Fiddlers on the roof

At a recent trade fair I met with six providers of solar heating systems expressing an interest in purchasing a system for the villa in which we have a flat. I left them each my name card and they promised to follow up.

Over three weeks later I have received only one call from one of the suppliers. When I rang back, someone else picked up the phone and she said that it is no longer the number of the said gentleman and that she could not give me the new number.

They must be countercyclical businesses and have plenty of orders to deal with despite the worst recession ever to hit the country.

The idle salesmen (for they were all blokes) of the solar power industry do not bode well for a green future. If none out of six companies respond to demand from an enthusiastic customer with cash to spend, who will sell solar heating systems to those customers who need a bit of convincing or who need some help with the financing?

This corner of the renewable energy industry is poorly prepared for the revolution which is expected of it. Once carbon prices start to create solid demand for their services, let’s hope that the solar companies get their act together. There is no guarantee that this will happen.

The validation and verification companies famously failed to respond adequately to the opportunity presented to them by JI and CDM, leaving a trail of delays, frustration, losses, disappointment, and chaos. Academics may call it a market failure, others may call it strategic incompetence, but the result is a carbon market much less effective than it might have been.

It is important that policy makers, socialised as they are with the assumption that markets respond briskly to opportunity and price signals, do not just assume that a flourishing renewables supply business will leap into existence once CO2 emissions are priced into conventional heating fuels.

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