Monday, 11 August 2008

Our carbon footprint - we're megawatt performers!

Our 1.1kW grid connect PV system ticked over the 1 megawatt hour of energy generated a month or so ago, a bit under a year after we installed it under the former Howard Government's solar rebate system.

Based on figures from DEUS (NSW), that means we've saved more than 1 tonne of greenhouse gas emissions from going into the atmosphere. Woo Hoo!

It hasn't reduced our power bill by that much, because our supplier has brought in a "daily connection" charge, so the excess we've produced above our household demand and fed back into the grid, is chewed up by that. (Thanks Morris, can't wait to see how our environmentally minded privatised electricity providers will handle the greenhouse challenge, and pass that cost along.)

Anyway, reducing our electricity bill wasn't the motivation for getting the system installed, we've always (as much as the budget would allow) factored in reducing* our carbon footprint in our lifestyle activities and choices, so this was more about doing our bit to save the planet, than saving money.

This year we installed a solar hot water system. It came online when we had unseasonal rain, so we had to fire up the booster for the first two weeks, but the offpeak meter has only ticked over 14kW or so since it was installed more than 4 weeks ago. It will be interesting to see how much more this will bring our household carbon footprint down.

So, all this got me wondering. Instead of building new coal fired or nuclear powered stations to satisfy "demand", how about we (collectively) reduce waste, improve efficiency and increase household market share of renewables to reach the 60%-90% greenhouse gas reduction target?

It cost about $13,000 to create a "point of use" 1.1kW power station on our roof. It produces about 1MW of power per year, sends some juice back to the grid, and forestalls about 1MW of greenhouse gas per year going into the atmosphere from our household activities.

There are approx. 1.6 million private dwellings in Victoria (VIC) and 6.6 million in Australia (2001 census: Separate house and Semi-detached, row/terrace etc.). The new coal fired power station mooted for VIC is going to cost a minimum of $150 million, apparently a nuke could cost USD$1B, ... can someone please do the math?

As the Stern Review and Garnaut Climate Change Review have already pointed out, the economic "ROI" bean counting, will soon be far outweighed by the environmental, social and economic costs of doing nothing.

The sooner we (collectively) start, the cheaper the solutions are, and the faster we get to our 60%-90% of 1990 greenhouse gas emission levels target. (And maybe save the planet.)

And don't use "China and India ... blah blah blah ...", as an excuse. We were primarily responsible for our greenhouse gas emissions in the past, we're responsible for our contributions now, and we'll be responsible for them in the future. Time to collectively get to work, because the clock is ticking.


* If we hadn't already insulated the ceiling and all external and internal wall cavities when we built our house, we'd be getting that done too!

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