In this edition:
- Festive Glamour: When the festive season throws you an occasion, you need to glam it up.
- Andrew McUtchen looks for fun in cricket with former Australian cricketer Damien Fleming.
- Take a look at our Christmas Gift Guide.
Its easy to get gloomy about global warming and the lack of political leadership. One major political party neatly summarises its policy position by describing climate change as crap. The other party wants to have an endless stream of inquiries, reports, citizen committees, fluffy speeches to international meetings not what you might call an inspiring choice.
So we thought wed do something. Weve been concerned about this issue for a long time. In 1995 I was the first domestic customer of a green-power scheme in Australia. Weve replaced all our incandescent lightglobes with compact fluorescents, bought energy-efficient electrical appliances and we heat our Camberwell home with wood from local arborists. The next step was rooftop photovoltaics, also known as solar panels.
These solar panels sit neatly on a piece of north-facing roof. When the sun shines, they generate electricity that can be used in our home or exported back into the electrical grid. You can buy a 1.5kW system for as low as $3000. We paid a bit less than $6000. Not to say that the cheaper systems arent worthwhile, but we wanted solar panels with good references and an established, experienced installer. With an 80-year old terracotta tile roof, we didnt want any complications.
So whats the environmental benefit? In Melbourne, a 1.5kW array of panels will generate about 2000kWh/year. The same amount of energy from a brown coal-powered generator in the Latrobe Valley would produce about 3000 kilograms of carbon dioxide.
As well as drastically reducing our homes carbon-dioxide emissions, we thought there were some attractive financial reasons to install our system. When we use the electricity we generate, this reduces the amount of electricity we have to buy from a retailer and hence we have a smaller electricity bill. Even better is the net tariff scheme the Victorian State Government has introduced.
For any solar electricity we feed back into the grid between 9am-5pm, we receive a credit of 66 cents/kWh from our retailer.
Our retailer will even write us a yearly cheque for the balance of any credit left after deducting the cost of our power usage. Depending on how much energy we use during the day, we might pay off our PVs in five years. After that, as long as the relevant legislation doesnt change, we will have an income-generating asset that should produce low-carbon energy for many years.
Our next step is to install solar hot water. Once we have that in place, we will use a small amount of gas as a booster for the hot-water system but other than that our home will be essentially carbon-neutral. Maybe its time to start thinking about making biodiesel for the car from restaurant cooking oil.
To find out how you can make your house more energy efficient, visit www.sustainability.vic.gov.au