February 24, 2012

Power consumption makes historic drop

Mr Jonathan O'Dea MP (Davidson, NSW) kindly sent me the following article (ABC News, August 15, 2011, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-08-15/power-consumption-makes-historic-drop/2839394):

One of Australia's largest electricity distributors says it is experiencing a "historic" cut in households' demand for power.
Ausgrid, which provides power to much of New South Wales, has announced demand for its electricity by regular households has fallen 2 per cent each year for the past four years.
It is the first time the company has seen a fall in demand since the 1950s.
"If you go right back to the 1950s, residential consumption has continued to rise year on year, and in around 2006, we saw that plateau," Ausgrid energy efficiency specialist Paul Myors said.
Ausgrid says the drop is caused by consumers switching to energy efficient hot water systems and light bulbs after seeing their power bills go through the roof.
"One example where we have seen most strongly is with residential hot water because we often separately meter this in households," Mr Myors said.
"We've seen reductions even greater than 2 per cent, even up to 8 per cent per year," he said.
It is expected the Australian Energy Market Operator will also announce a fall in power demand of 5 to 6 per cent in the next decade.

In a Renew Economy article from February 8, 2012 (http://reneweconomy.com.au/2012/a-generators-nightmare-low-prices-less-demand-88124), Mike Sandiford had this to say:

Demand for electricity traded on the National Electricity Market – or the NEM – declined in 2011 for the 3rd consecutive year and is now down 3% since 2008.
With industry analysts predicting 2-3% annual growth rates over the period, demand is down almost 10% on expectations.
Partly we are seeing the impact of energy efficiency measures, such as pink batts, and distributed generation like rooftop photovoltaics. We are probably also seeing some price sensitivity entering the market.

And this:
At an average of 5.7 gigawatts, 2011 demand in Victoria was down 2% from 2010 levels and almost 4% from 2008. Similar scenarios played out in NSW where demand is down some 2.7% since 2008, and Queensland where demand has softened by 3% since 2009.

Of course a faster drop in power consumption would be nice, but in a world where we are used to predictions of ever increasing electricty demand, this is indeed good news!

February 21, 2012

Getting from A to B with fewer emissions

By Ross Henderson (Motorcycle Instructor - EliteMCT, WA)

Motorcycle transport is a largely ignored solution to green transport. Not only do motorcycles consume far less fossil fuels to run than other vehicles, they use as little as 1/10th the carbon footprint to manufacture than even the smallest cars.

The majority of modern cars produce 75% of their total CO2 emmissions in the manufacturing stage.
A small increase in motorcycle use as apposed to car use would present a significant change to CO2 emmissions.

February 13, 2012

A telling demonstration - invisible actions

Last night I spoke to the Athelstone (SA) Kiwanis group about the One Person Can project, and by way of a demonstration I asked for three volunteers to look around the room and tell me how many people they could see who, to their knowledge, took a particular climate-friendly action. I asked one to report how many people they could see who turn off unnecessary lights, another to say how many people take short showers, and the third to say how many people buy Green Power.

All responded by saying they couldn't see anyone who they knew took those actions. I then asked for a show of hands. Almost everyone in the room said they turn off unneccesary lights, about 3/4 claimed to take short showers, and I didn't ask for a show of hands on buying Green Power, but several put up their hands anyway. And this from people who talk to each other on a regular basis!

Don't get me wrong, they're a great bunch of people - I'm certainly not thinking they should have known about each others' climate-friendly actions. The demonstration just underlined the fact that we really don't know how many people are already taking actions that reduce GHG emissions. We might assume that most people don't bother. Perhaps we should start assuming that most people do!

Wouldn't it be sad if half the population of Australia (or more!) were taking actions that reduce their GHG emissions, and the other half were doing nothing simply because they mistakenly think nobody else is doing anything.

February 1, 2012

Tips for Renters

by Cate (Victoria)

Long abandoned and maligned in the striving for the great Australian dream of home ownership, renters are a rapidly growing percentage of our population, currently standing at a national average of 30%, that figure is often more than double in many inner city areas and external pressures such as rising house prices and increasingly dense urban living are likely to mean that we’re not going anywhere soon and are here to stay.

We started Green Renters after regularly attending sustainability expos and workshops and leaving empty handed and empty headed, devoid of products, services or ideas that suited us. We quickly realised that focussing on the small, achievable, positive, time and money efficient meant there was actually a tremendous amount that renters could do to be an active part of the sustainability community and have been firmly and proudly flying their flag ever since.

Aside from our website that is chock full of advice, tutorials, news and ideas we undertake many special projects with specific groups of renters such as students and residents in social housing. We are currently small and very busy so are in the midst of figuring out how we also become financially as well as environmentally sustainable!

Enough about us though, what are our top tips for all the renters out there?

Draught proofing
Most rental properties fall into two main camps, with the same end result. Either an old, badly maintained building with cracks, gaps, holes, no insulation and ill-fitting doors and windows. Or a modern, poorly made building sharing at least several of the same characteristics. Bearing this in mind, I would imagine that your rental home is probably losing a lot of heating and cooling on a daily basis. Statistics vary, but probably around 20% of the money you spend on cooling and heating is being wasted, that adds up! So we would consider draught proofing to be your number one priority to bring your home up to scratch.

Things to try
§  Door snakes – A cliché, but like so many clichés, you've probably forgotten to do it. Door snakes are cheap to buy or to make yourself and are a very simple way to reduce draughts. They are also easy to move around and transport.
§  Windows – There are several products available to make your windows more efficient barriers, depending somewhat on what kind of window you have. Films that add an extra barrier, tapes that seal up gaps and rattles, insulated curtains and pelmets.
§  Boiler lagging – If you have access to your water heater or boiler, the chances are that it's pipes are exposed, pipes that contain hot water and are losing copious amounts of heat through not being insulated. If you insulate your hot water pipes with lagging from a hardware store or a DIY method you can actually turn your boiler down several degrees, saving energy and money.
§  Heat the room you’re in – If you’re keen to save energy or dollars, there’s no point heating parts of the house you’re not currently using. Though a combination of draught proofing and just keeping the doors shut you can be nice and cosy with no wastage.

Save power
Electricity is expensive and likely to increase significantly in cost in the near future, not only that electricity generation often comes from a variety of sources that are extremely poisonous to our environment. It’s very easy to reduce your usage of electricity without reducing your quality of life.

Things to try
§  Switch it off – Another oft-repeated nugget of advice that really leads to results. Turning of devices that you aren’t using or switching of devices at the socket when you’ve finished with them instead of leaving them on standby power can reduce your energy consumption up to 20%.
§  Know watt – Most people are familiar with the energy consumption stickers on the front of white goods, but did you know it’s possible to tell the electricity consumption of most electrical goods? It’s usually displayed near the power inlet (or on the manufacturers documentation/website) and is measured in kilowatts per hour, the lower the better. For older electrical items, many local libraries now loan out power monitors that let you figure out the consumption of appliances and then return the monitor when you’re finished.

Chemical free
There are a hell of a lot of expensive, toxic cleaning products on supermarket shelves and consumers are led down a merry path of thinking that they need one expensive cleaner for one task, one for another and so on, adding together to form a cornucopia of chemical cocktails in your home. In fact it's very easy to create perfectly adequate cleaners from a base of three or four ingredients that are healthier, cheaper and better for your home and the planet it inhabits.

Things to try
§  Washing powder – Making your own washing powder is easy and very cost effective, grate some laundry soap and mix it with lectic crystals adding borax for the occasions you have hard to shift stains.
§  General purpose cleaner – Mixtures of natural ingredients such as baking soda, white vinegar and lemon juice can all make highly effective cleaners suitable for almost any purpose.

Start a garden
Gardening is great, plants clean the air and are nice to look at and herbs and vegetables can save you money and bring all sorts of other health benefits too. Just because you don't have a garden or have a very small garden doesn't mean you're out of the game, not at all! The same applies for that ultimate holistic habitat, composting.

Things to try
§  Sprouts – No, not Brussels! Sprouting seeds are quick, easy and tasty crops that will grow absolutely anywhere.
§  Container gardens – Pretty much anything can be repurposed into a planting container and containers can be made to fit into just about any space. They're also easy to move and transport around your home or to a new home.
§  Compost – Don't send those food scraps into landfill, use a worm farm or bokashi bin to turn them into nutritious feed for your (or someone else’s) plants. Worm Farms should generally be kept outside, but bokashi bins work well indoors and outdoors.

Talk to your landlord
Many renters are fearful in the current rental climate that if they complain or ask for things their rent will be increased or worse, they might be evicted for being ‘trouble makers’. We would strongly encourage you to feel confident in your position and at least bring up any issues and problems you have in a friendly manner, you may be surprised as to the response you receive and you are well within your rights to do so. That dripping tap or leaky gas oven could not only be wasting energy, but also has the potential to cause damage to you or your home. Drop by the websites of your states Tenants Union, council of social security or consumer affairs to brush up on the rules and regulations in your state and don’t be afraid to speak up!

This is just a brief overview of some of the ideas and services Green Renters offers. Take a look at our website, come along to one of our many workshops, give us a call, send us an email and we’d be glad to tell you much, much more.