< Tim Pollard | 28.06.2014

What was the question again?

What was the question again?

Changing circumstances, economies of scale and new developments mean that once-valid arguments can very quickly become out of date. Renewables technology is a case in point.


According to Albert Einstein, the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. The problem is that this option is so very attractive because it is safe and comforting. We know what to do, how to do it and what happens at the end.

The problem comes because, in our modern world, circumstances change increasingly often and quickly. The nature and management of change fascinates me, as does the way in which behaviour can be influenced to achieve or prevent it.

Most of us are ‘inexpert buyers‘ for the majority of items. We seek the guidance of ‘experts‘, but we often have little or no information about just how expert – or independent – they are.

In bygone days, communications ‘expert‘ Western Union declared: “This ‘telephone‘ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication.” Lord Kelvin, who contributed so much to many branches of physics and was a real ‘expert‘, stated that “heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible”. Perhaps most infamously, music ‘expert‘ Decca Records dismissed an auditioning group with the statement: “The Beatles have no future in showbusiness.”

This is why we all need to keep open minds about how solutions can change and how, because of changing circumstances, things that may have been impractical previously can become very attractive. This is relevant to all subjects, even household heating. We would do well to remember that what householders really want is a warm, cosy house with plenty of hot water, with the minimum of cost and hassle. They are not attracted to any particular solution; they simply want to achieve their goal, and to do this they consult their ‘experts‘.

We must also understand that we have to constantly challenge existing positions and to re-test solutions that may have been impractical or uneconomic, because changes in circumstances may render our conclusions redundant.

Let me give you an example. If you dismissed mobile phones because the first models were heavy, bulky and had very poor battery life, you would have been right, for about 18 months. By then, second- or third-generation products had solved most of those issues and now we all have mobile phones.

Similarly, the very first energy-efficient light bulbs took a long time to warm up, cast an eerie blue light and were a strange shape. Nowadays they are so much improved as to be indistinguishable from conventional bulbs in their operation, other than using a tenth of the energy.

Then, of course we have changes in economic circumstances which mean that what was once too expensive may become affordable and vice versa. This may be influenced by all manner of circumstances, including both penalties and incentives.

The photovoltaic (PV) panel market showed how an incentive can both make a market and then, through economies of scale, drive down the cost so that the incentive becomes less of a requirement. Those of you who may have dismissed PV after the initial reduction in the feed-in tariff (FiT) would be well advised to have another look after the reductions in product costs in the last 12 months. You may be surprised. The domestic Renewable Heat Incentive will not have nearly as dramatic an effect as the FiT but it will certainly accelerate significant demand for renewable heating systems.

All these examples should lead us to be hesitant before dismissing different proposals. The fact that something has been the status quo for decades, or even longer, does not mean that it holds true today. Those who fail to see changes coming will inevitably become a footnote of history rather than a part of the future.

That’s why Plumb Center is investing in making sure that we have access to the latest products and information across all the relevant technologies in the renewables and water-efficiency sectors, as well as supporting equipment to provide cheaper low-impact systems. We are committed to ensuring that our customers can take advantage of the opportunities arising from emerging markets with the right products, knowledge and accreditations.

Successful businesses will be well informed about all the options, and nimble and smart enough to realise the most appropriate choice for each set of unique circumstances. So, as the Boy Scouts would say: “Be prepared”.



‘We have to constantly challenge existing positions and to re-test solutions that may have been impractical or uneconomic’


Related articles

Selling points

Selling points

With so much information and choice, it’s harder than ever for tradespeople

March against the zombies

March against the zombies

We Brits have a tendency to harp back to how things were ‘back in the day’. Such nostalgia can rarely be justified – and certainly not when it comes to ancient boilers dating from a bygone age

Stop, thieves!

Stop, thieves!

The theft of tools from vans is a growing problem for the sector.