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Small rewards spread goodwill

In his weekly The Bar Man column, Jeff Hoyle discusses trips to Copenhagen and Bury St Edmunds...

Sometimes there are things that you do because they seem like the right thing. About a year ago we had a communication from the council about a scheme to install solar panels, which put the idea in our mind, though we chose a different company in the end.

It seemed like it will take about 12 years for the panels to cover the cost of the installation, so it was not a great money earner but it is a very small contribution to the campaign against climate change. Then, out of the blue, we had an email from a firm inviting us to their give back initiative.

Jeff Hoyle
Jeff Hoyle

What happens is that they take remote charge of the battery that we had fitted. Normally this stores electricity generated when the sun is shining and releases it at times when the solar panels do not cover the electricity usage. However, there are occasions, usually around teatime on dull days in winter, when the national grid is running at capacity.

Instead of paying to start up a coal power station the idea is to charge up the batteries of thousands of properties before the period of high demand and discharge them into the grid when needed. Essentially I am buying electricity at about 28p per unit and selling it back half an hour later at anything between £2.20 and £4.20 per unit depending on that day’s rate, plus they pay for electricity we have not used compared with our average consumption.

Too good to be true? I thought so until we received our first credit of £22 and I am now looking forward to the roughly twice-weekly events which very much improves the economics of the solar panel system.

I thought of this recently when we stayed a couple of nights in a hotel in Bury St Edmunds. It seems that the stickers in hotel bathrooms which exhort guests not to ask for new towels every day to save resources are almost universal. In Copenhagen a couple of months ago, our hotel went a step further and offered to donate a euro to charity for each day we did not have our room serviced, so most days we did the right thing.

In Bury, they went a step further, offering us a free drink from the bar for each day we didn’t have our room serviced. Sounds good, we thought and duly went to reception to collect our voucher. Surprisingly, this was for a drink each. The choice of beer was limited, as it is in many hotels, but the pint of Crooked River craft beer from Cockermouth in Cumbria was very welcome and helped to keep the brewing tradition of the town alive after the scandalous closure of Jennings Brewery, while the Bar Wife chose a glass of red wine.

I guess that we saved about a tenner just by not having our room cleaned on one day. If we want to change the world, doing the right thing and relying on the conscience of concerned people will only take us so far, but introducing small rewards spreads goodwill and a much more enthusiastic take-up, even amongst those who are indifferent to the issues.

Much as I have doubts about the competency of the present government, it was good to see that they have introduced tax relief for small producers and also for draught beer in pubs which hopefully will go some way to keeping pubs and small breweries in business. It is not always about winning big on the lottery. Little fish are sweet, as my father used to say.


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