Principle 5: Use and value renewable resources and services
Now that I've got the frame up I can get electricity hooked up to the house, I opted for an underground connection. Once the physical connection has been made by the electrician I needed to choose which company I wanted as my energy provider. This gets really confusing as there are heaps of retailers with heaps of options. There are websites that can help you decide which retailers offer the best deals for your situation - just do a search for 'compare energy suppliers'. The energy retailer is not the energy supplier though, the retailer is the 'middle man'. The energy supplier is responsible for the 'on the ground' work.
Regardless of what company you choose you will need to decide whether you want a 'flat rate' or 'peak rates'. In my case a flat rate is $90 to connect, with a lower service charge of $196 p.a and a flat rate of 17.325 c/kWh. The peak rate is $290 to connect, with a service charge of $220 p.a. and a peak rate (7am-11pm M-F) of 18.821 c/kWh and an off-peak rate of 10.659c/kWh. It makes sense to get the dual meter (with off-peak rates) if you use a lot of power at night - which is good for poorly designed homes that need electric heaters on at night or have electric hot water systems that take advantage of the off-peak rates. By choosing 100% GreenPower from my retailer I will be charged an extra premium of 5.5c p/kWh, which will ensure that energy used in my home will be generated by renewable sources.
I've decided to go with the standard meter (flat rate) because I will have a slow combustion wood stove for heating (that will only be needed during the few coldest months of the year) that also will boost the solar hot water system (at the same time that the boosting is most needed). As the hot water system that I am looking at has an electric element built into it I am considering using this as a tertiary back-up with the element on a manual timer and an on/off switch, so that it doesn't run when it is not needed. I am also considering an instantaneous gas booster to heat water instead of electricity, but I don't think that it will be used enough to justify the cost - in fact it may not be used at all (an extra $1500 - $2000 by the time it's installed).
Another reason why I have chosen the standard meter is because I am considering getting a solar power system that uses grid storage. This requires a different type of meter (import/export) that you can only get when you have the system installed, so it makes sense not to spend too much at this stage. A feed-in tariff at a premium of 60 c/kWh (in Victoria) will be deducted from my electricity bill for excess energy generated by the system, but I am looking at installing a small system (1 to 1.5kW) that is unikely to generate much more electricity that is needed. While a feed-in tariff is a great idea, the current version of it is flawed.
Cooking with gas is much more enjoyable than cooking with electricity, and will compliment the wood stove - which isn't fun to cook on in summer. I found out that it is cheaper for me to get bottled gas rather than mains gas (which runs right by the property). It seems crazy to use bottled over mains gas, but I only want to run a gas stove and oven, which I've been told would use about one 45kg bottle per year (probably less). The bottle rental charge is $25 per year, and a refill costs $90 - that's $115 per year. It's free to get mains gas connected (depending on a site assessment), but the supply charges for a gas connection are $162 per year plus the gas charge of 1.41c/mJ. There's about 52mJ to the kg, so 45kg of gas would cost about $33 - that's $195 per year. A $162 connection fee to access $33 of gas... hmmm. It would make more sense get the mains gas connected if I used a gas boosted hot water system. Another thing to consider with bottled gas is what to do if there is a fire.
Of course using a wood stove require wood, which is a renewable resource, unlike dirty brown coal (used to generate 85% of Victorias electricity) and gas. Presently there is plenty of firewood on site, since the Red Gum was felled and the old house was deconstructed. In the longer term firewood can be sourced from sustainable sources in the local area, as it is a rural locality. If you are prepared to do some scavenging around town then there's plenty of clean timber that's being thrown out. It's important the timber is clean and dry before it is used to ensure low emissions and a long life for the stove.
Check out some of the concessions that are available to reduce your energy costs if you are a concession card holder.
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