At the U.N. Boris Johnson quoted Kermit the Frog and contradicted him, saying it is ‘easy to be green’. I beg to differ.
Sometime in the 80s, we visited the Centre for Alternative Technology, Machynlleth, Wales and took note of their innovations and forward thinking. We read Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappé and stopped eating meat about the same time. We insulated the loft but we carried on flying, using plastics, and there was little awareness of recycling.
About ten years ago we took the plunge and had eight solar PV panels installed on the roof of our house. Over the years we have gradually replaced most of the windows with double glazed units. We laid extra insulation in the loft.
The house has solid walls so, apart from external cladding, there was little else we could do. Installing a double-glazed bay window proved an incredibly difficult task for a well-known national company. It took six months and five attempts to get it right.
Is buying an electric car that simple?
All this was nought compared with our decision to buy a hybrid car last March. At the time we considered an all-electric car, but we had doubts about the infrastructure required for a fully electric vehicle.
Our first step was to contact a local company who installed home charging points. We were told that the electricity distribution company would need to inspect our electricity supply before a charging point could be fitted.
Western Power, the local distribution company, came to inspect. First of all, their rep could barely hide his smirk when he saw the consumer unit under the stairs which was installed when the house was built in 1932. Various holes were dug in the drive, newly laid with gravel during lockdown, to find out where the supply came into the house. At that point, we heard the dreaded words “looped” supply.
Apparently this was common practice, particularly in terraced or semi-detached houses where two properties share a single electricity service cable. Lots of scratching of heads to find out which neighbours we shared the supply with.
The conclusion, after much debate and more holes dug, was that the loop went under the pair of semis; ours and our next door neighbour’s. I wondered whether looped supplies were to do with cost-cutting but was told that the network was designed like that. The expectation was that neighbours were unlikely to be having a shower, running appliances, or cooking, all at the same time.
Digging the road up again… and again
In April, the drive was restored to its former glory and a charging point was installed on the front wall of the house. However, we were advised only to charge the car at night until each house had an independent feed.
Wind forward six months. We were warned by Western Power that, as the road would need to be dug up, they needed to apply to the local authority and consult on the closure of the road. Ours is a busy road, used both as a rat-run but also by buses and coaches servicing the nearby secondary school.
Timed to coincide with October half term, the diggers came. The main supply turned out to be under the grass verge along the pavement on the opposite side of the road and not down the middle of the road as one might expect.
Two days’ work, another large hole dug in the drive and we had our own supply. Fortunately we have a co-operative neighbour who allowed the workmen on to his property and there was no need to dig up his drive. Our neighbour could see the benefit of having his own independent supply as there was every likelihood he would be having an EV in the future.
As one of the workmen was clearing up in our under-stairs cupboard, after fitting a new consumer unit to replace the ancient cast iron one from the ‘30s, I asked him if it had gone well. His remarks got me thinking.
“If the government want us to drive electric vehicles by 2030 and all your neighbours down this side of the road want chargers fitted on their houses, the (distribution) company are likely to have to dig up this road time and time again”.
It’s not easy being green.