Philip Sellwood is on holiday this week. Today, Mike Thornton, Director of Energy Saving Trust Scotland, has written a guest post.

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Not necessarily words that automatically go together but there have been recent reports in the Scottish media that do make a link. Specifically, the term “eco-bling” has been bandied around. The view has been expressed that microrenewables are the glamour end of the spectrum and that a small number of homes sporting highly visible solar panels, micro-wind turbines etc are diverting attention amongst the public and policy makers from the nuts and bolts energy efficiency measures which yield the big, cost-effective, carbon savings.

It is undoubtedly true that amongst “early adopters”, keen on nifty gadgets in general, microrenewables, being cool devices, have an appeal that hidden insulation that just lies there and saves energy can’t match. And the media certainly do love a story about plucky little home generators, so they are high-profile.

But the idea that microrenewables and energy efficiency are in conflict is what I think philosophers and Marxists call a false dichotomy. In fact they both have a place in the ecology of carbon saving. I think it would be fair to say that at the present time the large majority of support for carbon–saving measures in the home – from government and from other players like fuel suppliers – is for energy efficiency measures, that’s insulation of all kinds, low-energy light bulbs and so on. And that is is how it should be because these are incredibly cost-effective measures which save lots of money and carbon for relatively low investment. But although there is lots of carbon still to save through energy efficiency and we won’t come to the end of it for a long time yet, one day (and the sooner the better for the planet) we will have insulated all the cavities and lofts that can be insulated and replaced all the light bulbs that can be replaced.

And we still won’t have reached the targets for carbon savings – which will be 80% in Scotland. So then we will need microrenewables to save even more carbon and we will need them in large numbers. And as mass markets take a long time to develop, we need to start them going now.

Don’t forget that most people who install microrenewables do so because they have already put in all the insulation their house can accomodate and want to take the next step in terms of saving carbon and money. So today’s early adopters, far from indulging whimsically in pointless eco-bling, are pioneers doing us all a favour. Their willingness to invest in microrenewables is taking the whole market forward and everybody will benefit in the end.

So let’s hear it for eco-blingers!