Guest blog: House hunting, energy & a happy economy

By Charlotte Webster
Source: Wikimedia Commons
‘London property market based on people pretending grim places are great’ reported the Daily Mash last week. ‘A s*** flat in London now costs £500,000 thanks to widespread delusion about whether a property is really depressing’, it said. Quoting one resident: “Hey wait –  am I getting totally and utterly f***** over? Because my London estate agent seemed like a really great, honest guy.”
Although the Daily Mash is satirical, let’s face it, ‘shit’ has been consistently overvalued. This is particularly the case in property and energy, the travel industry coming in a swift third perhaps.
So, this got me thinking. Are big energy bosses just like estate agents? With Government the buying landlords and consumers the tenants. Let’s take fracking and the delay on CO2 reduction targets. ‘Excellent value for money’ is the spin to the landlord, with enough cash to just about control the message in the media despite growing local opposition.
Fracking is the equivalent of a postage stamp sized flat with no windows, and certainly no green space. Where’s the added value, the long term happiness with such an investment? But that doesn’t matter of course. Estate agents (read Big Energy) can sell, wheeling out the lines of ‘up and coming’, ‘rental potential’ and other pressure selling techniques. Quite literally.
I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer a property I can actually live in. I’d like to buy from someone I can trust and look at the long term returns based on real value and potential development. I’m facing up to the fact that it’s ok to value happiness over ‘ROI’ – and certainly make happiness a factor of ROI – and more and more of us are.  This is where the renewables bit comes in.
Renewables companies are selling something quite new to us all. Added value. An ROI, plus happiness. Happiness because of the environmental and social impact. Yes, they’re contributing to the bigger picture based on imposed targets, but ultimately they are selling something good.
My point is this. We’re not used to being sold the good stuff. As a nation we’ve been putting up with the catch for too long. We’ve been making ourselves feel better, caving in and pretending the grim, whether the hidden crack in the wall, the secret trainline or the noisy neighbour, is great.
It’s time to turn this mentality around before we’re fracked over and sold s*** energy too.
In general, ok there are a few exceptions, but renewable energy companies and those working towards a sustainable economy, are the good estate agents. It’s taking some getting used to, but they’re selling decent property.
The one thing they need to learn how to do now is communicate and blow their competition out the water. Estate agents are excellent sales people, but those that can communicate this brave new world, real value and the benefit of happiness will be the real winners.

Our recent report ‘How to talk so farmers and landowners listen’ addressed the fact that the majority of British farmers and landowners want to go renewable, but they just don’t have the information they need to do so. If only the renewables industry would start articulating their proposition, and we all held back from buying s***, the world might just be a better place faster. Hmm, perhaps it’s not about a sustainable economy, but a happy economy. That’s for another blog.
Charlotte is head of clean technology at CCgroup, having joined them in June 2012. Former PR Manager at Solarcentury, Charlotte has over eight years’ Clean Technology and sustainable business PR experience. Charlotte co-launched SolarAid, a charity that aims to replace kerosene lamps with solar alternatives in developing countries. She holds a BSc. in Geographical Sciences from the University of Bristol and has trained in PR, journalism and documentary production. 
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