Do You Think Climate Change Influences Property Purchases?

Almost twenty years ago, I inspected a property for sale on the Northern Beaches of Sydney.  It was beautifully located right on the water – at sea level.

The real estate agent rang me afterwards to follow up.  “It’s a lovely home but I would be worried about climate change and rising sea levels”, was my response.  Today you may consider that a reasonable concern but twenty years ago, it probably was ‘out there’ and hence the agent unashamedly laughed at my feedback.

Not so long ago I had the opportunity to revisit that same property.  I stood and stared at the back yard which now has approximately five metres less garden than twenty years ago – it has simply eroded away.  I wonder if that real estate agent still laughs at climate change concerns from potential buyers?

This got me thinking to our home purchase almost two years ago.  Eventhough the house was located kilometers from the ocean, we still had a list of ‘must have’ features that were motivated by climate change and our desire to live more sustainably.

* Large north facing roof line for solar PV
* Ample north facing garden space for growing vegetables
* Area for below and above ground, rain water tanks
* A large undercover clothes drying area

Though not on the original list, having mature fruit and nut trees would also be on our list today.

I sense there are many other people today, who’s home must have feature list, has changed over the last twenty years.  Or am I still the strange ‘out there’ minority, that real estate agents laugh at?

I’m really interested to hear from real estate agents on this one – have you noticed any change to buyer’s needs due to climate change or the environment?

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Our large undercover clothes drying area - enough space for four large washing loads.

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A special thankyou, shout out to my Mum, who yesterday extended our undercover clothes drying area. Now the space dries even more clothes! Brilliant with all this rain we have had!

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Divestment – The Movement Challenging & Impacting the Fossil Fuel Industry

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I believe most people are concerned about rising power bills, the impact of coal seam gas and our current dependence on fossil fuels.

I also believe most people have a ‘head in sand’ strategy when dealing with these concerns – not because they don’t care but because they feel powerless to do anything about it.

If I have respectively described you, then the good news is that you are wrong about being powerless.  There is a rapidly growing movement that is having a powerful impact globally.

Individuals, families and businesses are moving their money away from supporting the fossil fuel industry. The movement is ‘divestment’.

Allow me to explain by sharing what my family and I have done to divest.

* I have moved my Sarhn McArthur Photography business bank accounts to Bendigo Bank.  Their policy is to not invest or support coal seam gas and the fossil fuel industry. 

* We have chosen a sustainable energy supplier company – moved our home energy away from the big providers.  We are now with Red Energy who own the Snowy Mountain scheme and hence all their energy is from sustainable sources (no fossil fuels). Red Energy where also cheaper than our previous big energy supplier.

* I have no superannuation being invested in the fossil fuel industry.

Australians to date, have divested 450 million dollars away from the fossil fuel industry. 

The latest global, big business company to have reportedly divest from fossil fuels is the Guardian Media Group – 
the second $1US billion business divestment commitment.

“What was a trickle is becoming a river and will, I suspect, become a flood.” Alan Rusbridger – Guardian’s Editor-in-Chief

If you wish to join the divestment movement – to add your money to the river of funds leaving the support of the fossil fuel industry:

* Consider moving your savings away from any bank and superannuation scheme that supports fossil fuels.

* Buy your home energy from a supplier not supporting the fossil fuel industry.

* Let companies know why you will no longer be a customer.

Check out @Sarhn’s Tweet: https://twitter.com/Sarhn/status/507299343703875584

Our First Electricity Bill Since Installing Solar PV, part 3

It was a bright and sunny winter’s day on Monday, yet bitterly cold.  As I needed to head out of the home for two hours, I went to turn off the split cycle air conditioner that was warming our home.  However this time, I stopped to reevaluate my reasoning.

We now have a 4.5 kWh solar PV system that was generating more than enough  electricity to cover running the air conditioner.  Also as the ‘feed in tariff’ for surplus electricity generated is no longer generous (money we make for electricity we don’t use), why not keep the air conditioner running for our dogs to keep warm?

 

Mini and Cooper snugged up on a winter's day

 

Before solar PV, this thinking would have be considered irresponsible for financial and environmental reasons.  However this is the best example to explain my opinion on the benefits of installing solar PV – we now have responsible, cheaper and guilt free comfort.

In my last post (part 2) I concluded by advising we were researching ‘going off the grid’ – buying batteries to store our generated electricity, to use anytime we wish.  At this time we have decided not to invest in batteries, purely for financial reasons (it would take another 7 to 10 years to recoup the investment).  However we will keep an eye on the technology and pricing as no doubt in the future,  it will be more viable to ‘get off the grid’.

In conclusion?

** We probably didn’t need a 4.5 kWh solar PV system.  We could have saved some money by installing a smaller system with the option to upgrade it later.

** If you and your family use very little energy during the day (because you are at work / school) then solar PV won’t benefit you much financially.  The solar feed in tariff that electricity companies offer is currently minimal – you pay for the system and they benefit financially (they give you on average 8 cents for every surplus kWh generated but will on sell it for 29 cents kWh).  Yes you are helping the environment but most families don’t have $2000 to $7000 to spend if they can not benefit financially.

** If you and your family can use a lot of your energy usage during the day (put your dishwasher and clothes washer on during sunlight hours) then financially you will benefit for solar PV.  I would suggest only buying a system that would generate just enough energy that you would use during the day, as you won’t make much money for surplus energy generated.  Our household (two adults and a baby) would really only need a 2.5 kWh system (put the dishwasher on with the air conditioner but not the clothes washer at the same time).  Having a 4.5 kWh system means we can have the dishwasher, clothes washer and air conditioner on at the same time, on a sunny day but again we have paid much more money for this and I don’t think it was needed at this time.

** We will eventually get off the grid, by installing batteries to save all our generated electricity, so we can use  it during non sunlight hours (and not get charged).  The good news is that pricing for solar PV and batteries are coming down all the time.  If you want to get off the grid, you will want not only the biggest solar PV system you can afford but also as many batteries you can afford too (saving electricity for long periods of non sunny days).

** We have just signed over to Red Energy as our electricity company. Not only were they the cheapest company for NSW using my calculations but more importantly for me, their electricity is generated from Snowy Mountains Hydo – sustainable and environmentally friendly.  Red Energy is also 100% Australian owned.  Ideally I would prefer to generate all our electricity from our solar PV but for now I am happy to know that by signing with Red Energy, all our electricity usage is helping the environment  – part of the solution rather than the problem.

 

Note: If you live in NSW or Victoria and want to switch to Red Energy, let me know as they have offered my ‘family and friends’ a $50 voucher.  In the spirit of being honest, I will also receive a $50 voucher but my intention is to donate any vouchers to Lock the Gate Alliance.

 

 

 

Our First Electricity Bill Since Installing Solar PV, part 2

I have been procrastinating with writing this update.  Partly because thorough research was needed and as a busy new mum, time is not always my ally. Also partly due to my concern that this post will deter people to investigate the investment of solar PV for themselves.

You can read part 1 of this post by clicking here.

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Above is a graph of our electricity usage since we commenced with our current supplier.  The graph shows four billing periods.  For simplicity, I will refer to the bill ending 10 of October 2013 column as ‘period 1’.  Bill ending 15 Jan 2014 column as ‘period 2’.  Bill ending 14 Apr 2014 column as ‘period 3’ and bill ending 15 May 2014 column as ‘period 4’.

Period 1 – is total grid dependency NO SOLAR PV

Period 2 – is total grid dependency NO SOLAR PV

Period 3 – is partial grid dependency SOLAR PV INSTALLED FOR PART DURATION OF THE PERIOD

Period 4 – is partial grid dependency SOLAR PV INSTALLED FOR THE WHOLE DURATION OF THE PERIOD

In order to compare the periods, firstly I calculated what the daily kWh usage was for each period (divided the total period kWh usage by how many days made up the period).

Period 1 was 9.65 kWh
Period 2 was 11.06 kWh
Period 3 was 12.53 kWh
Period 4 was 9.13 kWh.

Interesting that period 3 had the largest daily kWh usage with the Solar PV installed for part of the billing period.  This of course was the cause of my concern and motivation for writing part 1 of this post.

The second part of my research involved contacting different electricity suppliers to understand their charges, so to compare against our current supplier.

What Electricity Suppliers are currently charging and offering (for NSW residential homes with a non peak meter):

 

AGL (our current plan – Freedom 3% + 60)

They charge (GST incl) 0.28589 cents for every kWh we use from the grid 24 hours a day (first 1725kWh in each quarterly billing cycle).  Also their service fee is 0.81521 cents daily.

They offer 0.08 cents for every kWh we feed into the grid.  Also this plan gives us a 3% discount (with no contract). There is a 10% discount option if we go on a two year contract.

Renewable Source? This plan means the electricity we draw from the grid is not from renewable sources.  Currently AGL don’t offer green / renewable sourced energy as an option.

 

Red Energy

They charge (GST incl) 0.2651 cents for every kWh we use from the grid 24 hours a day (first 1700kWh in each quarterly billing cycle).  Also their service fee is 0.76870 cents daily.

They offer 0.05 cents for every kWh we feed into the grid. They also offer a 10% discount on the entire bill if we pay on time.  This is a 2 year contract plan.

Renewable Source? Red Energy is owned by the Snowy Mountain Hydro-Electric Scheme, so all electricity we use is matched by renewable sources – we take out dirty fossil fuel sourced energy and Red replaces it with renewable energy.

 

Momentum Energy

They charge (GST incl) 0.24960 cents for every kWh we use from the grid 24 hours a day (1750 kWh in each quarterly billing cycle). Also their service fee is 0.76870 cents daily.

They offer nothing for the kWh we feed into the grid.  They also offer no discounts.

Renewable Source? Momentum Energy is owned by Hydro Tasmania, so all electricity we use is matched by renewable sources – we take out dirty fossil fuel sourced energy and Momentum replaces it with renewable energy.

 

So which plan would be cheaper for us?

From the graph above, I will use the period 4 electricity usage to calculate. Period 4 shows we used 283kWh in total from the grid. The blue line next to the period 4 column is the electricity we generated from our solar PV that we fed into the grid (it doesn’t show on this screen captured image of the graph but I can tell you that the total amount generated for this billing period was 190kWh).  There are 31 days in this billing period.

The calculations:

AGL
service charge 31 days x $0.81521 = $25.27
usage charge 283kWh x $0.28589  = $80.91
feed in tariff 190kWh x $0.08 = ($15.20)
Sub Total = $90.98
TOTAL less 3% discount = $88.25

Red Energy
service charge 31 days x $0.76870 = $23.83
usage charge 283kWh x $0.2651 = $75.02
feed in tariff 190kWh x $0.05 = ($9.50)
Sub Total = $89.35
TOTAL less 10% discount = $80.42

Momentum
service charge 31 days x $0.76870 = $23.83
usage charge 283kWh x $0.24960 = $70.64
feed in tariff 190kWh x $0 = $0
Total = $94.47

 

In Conclusion?

* I currently believe, having solar PV connected to the grid is not going to be a big financial benefit for every residential home in NSW.  If you use very little energy during the day in your household, solar PV being connected to the grid isn’t going to be a huge benefit (will take a very long time to recoup your financial investment of installing solar PV).

If however like us, you are able to use a lot of your energy usage during sunlight hours, you will benefit much more (put the washing and dish washing machines etc on during the day, while being frugal with your energy usage at night).

* My next step will be to investigate the option of removing our solar PV from the grid – using batteries to save our generated electricity to use at any time without any charge.  I will add a post update with my findings.

* If removing our solar PV from the grid is not possible or economical, we will probably sign a contract with Red Energy as our electricity provider .  Not only as they are the cheapest (using my figures and calculations) but they can also replace the electricity we take from the grid with renewable energy.

 

Click here for part 3 of this post

Our First Electricity Bill Since Installing Solar PV

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We were aware that our first electricity bill would not reflect the full saving potential, as our 4.5kW solar PV system was not installed and connected to the grid for the whole duration of the billing cycle.

None the less, we were surprised to discover that not only was the amount owing higher on our first bill but also our electricty useage (compared to previous bills when we didn’t have a PV solar system).

During the many phone calls made to our electricty supplier and the PV solar installer (after receiving that bill), our knowledge of PV solar systems increased.

Please note these ‘tips’ may be NSW Australia specific:

* All new solar PV systems are now ‘net systems’ (gross systems are no longer available).

* With a net system, you can use your solar generated energy during the day (to run your home).   Any energy not used goes into the grid. Obviously at night you use energy from the grid.  If during the day you use more energy than you generate, this extra energy also comes from the grid.

* Energy provider companies have different rates for every Kwh of energy you use from the grid. These rates also often vary at different times of the day or for the total amount you use. We are charged 0.2599 cents for every Kwh we use from the grid 24 hours a day (up to the first 7000 kW hours each billing cycle – after this amount, the Kwh rate becomes higher).

* Our energy provider company gives us 0.08 cents for every Kwh we feed the grid (this is energy we created that we don’t use ourselves during the day). This rate is referred to as the ‘feed in tarrif’.

* Remember that energy provider companies have service fees and the rate can vary between companies (this fee is just for being connected – you pay this amount each and every month, even if you don’t use any energy).

What does all this mean?

Basically as we get charged more money to use energy from the grid compared to the energy we feed the grid, being energy efficient and knowledgeable is still paramount.   We only run the clothes and dish washer during the day,  when we can use our free solar generated energy. At all times we still turn off lights we are not using etc as a conscious effort to save energy.   Save the energy we create as any excess feeds the grid and therefore generates us money.  Also save or reduce the energy we use at night from the grid,  as this lowers what we are charged.

In conclusion?

Even with a PV solar system only connected to the grid for part of the billing duration,  our electricty useage from the grid should have reduced (not increased). This was the argument I debated with our electricty provider.

If our daily home routine hasn’t changed, why would our electricty usage from the grid increase with a solar PV installed?

In fact the total useage had doubled, if you take into consideration the energy we used from our PV solar system.

Our energy provider investigated and found there was a billing error. However not a big enough error to account for the increased total electricty useage.  It is like they have billed us not only for the energy we used from the grid but also the energy we fed into the grid.

By putting ourselves on a monthly billing cycle and watching our energy useage and energy generated daily, we believe we will get to the bottom of this.

This post is definitely to be continued…… Read part 2 here

The No Energy Used Outside Bar Fridge

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This is our first Autumn and Winter in our ‘cool temperate highlands’ semi rural home. We have been bracing and preparing for the cold since our arrival.

On Saturday we had some friends over for lunch.  Even though I prepared a home cooked meal from produce grown in our garden, we still had limited space in our fridge to put all the food and drink.

Hubbie was just about to get some ice from the town store, when I had a thought….just put the drinks outside. It didn’t take long till they were cold.

Upon seeing the ‘bar fridge’ our Norwegian friend Hilde, smiled as she reminisced. Apparently when you arrive at a party in Norway, you are greeted with bottles of wine placed outside in the snow.  Nature’s no energy used, outside bar fridge.

What Qualities Do You Want in a Home?

For years we have been talking about it, dreaming of it and planning for it……We have sold our inner Sydney city home and bought our dream (we settle on the 6th of August).

To be honest it took us awhile to find our new home.  One reason for the delay was due to finding a home with environmental & sustainable potential.

We were looking for:

*  Large north facing roof with no shade for solar panels.

* North facing land, with good access to the sun for growing food.

* Plenty of space for water tanks (grey water recycled & rain water collection).

* Living areas that are naturally warmer in winter and cooler in summer.

* Established trees for shade.

* Isn’t connected to gas so our home could be 100% powered by the sun (I hated the idea that our gas supply may have been sourced from coal seam gas extraction methods).

* Open plan living for the summer with options to close rooms off in winter (keep warmth in).

I will enjoy posting about all the sustainable changes we will be making once we move in.

Can you think of other sustainable enhancements we can add to our home?