• Colm O' Regan
  • 4 min read

Because sustainability is so often tied up with ‘the right thing to do’ that we forget that some ‘sustainable’ stuff is only accessible with cash

We got ‘the solar’. 

Right, first things first: after all the grant-y stuff, it will cost six grand, just so you know. 

Sometimes we can talk about ‘sustainability and all that’ and then at the end, shnake in the money bit. 

“Consider using beeswax paper instead of clingfilm”, and you go looking for it and with the cost of it, for the same price you could wrap the house in clingfilm. 

Because sustainability is so often tied up with ‘the right thing to do’ that we forget that some ‘sustainable’ stuff is only accessible with cash. 

So doing something doesn’t necessarily make you a ‘gooder’ person than anyone else, just gooder than the version of you who spent their spare six grand on seal clubbing trips.

A New Experience

So look, that’s the money out of the way. On the other side, solar is a new experience. We got them in February. 

The winter is a great time to get it because things only get better. There wasn’t much out of them for the first day. Enough solar to just about toast a sandwich.

But then, there was a sunrise and it was like  2001: A Space Odyssey when the rising sun and a black monolith inspired the monkey to batter his buddy with a bone. 

‘Thus Spake Zarathustra’ playing in my mind as I could feel the sun’s rays hit the panels. I put on the dishwasher even though there was still space for one more plate. It was heady stuff.

I have an app that tells me how much the panels are generating. So you best believe I’m obsessively checking it. Managing the housework tighter than Mrs Beeton.

We got our first bill. It was down €100 and we got 20 quid for our surplus. There is no bank that would pay the same interest in two months. And at the risk of sounding like a knob, I love the idea of our humble little roof making spare current for the grid. 

Yes, it’ll probably be hoovered up by a data centre hosting an eight-hour YouTube review of a two-hour film. But I’d like to think that sometimes my watts are going straight to the ER.

Doing Better

Of course, I’m doing it all wrong. I should probably get a battery and an electric car and … a bigger roof. Maybe one day.

I know I could do better because I’m in a great helpful Facebook group of people interested in solar and it’s full of People Who Know Their Stuff. People with rakes of roof, charging cars, batteries, looking around for places to use the wattage. They’d charge the family if they could. 

There are handy people installing panels themselves. I’m there with my couple of kilowatts like a junior infant with his crayons watching sixth class do algebra. I’m mad jealous, but I admire their capacity.

The app tells me I’ve saved nearly half a ton of carbon already, although the panels themselves have to run for a couple of years before they’re carbon neutral. 

But I’m not getting fixated on that because there’ll always be some headline about The Problem With Solar. But these types of things forget The Problem With The Previous Stuff. 

Like if you were getting kicked in the nads every hour by a donkey and then someone offered you a chance to be slapped by a rabbit (the animal) instead, would it still not be better than a kick from a donkey?

The BER rating has gone up a smidge. They’re still saying too much carbon is going out the door and we should spend 000s installing some other sorcery to replace the gas but I don’t think they’re factoring in our Rural ’80s Upbringing Tightness with turning on the heat.

But anyway, solar: it’s not magic, it’s not massive, but it makes a difference.

Colm O'Regan writes every Monday in Life/Style pages of The Irish Examiner. For the latest news, features, opinions and analysis on the issues of Sustainability and Climate from across the various Irish Examiner topic desks and their team of specialist writers and columnists, go to www.irishexaminer.com

Colm O' Regan | Columnist

Colm O’Regan is a best-selling and critically acclaimed broadcaster, author, comedian, and now self-confessed Climate Worrier.

He is the author of seven best-selling books including the Irish Mammy trilogy, Bolloxology and the two Ann Devine novels – the latest of which is the novel Ann Devine Handle with Care (‘A heart-warming Irish tale provides a much-needed lift in spirits’ Sunday Times ‘very funny’ Irish Times) and Climate Worrier (A winning combination of drily hilarious and thought-provoking, often all at once.’ - SUNDAY INDEPENDENT).

He hosts Ireland’s most successful storytelling night the Dublin Story Slam and is resident MC at Inn Jokes, one of Dublin’s longest established Comedy Clubs as being an after dinner comedian and MC for Ireland’s top companies.  

As a stand-up comedian, he has performed all over the world. His stand-up has also featured on RTÉ’s Late Late Show and on Comedy Central. 

Colm has written and presented the multi-award winning RTE 1 Radio comedy show Colm O’Regan Wants A Word since 2016. (‘An excellent series presented by the Cork genius’ Irish Independent). In recent years he has started his own podcast ; The Function Room about maths and numbers. (he doesn’t like large crowds).

Colm writes a weekly column about ‘everything and anything’ for the Irish Examiner.