Another terrifyingly early start to the bushfire season. God help us all. These are the consequences of our mismanagement of the climate. Here we are. Early October.
Let me ask you this. Have you installed solar at your place yet?
Our national solar uptake has provided some very good news. Rooftop solar supplied more than half of total demand on the National Electricity Market at midday on Sunday. That’s when the record was broken for minimum “operational” demand on the grid, the Australian Energy Market Operator said. It also said fresh minimum demand levels were set in Queensland and South Australia, where our collective lovely rooftop solar panels met 99.7 per cent of our total electricity use from 1pm to 1.30pm.
That means our reliance on destructive fossil fuels is diminishing. Could have come at a better time – say about 20 years ago – but still, a positive sign.
All those numbers are a bit high level for most of us. Here’s what we did at our place. Faced with the number of people in our household tripling, we did what householders across the nation are doing in spades. We installed solar panels on the roof – as many as we could fit.
Absolutely wild. Our winter bill in 2022 was $550. Our winter bill in 2023, with six people instead of two was a little under that. And in the meantime, we’ve all changed our habits. The washing machine runs during the day. The dishwasher runs during the day. I’ve become even more of a light switch monitor and can hear my mother’s voice (turn off the lights, dear. The empty bedroom does not need the lights on.)
But those solar panels cost a bomb and will take years to pay for themselves – and I’d love to have a battery. Turns out batteries are incredibly expensive.
So here’s where the federal government should come in. If we are selling power back to the grid, wouldn’t it be better to store it in a community battery so an entire suburb can rely on cheap power at night? That would be a genuine national infrastructure project.
Now it is true that there is a Community Batteries for Household Solar program run by the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water. It plans to install 400 batteries across Australia, providing shared storage for up to 100,000 households and store excess solar energy for families and households to use during peak times. Essential Energy says its first communities batteries at Goulburn, Leeton and Maloneys Beach (Batemans Bay) will be up and running early 2025.
Dan Cass, executive director of Rewiring Australia, says we need to rethink our idea of what nation-building infrastructure looks like. What once was a warship (heaven forbid) or a hospital could now be a giant network of millions of household solar systems or thousands of community batteries, a virtual powerplant in our own backyards.
To get to 2030 targets for renewables and emissions, he says, calls for a “wartime climate effort with a cost-of-living dividend”. (Please forgive the sustained battle metaphor but we must win the war against climate change).
And Cass says the government should use debt to bring the climate and health benefits of household electrification to the millions of Australians who don’t have the funds to buy solar or an EV (or are renters). This is crucial social infrastructure. If the government goes down this path, we can get to electrification early.
“It will be the difference between Australia being a laggard or a leader,” he says. “The best policy is to double down on rooftop solar and electrification.”
The problem with electrification is the cost – we’ve all been trained to believe it is our individual responsibility to install panels and batteries. We’ve been neoliberally hoodwinked.
Time for the government to take charge. Make it a collective effort. And even climate deniers will adore the change to their power bills.
HAVE YOUR SAY: Have you made the switch to solar? How is it working out for you? Would a community battery work for your suburb? Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Wednesday October 4, 2023
Source: We’ve been neoliberally hoodwinked into thinking it’s all on us – Jenna Price – The Echidna – Inbox subscription
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