The Environmental Captains at the school showcased their many initiatives including, “Measuring their Carbon Footprint”, where they undertook a GHG Assessment with the assistance of Pangolin Associates. Catagorising their Scope 1,2 and 3 emissions will hopefully allow them to identify clear emission reduction targets and develop strategy through 2025 and 2030. After their presentation, the group was given a tour of the beautiful rooftop gardens that they developed with the help of David Harrington.

Our guest speakers this term were the “Qute” Team from Queenwood School for Girls. We learned about their 1975 Suzuki Carry they are refurbing and transforming into an electric vehicle which will be powered by solar panels. The “Qute” will be used to transport things between the junior school and 3 senior campuses. Follow their journey here: https://quteproject.wixsite.com/mysite-3

It was great to see participation from all the area schools including: Queenwood School for Girls, Redlands, Mosman Prep, Beauty Point PS, Blessed Sacrament, Sacred Heart, Mosman PS, Mosman High and Middle Harbour PS!

If you want to start a Zero Emission Schools Network in your own community get in touch: schools@zerosydneynorth.org

Redlands Senior School

Communal Solar Power for Strata — Roadmap to $1 million in Savings & Added Value

Earlier this year I read a statement that left me a bit baffled ‘10% of Australian homes are part of a strata plan but only 0.6% of these have roof top solar’. A figure in stark contrast with 30% of Australian homes already benefitting from roof top solar and part of the world leading 3 million solar systems on Aussie homes.

As a strata resident and an active member of our body corporate I didn’t want us to miss out on the ‘boom’ and immediately set about to look for ways to make solar work for our strata community and in the process do our bit for the planet. We set out to learn more about why the strata sector is being held back and to identify the barriers and flush out the blockers. All with an intention to share the learnings with others once we had established a pathway through the supposedly impenetrable ‘jungle’.

Our starting point to put a price on inaction by constructing a ‘do-nothing’ base case, a practice I’ve used professionally for many years. Essentially the path by default we have already elected to take given the passing of time and not much else. Gathering electricity usage and billing information from fellow residents we were able to construct a financial forecast projected over a 25-year period (the equivalent service life of a solar system) and allowing for a small quite conservative annual adjustment for energy price increases. The exercise concluded that our current do-nothing case had already committed us collectively across 7 homes to over AUD $595,000 in power bills and that is without factoring in future demands of power-hungry electric vehicles (more on that later).

Aussie homes sell faster and fetch up to $125k more when energy efficient devices have been installed.

Meanwhile eager to understand the impact energy efficiency had on property values we discovered research conducted by Domain real estate into the links between energy efficiency attributes of homes and the price they achieved at sale. The study’s findings began to illuminate a solution that absent landlords previously hesitant to commit to large capital projects could get onboard with. The Domain research compared Australian property sale transaction values from 2019 to 2022, across every state and territory. The Sustainability report concluded that homes with energy efficient features sell at a premium when compared with homes with no such additions. A difference across Australia of between +$72,750 for Units and +$125,000 for Houses in 2022.

The price premium of Energy Efficient Homes compared with Non-EE Homes. Source — Domain Sustainability report 2022

Having established a projected spend for our future power bills we set about to understand how we could reduce this cost through roof top solar power. We discovered case studies from existing solar installations already realising 40–50% off their power bills. Many of the examples involving strata focused on common area supply only rather than whole of site power and therefore not maximising the potential solar benefit. Meanwhile we were keen to explore maximising the solar benefit by using new solar sharing hardware some body corporates may not be familiar with. This knowledge helped us propose a pathway to a $298,000 power bill saving potential, and when combined with the property premium we already had a project that could deliver $807,000 in benefits.

Very keen to explore sustainable strata further and to validate our initial findings we connected with our local council who offered to sponsor a future proofing apartments assessment. In turn council engaged expert consultants at WattBlock to review our specific site before making several recommendations, confident in the knowledge that they had already conducted over 1,000 similar assessments.

The intended aim of the assessment was targeted at improving strata sustainability whilst also assessing opportunities to reduce cost and in some cases add value to property. Typically, in such reviews the focus is on energy saving opportunities in common areas however recommendations often surface for owners to directly benefit where solar power sharing, efficient hot water systems and electric vehicle charging facilities are also considered.

Once delivered our future proofing assessment made several recommendations. A list of action items for individual owners to consider along with a number of suggestions for the body corporate. This latter group forming material for discussion at our next strata committee meeting. Specific decisions focused on which actions should be included in our 10-year capital works plan (a legal requirement in NSW).

Our specific Future Proofing Apartments Assessment focused on 3 areas 1) Hot Water Heating for the Individual Lots, 2) Electric Vehicle Charging Preparations and 3) Communal whole of site Solar Power.

Hot Water Heating (Combined Saving Potential $58,011 over 15 Years)

Most standalone dwellings, duplexes and townhouses in strata can save money by switching to a hot water heat pump (different to electric storage or gas instantaneous).

Savings achieved by upgrading hot water systems to a heat pump (different from individual electric storage or instantaneous gas) which typically achieve an average annual saving of $420 per dwelling per couple. The payback period of a heat pump system being between 3–5 years (faster for larger families) while the lifespan of this system can be up to 15 years.

1. Heat pumps are a much more efficient form of electric storage tank system that works on the same principle as a fridge or air conditioner, by extracting heat from the air and using it to heat water in the tank.

2. Heat pumps make particularly good sense when you have solar panels on your home — you’re powering the hot water system with your own “free” electricity.

3. Units are usually integrated (tank and compressor together) but can also be split (separate tank and compressor) and need to be installed in a well-ventilated area, usually outdoors.

4. Installation typically takes no more than two or three hours if it’s a straight replacement for a electric storage hot water system.

5. The compressor on the unit can be noisy like an external unit on air conditioning system and between (20dB (Library) — 50dB (Suburban traffic), so you can’t install them too close to a neighbouring home.

6. Government rebates and other incentives can help offset the purchase cost. They range in price from about $3,000–4,000 (not including rebate or installation).

Recommendation — That individual lot owners consider replacing existing hot water system with a heat pump when their current system fails, most appropriate timing depends largely on the systems age but should be swapped out well before the existing individual electric or instantaneous gas hot water system conks out, as it nears the end of its life and especially if considering home renovations.

Electric Vehicle Preparation (Combined Saving Potential $136,500+ over 10 Years)

Electric Vehicle (EV) take up in Australia is accelerating and is expected to ramp up significantly within the next 3–5 years. EV’s are considerably cheaper to run compared to equivalent petrol/diesel internal combustion engine (ICE) cars, achieving fuel savings of up to 70% and maintenance savings of around 40%. For an average car travelling 13,700 km per year, this could amount to annual fuel saving of $1,950 if the EV with a 50–60kW battery is able to charge at home via Solar power or $1,200 if the EV is able to charge overnight from the grid on an off-peak tariff once or twice a week (ref Drive August 2022).

At time of writing there are currently 43 different EV models available in Australia increasing to 58 by the end of 2022 (ref thedriven.io/ev-models), many EVs now available are considered mid-price at $45–65k with a driving range of 400–550Kms and a second hand market with prices starting from $20k. Several brands have committed to going 100% electric across their product range including Nissan, General Motors, Mazda, Volvo, Land Rover & Daimler.

A recent survey of 700 strata residents in Sydney showed that 78% were in favour of installing EV charging and 61% of Sydney strata residents would prefer to charge their electric vehicle in their own parking spot.

An EV charging strategy for strata may start with some agreed communal guidelines (by-laws) and then invest more into providing base infrastructure enabling EV charging in individual car spaces over time.

To future proof whole of strata power use a plan is required well BEFORE the first EV arrives on site. Failure of the connection to the local substation due to overloading is costly both financially $80–100k and potentially legally and risks loss of power to other residents at the site (a major inconvenience).

As an example, an individual EV fitted with a battery of 50–60kW and recharged in a residents parking spot once or twice a week would require an average 10 kWh per vehicle per day of additional electricity for an entire year. Once this figure is multiplied by several vehicles and including visitor bays the demand can become problematic if not managed within the site limit (ours is 160 Amps). An individual level 2 standard home EV charger can go up to 32 Amps and we have 12 parking bays.

Recommendation — Start a strata committee discussion and pass a by-law before the first EV arrives — Add Agenda Item to next AGM. Consider a 3 staged ‘project’ 1) Install & enable electricity monitoring device to better understand existing capacity and usage, 2) Design & Install base infrastructure + Wi-Fi and finally 3) Individual lot owner Charge Point install (this phase at time and cost of owners choosing).

Solar Power (Combined Saving Potential $261,000 over 25 Years)

Making electricity from solar takes one third of the energy of making electricity with traditional generation sources such as fossil fuels coal and gas, which waste two thirds of their energy content during production and transmission. Making use of rooftop solar electricity at point of consumption is about 5 times cheaper than electricity from the grid.

The council’s Future Proofing Apartments Assessment considered 4 solar energy options for our strata 1) Individual Solar, 2) Individual Solar + Battery, 3) Communal Solar and 4) Communal Solar + Battery we have since added two more 5) Common Only Power and 6) Common Power and Individual Lots.

Following further evaluation Option 1 (Individual Solar) was dismissed due to the complexity of equitably dividing up a complex roof space 7 ways and the relatively low power production potential (i.e., 20% of current usage). Option 2 (Individual Solar + Battery) and Option 4 (Communal Solar + Battery) have already been dismissed as ineffective due to their financial business case (i.e., high cost of small batteries). Option 5 (Common Area power only) was dismissed due the relatively low power consumption and the protracted breakeven payback period.

Option 3 Communal Solar (with future battery compatibility) offers the best potential of maximising the use of the communal roof space. Targeting a 50% reduction in grid usage and is the only option that maximises our solar savings.

Recommendation — Start a strata committee discussion, include on agenda of upcoming AGM and consider including communal solar in the 10-year capital works planning process.

Battery Storage (Combined Saving Potential $52,200 over 10 Years)

In addition to solar power (above) communal battery storage was also considered with the aim of providing an additional source of power in the evening peak once the sun has gone down or on poor solar production days (in winter or heavy cloud days).

Our installation would operate the batteries combined with the communal solar solution as shared infrastructure. The preliminary assessment suggested we would need 3x 10–13kW batteries negating the need to purchase individual batteries per townhouse.

At the time of writing the expected service life of home batteries and their 10-year product warranty do not make them a viable option. This will be one to watch overtime and maybe worth revisiting once electric vehicles are more common on site (when power demands are higher) and alternative offerings in the vehicle to home/grid space have matured.

Other Learnings of Note

Green Finance — Major Australian banks are starting to offer new loan products to help homeowners with the transition to energy efficient homes and to retrofit existing homes with energy efficient devices and sustainability solutions. These loans help homeowners purchase and install energy efficient devices in their home such as heat pumps, Electric Vehicle charging infrastructure and solar power & batteries.

Green bank loans of up to $20k with ultra low interest from 0.99% fixed for 10 years help Aussie home owners transition and access benefits faster.

Rates as low as 0.99% fixed for 10 years means a $20,000 green loan costs just $200 per year to service over the 10 years (min loan $5k and max loan $20k). This investment in turn helps an owner in our strata example access over $120,000 in benefits over the same 10-year period. This benefit is made up of an increased property premium of $72,750 and $47,394 savings from installing a Heat Pump ($5,523), Home EV Charger ($19,500), Communal Solar power ($14,914) and Batteries ($7,457). Where else can you make almost a +20% return on an investment of similar size?

Useful References

Rewiring Australia — www.rewiringaustralia.org

Sharing Solar Energy (SolShare) — https://allumeenergy.com/au/

Solar PV for apartments — residents share energy from their building’s solar system (Video) https://youtu.be/502ei3OVBGw

To be continued….

 

Author Tim Prosser, reprinted with permission, from Medium.com

It’s one thing reading about getting solar and electrifying transport. It’s another thing to see some of the options on offer and meet people who are electrifying their homes and transport.

On March 5 we held our March quarter Net Zero Info Day and EV Display and Q&A, with Mosman Council, to bring low carbon solutions to life!

This quarter our electric vehicle display was all about two wheels. Electric bikes, scooters and motorbikes are a great, low cost, way in to the world of electric transport. They are also great fun! Come along and try one out. We had an E-cargo bike and a easy to ride E-bike for test rides. We also had a Hyundai Ioniq sedan and a Tesla Model 3 sedan for you to compare two electric sedans.

Many people enjoyed saying hello and asking questions at the Net Zero Info Stall. This quarter we focused on harnessing the sun – we’re providing our guides and answering your questions about solar, switching to a renewable energy company, switching to super that supports renewable energy and more.

Come and say hello to Louise, Marieken, Michael, Douglas, Fay, Kate and the team, enjoy the markets, check out the EV Display, get a great coffee and take climate action, all in one! Contact Marieken and Louise if you would like to join us.

Thank you Mosman Council and Councillors for your ongoing support.

If you have an electric bike, motorbike or car, bring it along next time! We love to meet EV owners, and if you are willing to show your electric car or bike, we’ll reserve a space for you. Contact Ursula to find out more, and come join Ursula Alan, Milo, James, Michelle and West at our next display.

If you’re in lockdown, or even if you’re not, read on for some great environment, climate change and sustainability resources for students.

Outside in

Many of us are combining work from home with teaching at home right now, including Jenni Hagland, ZESN’s schools program leader. She’s found some great resources for students.

Join the Observatory Hill Environmental Education Centre at 1.30pm, Fridays for short (30 min) Zoom lessons on biodiversity and pollinators.

This DPIE Food and Fibre study guide investigates historical Australian Aboriginal agricultural production. It is written for the NSW Stage 5 and 6 Agriculture, however, covers NSW Stage 5 Geography and Science outcomes. For junior students, explore the ABC digibook, Aboriginal Agriculture, Technology and Ingenuity.

The NSW DPIE Saving our Species Program has a great collection of activities, curriculum-linked workbooks, presentations, and citizen science projects to foster our understanding of conservation and our threatened plants and animals.

The 2021 SCINEMA International Science Film Festival explores different STEM topics through the power of film, with supporting classroom activities and teaching resources available.

Learning through Landscapes (UK) have published a series of sustainable learning and play activities for early learning to upper primary home learning. Activities are designed for safe outdoor spaces such as gardens or parks, but can be adapted for indoors.

Inside Out

In the wake of the IPCC report, Jenni has also looked for books and websites that are helping adults and children deal with climate anxiety, dread and helplessness.

All the Feelings Under the Sun: How to Deal With Climate Change is a thoughtful book that will help young readers work through their feelings of anxiety about climate change. Through informative text and activities, the book gives children age-appropriate information about the climate crisis

All We Can Save is an anthology of writings by 60 women at the forefront of the climate movement who are harnessing truth, courage, and solutions to lead humanity forward.

Eco Anxious is a website that serves as a welcoming and calming online realm, aimed at people who feel alone in their climate fears.  It uses the power of stories to relieve that sense of isolation.

Gen Dread is a newsletter that shares nuanced perspectives on the emotional and psychological impacts of the climate crisis.  It regularly explores tools for coping with eco-stress, the intersection of eco-anxiety and grief.

Our Kids Climate: How to Talk to Children About the Climate Crisis gives access to a resource guide and webinar with age appropriate materials.

This blogpost is reproduced from the Zero Emissions Schools program newsletter. If you’d like to read more like this, or explore how Zero Emissions Schools might work with your community, please take a look here or email Jenni at schools@zerosydneynorth.org.

Solar usually makes headlines as a good news story, with 2.8 million rooftop systems now installed in Australia contributing to our clean energy revolution. So what is the hype around the so-called “solar tax” that may be slapped on homeowners? Can we stop the solar tax?

The solar tax is an economic solution to an infrastructure problem: at times of peak solar generation the grid can’t always cope with the influx of solar. The proposed “solar tax” means that energy networks will be allowed to charge solar homeowners for exporting their excess solar to the grid at these times. The solar tax is meant to help fund the upgrade of the grid to accommodate renewables as well as change consumer behaviour.

We don’t support the solar tax. But we want to reassure our community, whether the solar tax goes ahead or not, rooftop solar will remain a good investment – financially and environmentally. 

Read on here for the full story on how the solar tax might work and what it means for consumers.

Take action: two quick and easy things you can do now to help stop the solar tax. (If you’ve only got 15 minutes for the environment this week, this is a good use of your time.)

Let’s do what we can to stop confusion in the renewables market. The IPCC report shows we need to urgently cut emissions this decade. Let’s not muck around with the one good thing we’ve got going.

Continue reading “Taxing the sun”

“There are really only 3 things to do with money,” says Lesley Treleaven. “Spend it, save it or give it away.”

 

“I’ve never been much of a shopper. I’d rather buy necessities, a few beautiful things, shared experiences for us, and quality education. I don’t want to support the production and consumption of widgets we don’t need or “more stuff” often ditched and just thrown away after a use or two. I’ve always been more of a saver.

“Climate change has meant not only divesting but also clarifying my investment priorities to align my values with a sustainable future. So on retirement I wanted to invest in the products and services that made an impact in people’s lives. I wanted to know how I could invest in what has now become known as impact investing.

Ethical investing is focused on avoiding investments that have a negative impact on society or our environment. Impact investing seeks to go a step further. Instead of screening out negative impacts, impact investments are made to organisations, projects or funds which are generating measurable, positive social and environment outcomes, in addition to financial returns.

“On a steep learning curve, I began reading, attending local and international seminars, workshops and joining networks. They connected me with the early impact investors in Sydney and Melbourne. Notably, they were run by young people, sometimes as family foundations, but always willing to listen to answer naive questions like mine, that came from little or no financial knowledge. I positioned myself as a senior who, like many of my friends and colleagues, was retiring and no longer wanted to support the big end of town and its profit-making at the expense of a sustainable and ethical future.

“My city accountant was horrified that I wanted to invest in a windfarm in Victoria but I had carefully done the due diligence so it became one of “Lesley‘s hair-brained schemes”. Of course, we all remember what Joe Hockey thought of windfarms; I thought they were exquisitely beautiful and, besides, there was no evidence to support the alleged problems in rural areas at this small Victorian site.

“It’s hard to believe that it’s more than 10 years since I sold my blue-chip shares and divested from fossil fuels. At the time I was with Unisuper and they weren’t doing very well. Having met with professionals who were respected experts in financial investment and due diligence, I made two important decisions: first, to leave Unisuper, whose restrictions prevented impact investments, and, second, to set up my own SMSF. Guidance from a financial manager specialising in ethical investment gave me significant freedom to choose sustainable investments. The relationship with Bcorp registered financial adviser Ethinvest has been personally generous and professionally rewarding. There are now many more impact investments that seek funding, though not many pass the due diligence investigations that I am advised about.

“I’ve invested in all forms of renewable energy — water, hydro and waste conversions — although federal government stalling on policy has been a delay for the whole field. I’ve invested in environmental watering of land returned to the Nari Nari people, recovering their young people’s connection to country and healing with traineeships as rangers. I’ve invested in exciting medical innovations such as Professor Fiona Wood’s spray on skin repair, and early stage social enterprises such as formal wear clothing rental and parcel post. Disability housing with government returns are worthwhile for what they can achieve in terms of social justice and, though the organic wheat growing and milling failed as an enterprise, stalwarts like CSL and RedMed have compensated.

When I was introduced to the Australian Chamber Orchestra’s Investment Fund, it was an easy decision to invest in wonderful old instruments that would be played and heard throughout the world not only by adults but also in the ACOs education programs.

Which violin did you buy, Lelly?

Maxim Bibeau (principal double bass) and the Australian Chamber Orchestra

“It gives me such joy to support the Instrument Fund. As a subscriber I had a connection. Now, as an investor, I have got to know many of the musicians. I have learnt how they try out the potential of an instrument for fit with the chamber orchestra for up to six months. I know who’s playing it and how they relate to it!

“This is just one of the extra benefits of my relatively small investments. Since I started impact investing I have joined a small group visiting the opening of the windfarm, camped with the traditional custodians of Gayini in the Riverina, spent time with young female scientists researching species survival and reintroduction in the Kimberley after feral eradication, fencing and indigenous burning, and listened to inspiring performances of the ACO at Wharf 2.

“Now my grandchildren are old enough to come with me to concerts and on adventures, play their own instruments and ask, ‘Which violin did you buy, Lelly?’ Not only can they be immersed in the sounds of the musical instruments or see rare Australian birds in the Kimberley, they can learn up close and personal about their inheritance and ways to sustain a diverse cultural and environmental future long after I’ve gone.”

Dr Lesley Treleaven is a retired academic and community activist. She’s a member of the management committee of Zero Emissions Sydney North and established the markets program.

 

 

IMPORTANT: The information in this website is general information only. Nothing in this website should be regarded as investment advice and Zero Emissions Sydney North is not a financial adviser. Before making an investment decision we recommend that you seek professional advice from a financial adviser.

As we take small steps along a long road it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the huge challenges we face in addressing climate change. However, there’s hard science to prove that small cumulative actions are an essential part of driving community change. And, most important, they can make you feel much better!

Remember, small steps, long road… Let’s walk together.

In one minute you can

  • Like, comment or share one of our posts to your own networks – it helps us grow our network and makes us all feel great!
  • Subscribe to our Facebook Group — it feels good to see how many people there are out there who share our concern and our determination
  • Forward our newsletter to someone who might be interested — recommendations from friends and family beat snazzy marketing any day.

In ten minutes you can

  • Take a photo of your morning walk, tell us what you love about it and send it to us for our instagram page. You could become an eco-influencer.
  • Have a chat with your local barista or small business owner to say thanks for using compostible cups, or installing solar, or using recycled paper — feedback really matters.
  • Switch to a renewable energy supplier — it only takes minutes but this is the single biggest thing you can do to lower your emissions.

In an hour you can

And if you have:

2 hours a month – How about joining our market stall volunteer team, helping set up, pack down, talking to visitors?

2 hours a week – We’re hanging out for people to support our program leaders, doing admin, writing, taking photos, making phone calls, editing webpages, designing and research. Every little bit helps.

2 hours a day — Now that’s sounding a bit serious! You’d better call us straightaway. We’d love to hear from you.

market team volunteer
The markets team in action. (Warning: might involve cake.)

growth pioneer clubhouse
Lovely sign at the entrance to the Pioneer Clubhouse veggie garden.

 

A shout out to Manly Food Co-op, who are our special guests at the next Solar My House session on October 27th at 6.30pm. The Co-op is a bit of an inspiration for me. It has survived many challenges. In March 2020, for example, it adapted the entire business to socially-distanced and online shopping on a week’s notice. You can now shop in person, or online, then pick up your goodies from their shop on Wentworth Street. It’s just down the street from Coles, next to one of the pedestrian entrances to the Wentworth Street Municipal carpark.

October’s Solar My House session is still on Covid-safe Zoom, but inspiration for my BYO drinks and nibbles comes from the yummy selection of locally-produced, organic, plastic-free produce stocked at the Co-op.

Sophisticated attendees could try Pickled cucumbers with seaweed and sesameOr chocoholics (er, guilty as charged) might go straight for Chocolate popcornThe great thing about all the Co-op recipes is that all ingredients are available in the shop. They’re packaging free and mostly organic, locally-sourced and competitively priced. For example, their certified organic milk is only $1.95 a litre. Although you do need to bring your own bottle or jug!

Non-MFC-members are welcome to join us for Solar My House on October 27 but places are limited, so book your spot. Or, even better, join MFC (it’s only $5 and you’ll get that back in your 10% discount) and grab some good things to eat while you find out about renewable energy, rooftop solar, rebates, batteries and more.

 

 

I have discovered a secret weapon in my quest to persuade people to make the switch to renewable energy. It’s called GADGETS!

We’ve had solar panels for nearly ten years now. 18 months ago we bought a Tesla 2 battery for $11,500 (which, as I now realise, was quite a bargain since prices have gone up this year). The installer, who did a great job, showed me how the app tells you exactly how much electricity you are consuming at any moment, and where that electricity is coming from. 

I didn’t realise at the time how powerful that insight could be. Three pictures


A sunny day in North Balgowlah
  1. A sunny day in November 2019

The big yellow mountain is solar energy, collected from our rooftop panels. The jagged line is our household energy consumption. (You can see that I made a cup of tea just before 8 a.m., and I ran the dishwasher and the washing machine in the morning.) Below the horizontal axis shows how the battery works: when the sun comes up excess solar energy feeds into the battery. It’s full by noon, so the grey area is excess energy flowing back to the grid (and earning a feed-in tariff). And you can see that, on this day, the battery powered the house right through till sunrise, so we were 100% self-powered.  ☺


Solar Offset
  1. Of course, the sun doesn’t always shine

But this screen shot shows that across 2019 we offset our usage — 8166 kWh — with 5473 kWh solar power from our roof. So a 67% reduction in our electricity bill and a 67% reduction in our carbon emissions. The retail price in NSW per kWh is 33c. So *furrows brow, doing sums* that’s $1806.09 in savings in 2019. Nice.

  1. What’s happening here?

This is a screenshot from March 2020 showing where our power is coming from. We’re in the middle of a powercut. The Tesla battery automatically takes over, so that the house can be independent of the grid, using power from the solar panels and, if needed, from the battery. WFH with no grid? No problem. 

We love checking on the app to see how much we are saving. But above all, this funky little app, with its visual representation of real time household electricity usage, is an amazing communications tool. Household power bills aren’t sexy but gadgets totally are. Therefore, my husband, even though he is not involved in environmental campaigning, gets a real kick out of showing his friends how we are helping ourselves to free energy (and helping the environment at the same time).

Do you have a battery? Do you have a story to tell about your journey towards zero emissions? Let us know by [best way to connect]

The Australian Energy Foundation ran a great webinar this week on “Energy Efficiency”. Guess what the top two energy vampires are in the average Aussie home?

  • Heating & cooling your house (40% of electricity usage)
  • Water heating (23%)
  • Home appliances such as TV and computers (14%). 

The good news is that a few simple behavioural changes can already save you money and reduce your emissions. And won’t cost you a cent. 

Top tips:

  1. In winter, set your heating to a maximum of 18-20 degrees. Every degree more increases your energy usage by 10%. Fun Fact: As it gets colder going from summer into winter, our blood thickens and we can better tolerate the cold. So maybe start with 21 degrees and work your way down to 18 degrees by August. 
  2. Heat the person, not the house. Think double layers, warm socks, boots (ugg boots working from home!). And you may even want to invest in some low-cost electric blankets or heat pads. 
  3. Use less hot water by limiting your showers to 4 minutes. Yes, eventually you will convince your teenagers that this is important. Or at least install water-efficient showerheads that reduce the flow of water from 12-15 litres/minute to 6-9 litres.
  4. Use the cold-setting on your washing machine. Modern machines will do a great job.
  5. Switch off all your appliances at the powerpoint when not in use. Too time-consuming? Invest in power strips (plug in several appliances) and a remote control to switch them all off at once when you call it a night. 
  6. Make sure your fridge and freezer are running at the optimal temperature: 3 to 4 degrees and -15 to -18 respectively.
  7. Use smaller appliances in the kitchen. For example, heat up food in the microwave rather than turning on the energy-hungry oven.  

These are the lowest hanging fruit in the energy efficiency world. If you want to bring out the big guns to reduce your energy consumption, the Australian Energy Foundation website has info about best practice for heating & cooling (split air con) and hot water (heat pump).  Both require an initial investment and are best considered when you have to replace an existing system or are renovating or building from scratch.  

You can view a recording of the AEF webinar or check out the presentation. Both are available online until 30 June.

This is a space for telling stories and sharing information about our zero emissions journey. To get the latest stories delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe to our blog here.