Confused by the 'National Energy Guarantee'? Here's what you can do

Many people are confused and/or disappointed with the Federal Government's newly announced energy policy the National Energy Guarantee (NEG). Not surprisingly, it's short on any real detail, but two things are clear:

  • the existing Renewable Energy Target will not be extended beyond 2020, and there will be no new Clean Energy Target. In other words: no more subsidies for wind and solar power.
  • the government continues to prop-up coal power in various ways including by (somewhat incorrectly) designating it as 'dispatchable' power.

Well, you know what? It doesn't matter.

Energy efficiency and solar power are now so ridiculously inexpensive (relative to grid power) that a significant majority of households and businesses across Australia can simply take matters into their own hands.

Default Option: National Energy Guarantee

Continue buying mostly dirty grid power & gas.

"Not afraid of coal"

By continuing to "just pay the energy bills" as they roll in, you are effectively endorsing our somewhat backward looking government. You, your employer, and the community as a whole will keep the coal power stations running. And worst of all, you'll continue to pay excessively high rates for the energy you use.

It is true that the National Energy Guarantee includes both a reliability component and an emissions component. So there is some provision for reduced emissions under the plan. But it is likely the target will be minimal, not bold and ambitious.

If you don't like the sound of that, here's what you can do instead. Unlike the government's National Energy Guarantee these are things you can actually control.

Better & Cheaper Energy Options

Adopt energy efficiency and renewable energy.

All of the following actions are cheaper than buying grid power. This is because once you factor in their impact on your energy bills they do not cost you money, they save you money.

If you or your business has trouble with upfront costs, then do the inexpensive things first (items 1 to 4). Later on you can re-invest your savings in the measures that do have a slightly higher upfront capital cost (item 5).

1) Understand Your Energy Usage

Installing and using energy monitoring equipment will typically lead to energy savings of between 5% and 40%. This savings range is based on my own experience completing energy audits, as well as a detailed research review by the University of Oxford and similar work by IBM.

Typical Pack-back Period: One year. Example: You can buy a plug-in meter (to measure individual appliances) and a wireless monitor (to measure your whole home or business) for a total cost of around $150. If these help you save just 10% off your electricity bills and you currently spend $1,500 per year on electricity - then that's a one year simple payback. 

2) Change A Few Settings

A few simple setting changes to how you heat, cool & refrigerate can make a big difference. Checkout this simple thermometer which includes a guide on what settings your should use. Simply changing your heating & cooling set point temperature by just 2˚C can lead to a 10 to 20% reduction in heating & cooling costs.

Typical Pack-back Period: Less than 6 months. Example: You may be able to tweak your air conditioning settings and easily save $200 per year off your energy bills. Because this didn't cost you anything to implement, it has a 0 day payback, you'll be banking savings from tomorrow!

3) Switch All Lights to LED

You can now change pretty much every single light fitting you will find at home and at work to LED, for up to 90% energy savings. I'm not just talking about light bulbs, I mean everything: EXIT lights, security floodlights, factory lights, streetlights, furo tubes, chandeliers, and much more.

Typical Pack-back Period: 3 months to 2 years. Example: If you change your office lights to LED tubes, and the office is occupied for 10 hours per day, 250 days per year, you are looking at a simple payback period of just 9 months. This assumes self-installation as these lights do not normally require an electrician to install. And don't forget these items are designed to last 10 years, and are warranted for at least the first 3 years, so you can't really lose.

4) Be Energy Smart

Do you switch off your standby power? Cook efficiently? Place unused devices on timers? Does your workplace ‘power down’ when everyone goes home? If not, get your hands on some of these innovative energy saving gadgets to help 'automate' your energy savings.

Typical Pack-back Period: 1 month to 1 year. Example: You could place a drinks fridge on a plug-in timer (cost less than $10) to only operate on the weekend when you actually use it. This would save at least $75 per year in electricity costs and therefore have a simple pay-back period of less than 2 months.

5) Quit Gas & Go Solar + Electric

What I am referring to here is:

  • Switching all appliances to energy efficient electric options and closing your natural gas or LPG account, 
  • If you are able, installing solar power - as much as your roof will fit and your hip pocket can afford,
  • Switching to an electric vehicle, plug-in hybrid, or electric bicycle - and then fuel it for free using those newly minted solar panels.

Typical Pack-back Period: 3+ years. Example: Maybe you can install an unsubsidised 10kW solar PV system on your workplace roof for a cost of $16,000. Provided a majority of this power is used on site (to offset existing usage) you are looking at a simple payback period of just 5 years. In other words: after 5 years you are generating power for free, with the only cost being minor maintenance as required (the panels themselves are typically warrantied for 20 years).

Over to you!

- Ryan McCarthy (Director, Reduction Revolution Pty Ltd).

By Ryan McCarthy | |
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Reduction Revolution Pty Ltd (ABN 74 141 672 764) is an Australian-owned company focused on energy efficiency and sustainability.

Since 2010 we have supplied thousands of customers with training, advice, monitoring, lighting, and innovative energy saving products.

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