling pledges at climate summits. They can promise to ban petrol cars or gas boilers or whatever the issue of the day might be. But when they try to implement that decision, it is done so poorly, and with so little planning, that popular opposition kills it off.
There is nothing wrong with switching to greener energy, but it needs to be done voluntarily, because the technology is cheaper and better, rather than as part of a centrally-planned system that leads to unwanted changes being made to people’s homes. That is the real lesson of the Whitby example – and the government should take account of it before launching its next ridiculous target.
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March 3, 2023 at 09:01AM