This is a tale of two parts. The first is about personal efforts to build and operate a more energy efficient home, as are members of the Blue Skin Bay community, and the second examines the massive changes that are beginning to occur in electricity production and supply systems worldwide. These changes are being driven by a combination of rapidly advancing technologies, consumer/citizen demands and society’s attitudes to electricity supply, marketing and business models. As has happened numerous times over the last 200 years, the rapid adoption of a new technology by some parts of society has been strongly resisted by others, often business interests, because of perceived threats to their goals. Government policies also play a key role, particularly if they entrench particular technologies and systems and hence limit needed changes. The threat of stranded capital is also a strong impediment to change in electricity generation and supply systems as in other capital-intensive industries.
The personal story
In 2010 my wife, Pam, and I decided to depart Wellington for sunny Nelson, a return to the South Island (our taurangawaewae) and the opportunity to build a more energy efficient home and get back to our love of gardening in an excellent climate. This was our second effort at building a more energy efficient home applying an ‘80/20 rule’. Our building approach has been deliberately conventional but with a design and material focus on energy efficiency, within an acceptable budget. In short the sort of house that many people could build cost effectively if they wanted a home with lower operating and maintenance costs, higher comfort levels (warmer & cooler) and ultimately a lower carbon footprint for its inhabitants. Our house of 232 sq metres plus garages, designed in 2010 and completed in mid 2012, incorporated the following attributes: