ReNew 140 editorial: It’s electrifying – the benefits of changing fuels

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AS ONE of our case studies says, many living in the colder parts of Australia have long assumed that winter equals high energy bills (often gas) for heating. But what if that association could be changed, with benefits for both the hip pocket and the environment?

Over the last few years, the ATA, ReNew’s not-for-profit publisher, has been promoting a shift to efficient electric appliances for the three major energy users in the home— heating/cooling, hot water and cooking—with the important message that in many cases this shift will be both cheaper for the householder and better for the environment. It’s a message that is resonating with many committed to making sustainable changes at home.

Another of our case studies makes the point that part of the reason for the shift is the tremendously improved effectiveness of new state-of-the-art efficient electric options; how much better is a heat pump for heating over an old electric bar heater, or the responsiveness of an induction cooktop over the old electric coil cooktops (I still remember the excitement at the covered coils on my parents’ new stove in the 1980s!).

Apart from case studies, the ATA revisits its modelling of the economics of going all-electric, including how having solar panels helps in the financial equation. We also answer some commonly asked questions: how do you disconnect from the gas network; when do you need to start thinking about three-phase or a higher amperage power connection; and can a keen cook be wooed away from cooking with gas, even if they are ‘wokstars’ (short answer: yes)?

There’s much more in the issue besides. Staying warm is not just a heater choice— house design, draughts and insulation all need to be addressed. Our buyers guide looks at insulation—what’s available and where it’s needed—along with installation case studies and the warming results. Plus we look at window coverings, including the beauty of high-performing honeycomb blinds adopted in many of our case studies.

Designing with structural insulated panels (SIPs) also gets highlighted this issue, with two houses using this prefab construction approach to produce well-sealed, high-performing homes. These projects suggest a shift towards thinking about air tightness, with several houses also using blower door tests to find out just how sealed they are.

We also cover one of the most inspiring outcomes of the Community Energy Congress, held in March this year. With many representatives from Australian and other First Nations communities, out of the congress came the formation of an alliance of First Nations peoples seeking a renewables pathway to energy justice for their often remote and poorly served communities.

Stop Press! The ATA has just won not one, but two awards from the United Nations Association of Australia, one for climate change leadership and one for Sustainable House Day’s role in education and engagement. Great stuff

Robyn Deed
ReNew Editor

ATA CEO’s Report

THOUGH very disappointing, it came as no surprise to many that Donald Trump followed through on his election promise and pulled the United States out of the Paris agreement on climate change. The USA joins Syria and Nicaragua as the only UN member countries not to sign the agreement.

Donald Trump’s move seems to have only strengthened the commitment of others to take the lead on action on climate change. The momentum for a low-emissions future grows apace with the price of renewable energy continuing to fall—it is now cheaper to develop solar and wind energy than new coal-fired power stations in most countries.

The stories in this issue of ReNew show the transition is happening already, and communities and the market are leading the way. Now we need government on board to ensure it is fair and equitable and that everyone is brought along on the journey.

At the ATA we continue to provide independent advice to help renters, apartment dwellers and disadvantaged communities. Working with our partners in the social sector we advocate for reform of the energy market to ensure it is of benefit to consumers as well as the planet. Delivering on-the-ground projects in East Timor and to community groups across Australia, we put knowledge into action for a fair and just renewable future.

The ATA cannot solve climate change—no one organisation can—but we can and do empower people like you to take responsible and effective action to reduce Australia’s, and the world’s, carbon footprint.

If you would like to support the work of the ATA, make a tax-deductible donation by the end of the financial year on 30 June. Go to shop.ata.org.au or call 03 9639 1500.

Donna Luckman
CEO, ATA

You can purchase ReNew 140 from the ATA webshop.