Green watch: January 2009

Maurice Davies, Issue 109/01, p7, January 2009
European Union nations have agreed to cut energy use by 20 per cent by 2020. In a nicely symmetrical decision; they also want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent and produce 20 per cent of energy from renewables.

It is not quite that simple, but it does mean we will be legally required to cut our energy consumption. Saving energy will no longer be optional - something environmentally and ethically desirable - and sidelined in favour of more attractive possibilities.

Museums' love of the air-conditioning system and extension will be start to be questioned. Instead, capital investment will be needed for less glamorous projects.

Simon Tilleard works at the London Climate Change Agency, a firm set up by the London Development Agency to help cut London's emissions. Before that he led some significant cuts in energy use at the Natural History Museum.

He says the first step to reducing a building's carbon footprint is not to buy high-profile renewable generation, such as solar panels, rooftop wind turbines or biomass boilers, but to improve insulation and the way a building is managed.

So will the Heritage Lottery Fund and others be willing to support entrance lobbies with double sets of doors to keep out the cold, or cloakrooms for people to leave their wet coats at the door, and so reduce the load on dehumidification systems?

Experts at a recent National Museum Directors' Conference meeting on museum environmental conditions said such low-tech ideas can be more effective than complex building-management systems. But who is going to pay?

Maurice Davies is the deputy director of the Museums Association