It all started a week or so ago, when I opened an email in which our electricity company Synergy which offered us a deal whereby, if we had a 'smart meter' we could choose to pay a variable tariff -in which some parts of the day were quite cheap and the peak times quite a lot more expensive.
Up until now, we have had only a standard rate no matter what time of day you used the power. The details of the offer are:
Between 9 am and 3pm the charge would be 8c per unit.
From 9pm to 9 am would be 22 cents per unit.
The most expensive time would be between 3pm and 9pm when it would be 0.50c per unit.
Our current charge is 28 cents no matter what time of the day we use it.
One thing we noted, was that the supply charge per day for the variable tariff has been increased from about 96 cents per day to $1.20 per day. You have to read the information quite carefully to find this out!
The aim of the proposal is to 'stabilise the grid"- Perth is a great place to have solar panels, so many days of sunlight - but they make a lot of energy during the day when many people are at work, and then when they go home and turn on their TVs and stoves and things, the sun is going down and the grid is at peak demand but without solar input. This week we got news of a problem with the grid due to a coal mine going bankrupt is here-it is only a small part of the way WA gets energy -we have wind farms and plan to get more. There are a few places where there is a local energy grid using a battery and wind farm combined with solar power for homes.
DH and I considered that we should be in a good place to do change to this tariff -we are retired so at home a lot, we have solar panels and a smart meter. As DH said, we should also be prepared to play our part in this. For decades, enviromentalists have talked about 'peak oil' and the necessary adjustments away from fossil fuels. We are all going to have to live less profligate lives in the energy sphere. Our simple living lifestyle, which we have been working on since this blog was started in 2008, should set us up for success.
We have watched with great concern about the fuel crisis in Europe and especially in the UK, we have noted that many people will struggle with a low energy future if the rent in draughty, poorly designed homes (if they can afford to rent!) or if they are sick or in need in some other ways and need to use power for life saving machinery. Practicing low energy lifestyles seems like an act of solidarity, somehow. We have the choice -which we know is a luxury- of saving money this way, and helping out our community. Over the years we have been carefully renovating our home and changing our practices to live simply.
WHAT WE DID
DH loves to work with numbers. In order to decide if we want to change our tariff, we started collecting data on our current use, and put it in a spreadsheet. DH collected the data three times a day.
The first week we did not change our habits at all.
The second week we did the following things:
1. As it is still cloudy and raining at times, we have a time switch on our solar hot water system, to boost it with electricity if the sun has not been shining enough to get the water hot for a shower. We get about 8 months of free hot water from the solar hot water system, so cost of this boosting in the winter this is not a big issue for us. We adjusted the timer to boost during the cheapest period. .
2. We have checked that there are no chargers left on during the peak period-and this is particularly true for things like tools in the shed and phone chargers in the house.
3. We adapted our cooking - trying to either cook without the oven, or make bread and use the leftover heat for other things, or cook earlier in the day. As a baker of sourdough, this means that I need to go back to proofing my bread overnight and cooking it in the morning. I used to do this but winter temperatures overnight made this impractical., and to be honest, I just didn't feel like making bread in the evening. Long hot summer evenings are much more conducive to this.
The electricity company's own suggestions include:
2. Charging up your consoles and other devices during the day, and switching your chargers off when you don’t need them, particularly during times you’ll be charged at peak rates.
3. Doing the bulk of your cooking or meal prep before you head out for the day, or setting your dinner to cook during the day in a slow cooker, rather than cooking with your appliances when you get home in the evening.