20171210 Powering the Bega Valley

If you missed this meeting that was held on Sunday 10 December 2017 at the Bermagui Country Club you can view the presentations click here

The three presentations covered are from

John Walters who spoke on Renewable Energy Options for the Bega Valley

Bill Southwood who described the responses CEFE had received from potential commercial partners and

Jo Lewis who reviewed the options for establishing a community based power company and the prospects for solar gardens.

At the meeting there was also an overview by Bill Caldicott in which he showed how electricity bills are made up and how they can be reduced.

The resolutions passed by those assembled at the conclusion of the presentations are also included.

Download flyer here and agenda here

20161231 December 31 key date if you have solar

Anyone who has participated in the NSW Solar Bonus Scheme (SBS) needs to be aware that the scheme will conclude (as per its original design) on December 31st, this year.

This means that if you currently receive either the 60 cent or 20 cent Feed-in Tariff, from January 2017 onwards, you will notice a significant increase in your monthly or quarterly electricity bill.  There are a couple of actions that you should think about to reduce the impact on your finances.

The Scheme was intended to assist consumers to purchase a solar system and to pay it off, through selling their generated electricity at the rate of 60 cents per unit (a kilowatt hour – kWh), or for those joining the scheme later, 20 cents per unit.  So if you purchased a 2 kW system five years ago, for example, you will have received enough from the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) to have paid for the system, plus received about half of that value again.  The idea was that you could put the extra return towards maintenance, or expanding your current system.

The most important thing is that your electricity meter needs to be changed.

Currently your meter is called a “Gross” meter.  It measures all the solar energy generated going out to the grid, and you get paid for it at the FiT rate.  It also measures the energy that you buy from the grid.  When you use energy in your home, you pay for it through your monthly bill, at between 25 cents and about 35 cents per unit.

You need your meter to be changed to a “Net” meter.  This will allow you to use as much as you can of your generated solar energy within the house during the day, with only the EXCESS being sent to the grid.  You will receive only 5-7 cents per unit for this energy, or nothing.  Although that doesn’t seem fair, that rate is about twice the rate that wholesale energy is purchased by retailers, so it is not as bad as it could be.

If you don’t change your meter, you will receive NOTHING for any excess energy, which is a bad outcome all round.

Some retailers (like Origin, which took over many of the Country Energy consumers) have programmes to replace meters.  Others are doing nothing.

So if your retailer is offering to swap your meter, you should consider doing so.  If they aren’t talking to you about it, you need to talk to them!

The costs of changing the meter are estimated to range from $300-$600, depending on your situation.  Obviously if your retailer is going to swap it, you should read the fine print, in case there is an unacceptable contract cost or something else that would surprise you in a bad way.

A major problem is that there are only so many qualified electricians who can swap meters, and they are rapidly being booked up to make the change before the end of the year.  There may also be a shortage of Net meters, so there is no reason to delay – contact your retailer as soon as possible and start the discussion.

Once you have your new Net meter, the other thing that you need to do is to try to use as much energy during the day as possible, and the least at night when you have to purchase it from the retailer.  Obviously if you can use your own energy during the day, then you don’t have to buy it, which will help your electricity bill.  Even so, you will still find that your monthly electricity bill might be over $100 (or even $200), whereas currently you may not be paying much at all.

Clean Energy For Eternity (CEFE) is very keen to support you through this period as the Solar Bonus Scheme comes to an end.  We are looking at the possibility of further bulk-buys to expand current systems (so you can use more of your own electricity during the day), and eventually at battery storage systems.   CEFE feels that at the moment, battery systems are still too expensive, although you expect prices to drop a lot over the next few years.

If you think that you might eventually look at a battery system, you need to have at least 3 kW of solar installed – ideally at least 5 kW.  PV systems are now much cheaper than when you first joined the SBS.  As an indicator, an additional, good quality, 2 kW system will cost about $3,500, and a 3 kW system about $5,000.

Be very wary of companies offering much cheaper systems, as the quality of some components is very suspect.  Most installers these days are well-regulated, so the quality of their work is acceptable, but you still need good components to make the investment worthwhile.  Remember, your solar system should be expected to perform for 25-30 years, but it can only do that if it is regularly inspected and cleaned, and there are no failed components (like panels or inverters).  A competent solar installer can carry out an inspection and panel clean for a fairly modest fee.

IMAGINE…and we did!

Australia’s first completed community-owned solar farm is now a reality at Tathra on the NSW far South Coast, helping to power the Tathra treatment plant. The 30kW solar farm is an initiative of community climate action group Clean Energy for Eternity, Inc and consists of 120 panels of 250W capacity arranged to form the letters of IMAGINE. It is clearly visible from the air on the approach path to Merimbula airport.

The installation is expected to generate an average of 40 MWh annually over its 25 year lifetime.

It will be officially opened on Tuesday, March 24 at 10.00am.
As CEFE President Dr Matthew Nott explained:

“In 2006 over 3,000 Bega Valley residents formed an IMAGINE human sign on Tathra Beach.”

“Shortly after CEFE was formed and adopted its 50/50 by 2020 target as an aspiration for local communities like Tathra. That is, 50% reduction in energy consumption and 50% renewable by 2020.”

“A local solar farm was seen as key strategy for reaching that goal, along with solar bulk buy programs and putting solar PV on community buildings”

“We are proud of what we have achieved in our local area over the last eight years– over 30 surf clubs, RFS sheds and community buildings now equipped with solar PV.”
“And now, finally, we have our IMAGINE solar farm.” Continue reading IMAGINE…and we did!

20081123 Clean sweep of beaches

Coastal communities are embracing green change, writes Carolyn Boyd (Sun Herald)

LIVING in a coastal community and having young children has spurred Matthew Nott into action on climate change. The orthopedic surgeon from the tiny community of Tathra on the NSW Far South Coast is the driving force behind a move to introduce clean energy to the Bega Valley.

The movement started out relatively small – raising $20,000 to install a wind turbine and solar panel on the roof of a surf club. But now, under the banner of Clean Energy for Eternity, the group’s aims have grown and Nott says the next step is raising about $8 million to build a community-owned solar energy farm.

The Federal Government has committed $100,000 for a feasibility study into the project and has promised another $1 million.

Nott wants to establish a model other communities can follow. “We want to set ourselves up as a centre of excellence for renewable energy,” he says.

The Tathra community has already won plaudits for caring for the environment. Last year, it beat more than 100 other entrants to win Keep Australia Beautiful’s NSW Clean Beach Challenge.

When the award was announced, judges called Tathra Beach “the pearl of the South Coast”, adding “Tathra has some fantastic community involvement in some great environmental outcomes, including the dune restoration and bush regeneration, which has taken place right along Tathra Beach”.

The median house price in Tathra is $375,000. Property available ranges from a basic three-bedroom house for $265,000 to a 19-hectare eco-getaway with an innovative, two-bedroom, corrugated iron home that runs on solar power and has a separate studio with bathroom. The asking price is $1.38 million.

Real estate agent at Marshall and Tacheci, Robert Tacheci, says the stretch of coast between Bermagui and Tathra is attractive because it has a raw beauty and is home to a community that is environmentally conscious and has diverse cultural interests, including art and music.

“I think the community goes with the area,” he says. “That you’ll find the people who’ll go for the area tend to have that taste because it’s one of the last little unspoilt bits [along the coast].

“If you were to follow the Princes Highway up and down the coast from Sydney to Melbourne, you’ve actually got this little bit that was somehow bypassed. That seems to have left an area that people are really drawn to for that reason.”

Further north, at Batemans Bay, the local Coastwatchers Association successfully pushed for the 85,000-hectare Batemans Marine Park, where the commercial fishing practices of trawling, long-lining and dredging are banned.

The group’s next campaign is convincing government and landholders that the region’s forests should not be woodchipped.

In Batemans Bay, the median price of houses is $312,500 and as the economic downturn bites, many properties on the market are subject to substantial discounting.

Coastwatchers president Mark Flemming says he is not opposed to development but would rather housing was built on already degraded farming land set hundreds of metres back from the water and off coastal dunes.

Flemming welcomes moves by developers to recognise better environmental principles in housing design.

“There’s no doubt that using intelligent design at subdivision stage is a really good idea,” he says.

“We think a subdivision should be designed so that those sort of issues can be taken into account, [including] north-facing blocks.”