Thinking different about saving energy ?

The way we Dutch think about using energy is at least a bit strange.

Until the early 1970s we Dutch never cared about insulation and building airtight; we had coal in Limburg, gas under Groningen and lots of oil under Drenthe, the cost of which was low, so who cares about wasting precious money on saving energy ?
Until 1973 that is, when suddenly the sjeikhs stopped delivering cheap oil and the price of oil and gas went through the roof.
Ouch, that hurted our wallet and suddenly we were wide awake !

The Dutch finally accepted the need for insulation and draught-control, be it reluctantly, for it came at a cost, and we achored this necessity in our building regulations.
During the first 2 decades we just played around a bit, using minimal amounts of insulation, trying to do it the cheapest way; it took us until 1992 – when the first version of the “Bouwbesluit” was introduced – before insulation and draught-reduction were taken more seriously.
With the introduction of the Bouwbesluit in 1992 also came a timeline for improving the energy-efficiency of our buildings, all the way up to 2020, when all newly built buildings have to be energy-neutral, so market-partners would have sufficient time to adapt to this new paradigm.
Alas, I must conclude that until about 3-4 years ago nothing much happened, for until then it was not really felt as necessary, since the old systems were still performing just fine and generating proper profit.

Now, the Dutch government wouldn’t be Dutch if they didn’t try to sell these costly regulations to the public under the paradigm “it is for your own good, we help you save money”… is it really ?
C’mon, would you believe your butcher if he told you that you should eat less meat ?
More than half of every euro paid on energy goes directly into the states deep pockets !

Let’s face it, the primary aim of saving energy is improving and preserving our natural environment.

Then, they also sell us the idea of energy-shortage, but that too is a hoax.
Every single day the sun poors up to 10 times the amount of energy we need on us and fossil energy sources are way from depleted, so who are they kidding ?
There is no energy-shortage, it is just that getting hold of fossil fuel becomes more expensive, its use is polluting our environment and the alternative gets poored over us in the wrong moment and in a form we cannot directly use.
Of course our government en big corporations know this, but they also recognise the business-opportunities that come with it, if only they could convince the public – yes, that is you and me – that saving energy really is the only way out of the mess we made.
So, saving energy also is about making money… BIG money ! And our private wallets really are of no concern in this matter, other than of course to pay the price for complying with all these new rules.

Is it a crime to make money on energy saving ?
NO ! Not as long as we are open and honest in the information we provide about it.

Should we then keep on building uninsulated, draughty buildings ?
Of course not !  But we should see our investments in energy-saving in the proper perspective, having the right expectations, to avoid deceptions when our private financial rewards are not as good as promised.
In the end, saving energy also brings us more comfort, better value for our properties, less dependency of foreign oil- and gas suppliers and – last but not least – a cleaner environment.

So, from 2020 onwards we are all going energy-neutral ?
Well yes, we could try to do that, but honestly, I think that to be day-dreaming.
Designing all new buildings energy-neutral is costly, but possible, but converting all our existing buildings to a energy-neutral level not only takes us decades to do, but also is way too expensive.

Nevertheless, we will abandon fossil fuel and that will force us to take a second look at how we design our buildings and installations.
There are both physical and financial limits to how much insulation we can incorporate in our façades and roofs, especially in The Netherlands, where the plots are small and every centimeter of space inside a building counts.
So we have to find an optimum between investing in insulation and draught-protection and investing in “clean” energy sources.
To our luck we do not have to invent that wheel, our neighbours already did, so all we have to do is peek over the fence and play copy-cat !

But maybe it is time to look at this energy-challenge from a different angle : if the energy we use in our homes is harvested on-site without polluting the environment and if the use of that energy also has no negative effect on the environment, then why should we care about how much of it we use ?
Thinking along that path, we may even decide to incorporate less insulation in our constructions and that will be noticable in our private wallets !

Even thought we should still consider the ecological footprint of the materials, solar panels and heatpumps we use, that IS an interesting line of thought, don’t you think ?