Wednesday, January 17, 2007

greener (1)

Saw Al Gore's important documentary last night. Lucid, clear, thoughtfully argued. So OK, there are lots of things that we can do to try to change our impact on the world. Think globally, act locally, all that. Individual action can and will matter. What can this household do?

You can learn more of the documentary and its canvassing of issues at the ClimateCrisis website. If you're in the US, you can get a more accurate reading on the carbon calculator than if you're in Oz - but you can get some idea (according to it, this household is currently below average in carbon impact - that's a start).

Here are a couple of Australian tools for calculating energy efficiency and constructing an energy plan (I apologise to those in Japan, Spain, Croatia, the UK, the US, Korea and everywhere else that isn't Australia, but most of my specific links to follow will be local/Oz ones - I'm sure you can try some of them, too, just like I tried the US carbon calculator).

As the credits rolled, interspersed were a bunch of actionable ideas, and there is a .pdf of ten ideas on the website - here's a summary:
  1. Change a light bulb
  2. Drive less
  3. Recycle more
  4. Check your tires
  5. Use less hot water
  6. Avoid products with a lot of packaging
  7. Adjust your thermostat
  8. Plant a tree
  9. Switch off electronic devices
  10. Spread the word about An Inconvenient Truth.

OK, so I've made progress on #10...

As the credits rolled, I thought about the electricity supply to this home. It just comes, as per the original connection on moving in years ago, the usual inertia of humanity, it's easier not to change than to change. So maybe one thing to do is to look into changing to green power. (There is no gas/oil/propane, this home's power is all-electric). Investing in solar panels would be a bigger change, so for now, I figured I'd see what I could find out about changing the supply coming in, rather than going solar).

There are several choices, I find, most influenced by the fact that: At present renewable energy costs more to produce than coal or gas fired power. However the more that customers specify Green Power the larger and more viable the industry will become making renewable energy cheaper (quote from Greenswitch):

  • stay with the current electricity supplier, who offers 10% green energy @ no extra cost or 100% green energy at just under 5c/kWh - which for this household would be around $100 per year or under $25 per bill.
  • move to another electricity supplier, Jackgreen, which only does green energy and whose material says you'd pay no more than your current bill (with a couple of asterisks next to that claim, so it needs more investigation). This then gets you into the morass of supplier change, contract change - more stuff to understand and work through. It's not the easiest minefield...(just so you know, the standard customer supply contract is a 23 page .pdf. Ye gods!)
  • make this home climate neutral by buying carbon credits. For these, Climatefriendly wants $1/day or $365/year for Emerald/100% green, without enquiring what sort of house this is, or anything about usage (or $160 per year for 10% green, which the current supplier would do for nix). Greenswitch lets you buy back your carbon emissions - see info below. So you can stay with your current electricity supplier, but salve your conscience by acting through the purchase of carbon credits.

On the Greenswitch site, you choose residential, and enter address details and kWh usage per year (pause for a moment with a calculator and the last electricity bill, which shows nearly two years of usage, to average out usage per day and multiply it for the year) and it gives you a purty picture of a nice little weatherboard house with a nasty grey cloud of evil carbon overhead.

According to them, this household is contributing 3.67 tonnes of CO2 per year. Ooops. So then you can translate the 100% fossil fuel power creating this cloud by choosing percentages of available green power. The principle is that: Your money is used to buy clean renewable energy from sources such as sun, wind, water and waste. This energy is fed into the electricity grid to replace the power you take out. Normally this would be replaced with energy from fossil fuels.

It's interesting that it's quite specific - you can choose the greenpower mix from various suppliers, and/or particular types of power - wind, hydro, solar - in percentages you choose. The hydro option available to this address comes from Koombooloomba dam, for instance, and the wind option from Challicum Hills. The cost per MWh is around $33 - $34. Translated for this house, $123 will buy enough offsets to make that nasty grey cloud completely vanish.

Still with me? So here are this household's electricity choices for 100% green or 100% offset, in $/per year:

  • Current supplier: $550 (approx current annual bill) plus 4.4c/kWh which works out at around + $160, total $710 per year
  • Jackgreen: $550 per year (if it does cost no more)
  • Climatefriendly: $550 plus $365 (that's being VERY friendly!), total $915 per year
  • Greenswitch: $550 plus$123, total $673 per year.

Or if you'd rather read daily figures:

  • Current supplier: $1.95/day
  • Jackgreen: $1.50/day
  • Climatefriendly: $2.50/day
  • Greenswitch: $1.85/day

Or quarterly, which reflects the billing cycle:

  • Current supplier: $180/quarter
  • Jackgreen: $140/quarter
  • Climatefriendly: $230/quarter
  • Greenswitch: $170/quarter

Mr Gore (can I call you Al?) (could that work as a line for a song??) (or is it taken already by P. Simon?), it does take commitment! Calculator and time commitment, even before you sign or sign up for anything! And there is a significant range, up to $90 per quarter, between the options. Hmmmm.

(The irony has not escaped me that to work all this out and consult the internet, electronic devices have been on and running, including the computer, the fan (it's summer here and it's been hot today) and the lights, all adding to that nasty grey cloud. Ah well, you can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.)

Might be worth a couple of phone calls this week, to check details. I'd be fairly sure, at this point, that Climatefriendly and I are at the end of a beautiful acquaintance - apart from anything else, I prefer how the others work from what your household is actually using, not some inflexible plucked from the air figure which may reflect some monster power-sucking air-conditioned McMansion rather than this small home.

More another time. But I hope this has given you some ideas and thoughts about what you're doing now. If you're in Oz (Australia) here are a few more links to local information sites:

  • Smart Energy, Smart Home (NSW)
  • Get an energy audit for $150 with a personalised energy plan for your home
  • Greenpower - Aust federal govt site
  • Greenpower - NSW state govt site (including the natty ability, courtesy of Google Earth, to put a green tick on your house to show your environmental commitment)
  • Cool It - Aust federal govt information booklet on climate change and householder action
  • Energy Labelling - Aust govt resource site on choosing energy efficient appliances
  • Kyoto Protocol: why Australia (embarrassingly, as the US is the only other country to refuse as well) is refusing to ratify this (when every other country in the world is doing so).
  • Greenhouse emission reduction tips and resources: Aust govt Greenhouse Office
  • Renewable energy: NSW govt site (interestingly, the link from their main page is broken/with a typo, I only found this from an educated guess...).

If you've got any more brilliant links, please feel free to leave them in a comment.

More another time. (The blog description, top right, does allude to 'the odd rant'. I think this qualifies...)

1 comment:

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