Archived entries for roofs

The energy generation

I’ve got an idea. First, though, I thought I’d set the scene.

According to a recent article in the Observer, there are lots of new graduates, fresh from university with good degrees and strong CVs, and yet due to the recent economic turmoil, this new generation of bright young things are all failing to find those high-flying jobs as advertised in the numerous career brochures which float around campuses across the country. In other news, we learn that Russia and Ukraine have been squaring up to each other in a standoff over gas supplies, a row which apparently has now been resolved according to the latest reports, but which only serves to highlight the increasing dependence of European countries on Russia for this sort of traditional energy. It’s about time we shifted the focus onto newer, more self-sufficient ways of generating power, which we’re going to have to think about anyway due to the recent agreement among EU countries to increase the amount of energy that the EU gets from renewable resources from a measly 7 per cent up to 20 per cent by the year 2020.

So what we have, then, are lots of graduates who are all dead keen to get stuck into something exciting and cutting edge, something which makes a genuine difference and could even have international implications. OK, so they might not have given that impression when they were still students. In fact a more accurate description might be that genuine excitement came in the form of a special offer on vodka jelly, cutting edge research involved keeping up with Eastenders and the international side of things didn’t feature too heavily beyond trying to get into bed with the lovely Italian exchange student down the road.

University was fun, now for the world of work. Given the context that I’ve outlined above, what better way to employ these young people than to get them involved in helping to develop the next generation of renewable energy? If you’re a graduate reading this, by the way, don’t run off screaming at the thought of having to put on bright yellow wellies and trudge through the countryside doing environmental impact assessments for wind farms. There’s something for everyone here, if you think about it. Renewable energy is no longer just something for hyper-environmentalists and bearded scientists. It can’t be, because we’re all going to have to get involved sooner or later. Already, we’ve read reports and seen pictures of people in places like Bulgaria, freezing in their homes this winter because of a lack of gas. Isn’t it time we learnt how to become more independent?

It’s something that everyone can get involved in, and in the case of these graduates who are now all looking for meaningful jobs, whatever subject you studied and skills you have, you can all bring something to the table. For the physicists, the chemists, the maths graduates, for example, I think it’s pretty clear that these are skills which can be put to immediate use. What use, I hear you ask, is a degree in history when it comes to this sort of thing? Plenty. Historians are generally very thorough people, good at checking facts and spotting arguments that work and those that don’t. Perfect, in my view, for fine-tuning the propaganda that will be needed if we’re going to win mass popular support for energy change.

Psychologists also have their part to play, looking at for example the difference between the anxieties that people have about what it might be like to live near a windfarm, or a hydroelectric dam, compared with the actual psychological effects of doing so. We might find that people soon forget they have solar panels on the roof once they’re actually there. (The solar panels on the roof, that is, not the people. I imagine if you were stuck on a roof, you wouldn’t worry too much about some solar panels).

English graduates can help explain the case for renewable energy in clear, easy-to-understand language, and marketing graduates can help sell the idea. Those with degrees in sports science can win support from people that do sports that use natural energy like windsurfing, kiteboarding and downhill mountain biking.

I think we can all see that renewable energy is something that’s got to be done, and it’s something which I personally think is A Good Thing. This isn’t a moment of sudden eco madness on my part, by the way; it’s something that I actually feel quite strongly about, enough at least to do my bit to help win the recent support for the Gwynt Y Mor wind farm. There are plenty of celver, energetic people out there, looking for work, and at the same time we’ve got a so far pretty empty-looking government department which is dedicated to the task and waiting to get started. What could be simpler?

New Year in London

I spent New Year’s Eve in London this time. Not in some super-expensive, dance-till-collapse club where they charge you loads to get in for the treat of paying £15 a shot (“I’ll have…Christ, give me half a shot of orange juice, please”) but at my girlfriend’s friend’s house party. It was great, an interesting location and a varied mix of people and just the right amount. I met someone who works as an architect specialising in sliding roofs (why not?) and had a chat with a gardener about power tools. I didn’t come close to having to listen to some high-rising financial player bore me to tears about how awfully exciting it was to be finally closing the multi-billion-pound deal with the American firm. I also didn’t expect to find myself within walking distance from the Canary Wharf Tower; Zoe used to live in London and was used to it. I, on the other hand, was stopping every five minutes to proclaim something really touristy: “Hey look! It’s the headquarters of Reuters! No, look, the real thing! It’s even got a…where’s she..? Hey, wait for me!”

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London’s an interesting place, for me I never feel like I’m in the heart of the UK because it’s just so different from anywhere else, it’s on another scale altogether in so many ways. Perhaps I felt the difference more this time because as part of my Christmas trip I also visited Hampshire, where Zoe comes from, and that really does feel like proper England. It’s got the rolling hills, the country barns and pubs, and Winchester, especially with its famous catherdral and narrow, cobbled streets, really felt like quite a timeless place (it could have been 1407 if it wasn’t for some of the high street shops) but very English all the same.

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Maybe international capital cities, such as London, Washington DC, Buenos Aires and so on, should be separate (e.g. London being the “international capital” of the UK, for example) and at the same time perhaps we should establish “national capitals” which better represent the national character. As seems to be the way of things in 2008, to get people interested, a national vote could be held on TV, with people phoning in to nominate different cities; I hope the ideas people at ITV are reading this.



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