Power and electricity are such controversial topics in Australia at present. We rely heavily on fossil fuels and they are a big driver of our economy. We supply about 30% of the world’s coal, which in the year 2016-2017 equated to 486 million tonnes (Australian Government). Unless you want to live in a social and cultural vacuum, the use of power in today’s society in inevitable. Even for this site I need power to run my computer and phone. So to minimise the impact my electricity usage has on the environment I need to look at reducing overall consumption and what type of power it is.
28 billion tonnes of CO2 is pumped into the atmosphere every year.
Melbourne University Energy Research Institute
According to WWF, more than one-third of our carbon footprint is from our electricity consumption. Globally we pump 28 billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere every year (Melbourne University Energy Research Institute). We all know coal is a fossil fuel found in the earth. It’s taken millions of years to become what it is today via pressure and high temperatures. Hence why it is NOT renewable. I’m not sure about you, but I can’t see us hanging around for another few million years to pass to renew our current stocks. Burning coal emits CO2 into the atmosphere at an excessive rate and poor old mother nature isn’t coping! All these excess emissions are negatively impacting our climate (extreme weather, shift in climate, warmer temperatures (is it just me or has summer been like 5 months this year?), sea level rise, pollution and all of the knock on effects of those, which I won’t list as I want to keep my word count below 10,000). There’s a reason Santa gives the naughty kids coal… because it’s shite!
Yallourn brown coal power plant, La Trobe Valley, Victoria.
Now, I live in Victoria where 80% of our fuel for electricity comes from brown coal (Environment Victoria). Brown coal is the dirtier cousin of black coal (which by all means is very trashy itself) as it has a higher water content. This makes it harder to burn and therefore less energy efficient. So just by living in Victoria I have a bigger environmental impact than most other Australians.
But there are other options! We can source our power from renewables like wind and solar. Melbourne University Energy Research Institute states; if we convert just 0.06% of solar energy that reaches earth, we would have enough for the current global demand. 0.06%! What are we doing digging up dead forests?! Unlike coal, as long as the sun keeps shining and the wind keeps blowin’ we have a source of energy. And yes, I understand that the sun isn’t literally always shining and the wind does not always blow but there is some really promising work being done with batteries that allows us to store it for later on. According to the 2016 Australian Energy Update, Australians generate 14% of their energy from renewable sources. We have so much potential to improve, starting in our own homes.
Photo credit: Keith Arkins.
First things first, I need to understand how to read my electricity bill from our current supplier:
What type?: “Green”
How much does it cost?: 27.54c/kWh (kWH or kilo Watt hour, is the measurement of energy)
Daily supply charge?: 125.88c per day – this is the cost to bring the electricity to our home, regardless if we use any or or not.
How much do we use?: 160 kWh for the billing period (28 days) or 5.7kWh per day.
Room for improvement:
- Leaving chargers plugged in when not in use – these suckers still use energy even when you’re not charging!
- Leaving appliances on stand-by – stand-by is responsible for up to 3% of your home’s energy use.
- Washing clothes in warm/hot water
- Using the oven instead of microwave – Microwaves use less energy compared to the oven, however, I will still use the oven when taste requires me to!
- Boiling more water in the kettle than required – the more water in the kettle the more energy required to boil it.
- Cooking on the stove without lids – a lid traps heat, making your food cook quicker.
Where we did well:
- Purchasing “Green” energy
- Only turning on lights when necessary
- Turning off some appliances at the switch
- Unplugging some appliances/chargers
- Heating the person, not the house (we are very lucky to live in a double brick apartment). A good rule of thumb is, if you can see your breath it’s time to turn the heater on! Nah just kidding… Melbourne’s never that cold.
- We do not own a clothes dryer, instead air drying all our clothes
- Nor an air conditioner, instead we use a fan
- Waiting until the dishwasher is full before operating
- Switching blown globes with energy efficient globes
How energy is used in the home. Source: South Australlian Government.
I’ll check back in later in the year to see how much these changes reduces our consumption.
Next week’s homework is to find out what “green” energy actually is and who’s the best supplier. Stay tuned!
Thanks for reading,