A Turbine On Every Roof

A Turbine On Every Roof

Scenario A
Imagine a salesman came to your door and offered you a wind turbine. It would bolt on to your house, generate part of the electricity you use and reduce your bills accordingly. And, of course, it would be good for the environment. All he wants for it is £2,500.

Ignoring the fact that few people trust door-to-door salesmen, whatever they are selling, the answer would probably be ‘no’. It’s a lot of money, the return on investment would take years, and it wouldn’t be worth the planning hassle with the neighbours.

Scenario B
Imagine a salesman came to your door and offered you a wind turbine for £500. It would normally cost five times that but there is a government grant that will cover the rest. It will pay for itself in just three years. And, of course, it would be good for the environment.

More people would probably say yes at this point. I certainly plan to get a wind turbine for the house when some of the other more urgent things that require my £500 have been done. But still it is a lot of money and a lot of hassle. This is (roughly) the reality of the situation at the moment, and looking out the window will tell you not a lot of people have a wind turbine on their houses. Yet.

Scenario C
Imagine someone came to you from your existing eco-friendly electricity company. (Because of course you have switched to a green electricity company. Haven’t you?)

Said eco-friendly salesman calls and says he wants to put a turbine on top of your house. It makes no noise, will cut 20% off your electricity bills and he will sort out all the paperwork and have it fitted. Oh, and of course you will be helping to save the world.

Some NIMBYs and refuseniks are still going to say no, but for a lot of people the financial argument here would be compelling. Especially if the tax on non-green sources of electricity were bumped up to make the financial argument even stronger.

These figures are pretty rough (I invite people to send me more accurate ones if they have them) but a wind turbine costs around £2500, and there are government grants available for around £2000 of that. In Scenario C that makes the cost of the turbine around £500 to the electricity company. About the same as a new mobile phone.

Mobile phone companies subsidise the cost of phones to such a great extent that even very sophisticated smartphones are now free if you spend £25 a month or more. Average electricity bills for a family of four are more like £50 per month. So why can’t the electricity companies afford to stump up to subsidise a wind turbine on, if not every roof, then certainly the roofs of those that want them? If the capital outlay is a problem, then there are certainly venture capitalists out there interested in innovative green ideas (Al Gore’s Generation Investment Management for one).

So if you’re reading this, as the business development manager of Scottish Power, Green Energy, or someone else with the power to make it happen, drop me a line. The idea is yours for free. All I ask is that I can be your first customer.

OK and maybe I might ask you to throw some money in to a few other ideas of mine. Did I tell you the one about the biodiesel…

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This article is by Tom Cheesewright. This post forms part of the Future of Cities series. For more posts on this subject, visit the Future of Cities page.

Tom Cheesewright


Futurist speaker Tom Cheesewright is one of the UK's leading commentators on technology and tomorrow. Tom has worked with a huge range of organisations across a variety of markets, to help them to see a clear vision of tomorrow, share that vision and respond with agility. Tom draws on his experience to create original, compelling talks that are keyed to the experience of the audience but which surprise and shock with unexpected facts and examples.

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