July/August 2015 News
Blueskin Energy Project Column – August 2015
Democracy we love - but to make it work effectively we have to get off the couch from time to time and get involved. The DCC draft Energy Plan for Dunedin developed over the last two years has been now released. It has four main goals: to save costs and enhance the quality of life through energy-efficiency improvements, to boost the city’s energy security and ability to adapt to change, to reduce Dunedin’s exposure to climate change and other environmental changes, and to take advantage of economic opportunities in an environment where energy needs and energy production are constantly changing. Residents may have comments to make on these key goals or on the value of the actions that are designed to contribute to achieving these goals. Community input was important at the start of the development process and it’s just as important now. It’s an opportunity for you to express your support for the strong points in the plan and advocate for any actions you think are weak or missing. Almost in parallel, the draft Environment Strategy has also now been published and public feedback is invited for greenhouse gas emissions targets.
The effectiveness of any plan needs to be measured. Three city partners (the Otago Chamber of Commerce, the Centre for Sustainability and the Dunedin City Council) are currently working on gathering information on what energy we use as a city, and where it comes from. This is to achieve a ‘baseline’ and understand where our energy dollar is going and will help with the evaluation of the effectiveness of the Energy Plan in years to come. Some elements that would be nice to include in the Energy Plan include the development of Local Energy Infrastructure – and I’m not just referring to the Blueskin Wind Development here – local energy infrastructure is all the infrastructure that generates and distributes energy locally. Local systems could provide the double benefit of keeping the energy dollar in local circulation (“buy local”) and help build resilience in our local network and systems. Such local systems provide some protection from any future disruption in energy supply. Really, if we could reduce our reliance on imported or dirty energy forms, we could both boost the local economy and do our part to mitigate our carbon emissions at the same time.
Linesman working on the Blueskin power network.
An issue that may affect many Blueskin residents is the call from within the electricity sector to scrap the cheaper lines charges currently offered to low-volume users. Essentially scrapping the ‘low-user’ charge simply punishes those who are actively reducing their green house gas emissions. Currently around 30% of electricity in New Zealand is generated by coal and natural gas. That generation constitutes 48% of New Zealand’s coal useage and 69% of our gas usage. (2012 figures). I’m aware of an older Blueskin Bay couple who were paying a monthly lines charge of between $90 and $100 before they used a single unit of electricity, before making changes to become ‘low users’. The couple saved for two years to fund a modest solar PV system and take advantage of the low-user line rate. The decision to go solar brought their electricity use below the 9,000kwh annual threshold for a low user charge – though it’s 8,000kwh in the north. They reduced their monthly lines charge. But the couple are now paying a staggering 43c for every unit of electricity they use. Despite using a woodburner as their primary heat source, their average winter electricity bill still exceeds $200 per month. Do we want to punish them further, simply because they’re being environmentally responsible prosumers? We need the Electricity Authority to retain the Low User charge to support the development of a low carbon electricity system and to help reduce fuel poverty.
An update on the wind development will be in next months news. To stay in touch with developments, subscribe to our BRCT update via our website: www.brct.org.nz or pop into the office at 1121 Mt Cargill Rd, Waitati. Telephone enquiries can be made on 4822048.