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New Trial Has Families Saving The Environment From Home

Sydney Morning Herald

Tuesday July 13, 2004

Harvey Grennan

Mums and dads in Sydney and Melbourne are helping to find new ways to save energy and water.

Families in the Penrith and Ku-ring-gai council areas are the first in NSW to measure the energy efficiency of their homes with a new "Energy Smart home rating tool" before it is introduced statewide.

The pilot scheme over the past three months was organised by the Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA).

A similar trial in Melbourne aimed at saving both energy and water involves 400 families. For $70 a "green plumber" conducts a water and energy audit of each home and the State Government refunds $30 of the fee.

Households in the SEDA trial were asked to test three different ways of improving efficiency at home. One group paid $100 each for an in-home audit by an accredited energy assessor, another group tested their home energy rating free in an internet test, and a third group had a personal briefing from an energy assessor.

Each of the three groups learned their homes' energy star ratings and received tips on how to improve energy efficiency and save on their power bills. A follow-up survey in six months will find which of the methods were the most successful.

The rating tool compares a home's energy use with the NSW average and gives it a rating of one to five stars. The average home in NSW has a 2.5 star rating and is responsible for emitting about eight tonnes of greenhouse gases each year. Each star improvement saves about $350 a year and one tonne of greenhouse gas emissions for each household.

The City of Melbourne, City West Water and Green Plumbers have joined forces to create the GreenSaver program to save residents up to $600 a year in water and power bills. The trial is being held in North Melbourne and Kensington.

Residents receive expert advice on reducing water and energy consumption and long-term running costs from a registered "green plumber". They are asked to provide details of utility bills and estimate future use and to attach a GreenSaver sticker to the front of their home.

In another local government initiative, three Sydney councils have saved more than $2 million as members of the Energy Smart business program.

Marrickville Council is saving $156,000 a year on energy bills and has reduced greenhouse gases by about 1500 tonnes with 35 energy reduction projects, including lighting, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning upgrades and the installation of a photovoltaic (PV) system.

One of the easiest projects was the enabling of Energy Star on all computer monitors, so halving their energy consumption.

The new Tillman Park Children's Centre features passive solar design, thermal and acoustic insulation, PV panels, cross ventilation, energy efficient lighting and appliances, rainwater storage and reuse, and water-efficient appliances.

Waverley Council has implemented more than 15 energy-saving projects, saving more than $236,000 a year on energy bills and reducing greenhouse gases by about 2600 tonnes. It now uses 25 per cent GreenPower for its major buildings.

The council believes other councils can make significant savings by implementing small, easy projects which pay for themselves in less than a year. With technical assistance from the Energy Smart business program to identify these projects, all councils can improve the bottom line, it says.

Sutherland Shire Council has saved over $1.7 million in energy costs and cut greenhouse gas emissions by 3000 tonnes a year. Among 35 efficiency projects has been the installation of a 350 kilowatt co-generation plant and heat pumps at Sutherland Leisure Centre to provide thermal and electrical energy to heat its swimming pools. Electricity is generated from a gas-fired generator while waste heat from the generator's exhaust gases and jacket cooling water is recovered to heat the pools and building.

Waverley Council's environmental services manager, Emily Scott, says it is easy to sell energy efficiency to councillors from a cost-savings perspective. "In order to get future funding, try to set up a revolving energy fund to retain the savings you have made to allow for allocation towards future projects," she said.

For more information contact the Energy Smart Information Centre on 1300 138 638.

hgrennan@mail.fairfax.com.au

© 2004 Sydney Morning Herald

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