I've just made a great phone call. Within five minutes, all our domestic electricity is now solar powered!
We've always gone with green options for our domestic power bills, but yesterday we got a leaflet explaining the difference between accredited and non-accredited green power, saying that for the same modest premium we were paying we would have our accredited green power increased from 20% to 25%, but that our 80% non-accredited renewable energy (i.e. hydro energy from plants built before 1997) is no longer considered as helping to develop sustainable energy programs, and so is no longer part of the scheme.
So for an extra 5.75 cents per kilowatt hour, all our electricity will be provided from solar energy. We feel quite elated! It's not just the computers and our music and lights that we love: we also run two filter systems for fish, one inside and one outside, that pump water all day. It's wonderful to know that these are now entirely sun-powered.
We had planned to put solar panels on the roof during the recent re-building, but the cost was just too much for the final stages. We do have solar hot water, though, which has been great, and has cut the gas bill substantially.
The night after the federal budget, we had also been to a meeting in Fitzroy with a man who had left his executive job to start up a company that was gathering households in groups of fifty and ordering solar panels from China in bulk. With the government rebate of $8000, it would cost just over $1000 for a small house to have its own solar panels. But now that the rebate is means tested, it is just out of our reach again. We'll start to save, but in the meantime, we are happy to pay this extra premium. We'll try and keep reducing our usage, though — and now that we are paying more, we might be even more scrupulous about turning off the lights...
Here's the website of this government Greenpower scheme: http://greenpower.gov.au
This move has come at just the right time. I have started to feel quite unaccustomedly despairing of our planet's future in recent weeks. I know that one household is small beer, and that industry and agriculture and air and car travel — and the general proliferation of ... stuff — are much more serious issues. But it seems impossible to do nothing, so trying to lighten one's ecological footprint seems a good idea.
Want to measure your ecological footprint? Go here. (If everyone lived as I do, we'd need 2.7 planets to sustain us: I was probably doing ok till they asked about air travel...)