An exciting new home energy game opened up for me this week when I made enquiries with my energy retailer.
My goal is to lower our household carbon emissions.
If the average Australian emits 4.5 times the global average CO2 per person (according to the CSIRO), then a worthwhile goal is to lower my own family’s greenhouse gas emissions.
At home I prepared an energy budget and examined opportunities to lower our energy consumption. My wife and family got on board, although they barked a heavy disclaimer: “We just don’t want to go fanatical about turning the lights off every time we walk out of a room!”
Although there is a plethora of information and handy tips on the internet, I thought I would directly confront my retail electricity provider for information and advice.
To my happy surprise, right up front, I was offered an energy saver program with a 20 per cent discount on my quarterly electricity bills. The catch was that I had to commit to paying my quarterly bills on time for a whole 12-month period. A pretty easy commitment, I thought to myself.
The problem was, this was about saving money, not about saving carbon.
It seemed that their “energy saver plan” was all about capturing market share, not saving on energy. So once we locked away that plan, I enquired further about how they could assist me in better managing my consumption and carbon emissions.
I am located in Sydney and don’t have a solar PV system on my roof, so I don’t qualify for a smart meter installation at the moment.
However, based on my last electricity bill, I was advised that going to a 100% Green Power program would cost me an extra $63 payments a quarter. This Green Power means my retailer will be buying my energy consumption equivalent from off-site government accredited renewable energy providers (from wind, solar, bioenergy and mini-hydro generators). This purchase would be increasing the amount of renewables in Australia’s grids higher than otherwise would be the case.
We did the arithmetic. My energy saver package will save me around $58 a quarter, based on my last bill. So the difference between my $58 saved and my $63 extra on 100% Green Power is a measly $5 extra a quarter. From a carbon perspective, over the course of a year this will represent a reduction of 4.4 tonnes of CO2 emissions from our household. That’s not a bad effort, so I committed to it then and there.
I acknowledge this is just a start. Our household energy still emits around 2.4 tonnes CO2 due to our natural gas consumption (cooking and water heating), and a further 1.5 tonnes CO2 due to the travelling my wife does on shopping and transporting our son to sporting adventures after school (single car household). These equate to 3.9 tonnes CO2 per annum for our household.
I realise, of course, there is still much more to do. We still have further efforts to improve home insulation for winter heating efficiency, and accounting for our annual holiday travel.
According to the Garnaut Climate Change Review, if we are to fall within the stabilisation scenarios summarised by the IPCC, then all of us collectively will need to confine annual emissions to around 2 to 4 tonnes of CO2 per person.
So added to our household CO2 emissions, we would have to add per capita contribution of emissions from the rest of the national economy. Capping this at 2 to 4 tonnes of CO2 per person is a big ask, but with some effort seems to be within the realm of achievability.
I was surprised at how simple the step of purchasing 100% Green Power at a small extra outlay (around $1 extra a week), puts my family and I so much closer to the ball park.
There is some deliberate effort required to lower our household CO2 emissions. However, it is an exciting new energy game we find ourselves in today.
Buying 100% Green Power is not as expensive as you may have thought.