Do we need the Carbon & Energy Saving Trusts?
Compared to the furore over other UK Government cuts, the announcement that two key environmental quangos, the Carbon Trust and the Energy Saving Trust, are losing their core funding has been met with a rather muted response. For those who don’t know the CT focussed on cutting emissions in industry and the EST domestic emissions. Except for industrial transport emissions which the EST covered. (Why? Answers on the back of a postcard…)
I used to have a contract with Envirowise – the waste/everything-except-energy equivalent of the CT/EST. All of these UK environmental quangos have a similar structure – a core service augmented by huge numbers of consultants who have to go through a rigourous selection procedure and then get called upon to deliver services – usually at no cost to the ‘client’. For what it’s worth here are my views on the limitations of this approach:
- If you offer a service for free, human nature means it will not be valued by the beneficiaries. I suspect that the vast majority of the recommendations I gave business were not acted upon – not because they weren’t great ideas, but because the ‘client’ had no stake in the process;
- If the business case for energy efficiency/waste minimisation and water conservation is as strong as we all say it is, why should private industry get the services at the taxpayers’ expense? And it reinforces the idea that ‘the environment’ is something society has to take responsibility for, rather than individual companies;
- The quangos recruit a huge number of talented people, beat them down on price and then tell them exactly how to deliver the services. This delivery is so oriented towards delivering the targets that Government have set the quango, that any creativity or blurring boundaries is frowned upon;
- The offer of ‘free’ services means that practitioners often have little choice to take part. So rather than having a competitive market in environmental/sustainability services you end up with a narrowly focussed nationalised service, undermining innovation and excellence.
You’ve probably guessed that I won’t miss these quangos if they fail to survive without huge Government grants. That’s not to say that the services were delivered badly – all these quangos produced some great literature and guides – it’s the overall concept I’m believe is fatally flawed. And I guess that many in the industry will agree with me.