Gas was once considered a clean, green and cheap fuel. Now it is no longer clean, no longer green and certainly not cheap. Increasingly when we are buying gas we are purchasing coal seam gas. Buying a gas appliance is locking into gas prices which are predicted to rise four-fold when domestic markets link to international markets.
Many of us installed gas appliances for heating and cooking when gas was cheap. For Victorians, gas was plentiful when it was a waste product from the petroleum industry extracting oil from Bass Strait. When the petroleum industry shut down in Bass Strait, so did cheap gas in Victoria.
Using gas for heating and cooking might have made sense when there were no electrical alternatives. In the last few years, high efficiency electrical appliances for heating and cooking mean that using gas no longer makes sense, economically or environmentally. There are now highly efficient reverse cycle air conditioners that can be used for space heating, which did not exist to the same level of efficiency a few years ago. People can save up to 70 per cent on their heating costs using such appliances. Similarly, high efficiency electric induction cookstoves have entered the mainstream, whereas these were not common a few years ago. Induction cookstoves are being used by many master chefs, offering the same if not better functionality for cooking as gas.
Using induction cookstoves for cooking and reverse cycle air conditioners for space heating are just two of the nine steps to Energy Freedom, to free your home from expensive gas and electricity bills. The other steps to energy freedom include draught proofing, insulation, double glazing windows, high efficiency electrical appliances, solar or heat pump hot water, as well as energy monitoring and management. The ninth step is the all important rooftop solar, taking your home from a consumer of energy to a producer of energy. Eight of the nine steps are about energy efficiency, reducing your energy consumption to the maximum extent, allowing you to scale your rooftop solar system to meet the residual demand. For some houses that might mean only needing to install a 1.5kWh rooftop system. For other houses, installing the maximum solar might be the objective, putting as much renewable energy into the grid as possible.
We have calculated that the energy efficiency steps cost around $37,000 for the average household. With rooftop solar dropping about a third in price, this step may only cost another $5,000 or $6,000. Some households who are following the Energy Freedom steps are saving up to $4,500 per year on their power bills.
All the steps to energy freedom do not have to be taken today, tomorrow or even this year. Every householder will know their priorities, will know their budget sand know what they want to do next. LED lights and draught proofing are the most cost effective first steps, for both the homeowner and the renter. But with half of all Australians renovating their houses in the next 4 years, this will provide an opportunity to install insulation and double glazing. When walls are bashed down or windows are replaced, this is the optimum time to make the investment in the best product.
Energy Freedom is also about giving the householder the right information so that they are prepared to make the best decision when their next electrical appliance breaks down. It means that the homeowner doesn’t need to make a snap decision when the washing machine or hot water system no longer works. Instead of going for the cheapest replacement, they can go for a higher quality and more efficient appliance that will pay dividends over its lifetime.
Energy Freedom appeals to a range of audiences. It appeals to those who want to save money on their energy bills. It appeals to those who want the best home they can have. It appeals to those who want a high performing home and to those who want to take climate action in their home in the absence of action at the federal level. Energy Freedom means autonomy, independence, empowerment. With rising electricity and gas prices, and falling solar prices, Australians can now revolutionise the way they power their homes.
Dr Stephen Bygrave is CEO of Beyond Zero Emissions. Their next book The Energy Freedom Home – How to wipe out electricity and gas bills in nine steps published by Scribe is in book stores this week.