I wasn’t there when my home town of Cockermouth flooded – I was 300 miles away in Somerset, fitting chimney sheeps into housing association properties. It was a windy weekend and the effect was instant – as soon as a sheep was fitted in the chimney, the noise was muffled and the draughts from air being pulled through vents reduced noticeably. It’s rewarding to see the sheep in action and pleasing to hear all the favourable comments. Meanwhile, Cockermouth was being inundated. I spent the evening talking to a friend as the floodwaters rose in his house, covering the kitchen floor, filling to the first step, the second, hearing the fridge topple over. Despair in his voice as he re-lived exactly the same experience from six years ago.
People have been complaining that the flood defences weren’t good enough, but the Environment Agency fitted barriers that would cope with a flooding event that occurred once in a hundred years. The rainfall that Cumbria experienced on the 4th and 5th December broke previous records. The town experienced catastrophic flooding in 2009, but bounced back from that with resilience and optimism, not expecting another event like that in our lifetimes. Six years later, it happened all over again.
We are experiencing more extreme weather events, more often. The scientists tell us it is a consequence of climate change caused by human activities. Government representatives were meeting while this was going on, to try to reach an agreement on what can be done to curb carbon emissions and address these climate catastrophes. Meanwhile, Chimney Sheep Ltd have been trying for a year and a half to get our product approved by OFGEM for use as an energy saving product by the big six energy companies that have an obligation to implement energy saving measures for customers that are in fuel poverty. We know from testing we’ve already carried out it saves around 5% of household heat loss. We know it saves around 190 kilos of carbon dioxide per chimney per year. If every home in the UK with an open chimney was fitted with a chimney draught excluder we’d save around three coal-fired power stations’ worth of energy per year.
Chimney Sheep Ltd have committed to paying tens of thousands of pounds for an OFGEM approved facility to test it all over again and prove its efficacy – we want to be confident in our claims, and we want our customers to be confident in us. However OFGEM’s criteria are so labyrinthine that it has taken 15 months and we’re still only part way through. It has been so complicated, expensive, time consuming, frustrating, annoying, that it’s a wonder any products make it through the process. Oh, just a minute – none have! OFGEM have a system for approving non-standard products but not one single one has been approved yet. I’m not saying Chimney Sheep is going to save the world. But if every home in the UK with an open chimney was fitted with a Chimney Sheep then we could reduce the nation’s carbon output by around 1%. Just think what we could do if all the clever carbon saving products and ideas out there could be accelerated into mainstream use. It’s quite correct to make sure that products are as good as the manufacturer says they are, but it should not take this long or be this complicated.