Tuesday, 31 March 2009

WAITATI ENERGY PROJECT (column)

(editors' note: we had to shorten this column in the April 'Blueskin
News' for space reasons; the full text appears below.)

WAITATI ENERGY PROJECT

by Scott Willis

We may be entering autumn, but that doesn't mean things are shutting
up shop on the energy front. Don't miss the Waitati Energy Survey
feedback event in Waitati Hall at 7.30 on the 23rd of April (more
below). And the WEP is now looking intensively at new funding options
as we've just had the sad news we missed out in our bid to the
Sustainable Management Fund. What this means in concrete terms is that
in the short term we scale our ambitions back to what can be achieved
on mostly volunteer labour, but since much has already been achieved
there's no real need to feel too despondent. I'm receiving positive
support from our main partners in response to this news, and can
assure everybody that the two core and active WEP initiatives
(retrofit rollout and renewable generation) will not suffer, while
other things such as the development of a Transition Plan/Local Energy
Strategy and a big Simple Energy Solutions competition are still
happening, or in our sights.

WEP Retrofit Rollout

The big thing this month of course is the WEP Retrofit Rollout. By the
time you read this in print, the retrofitting will have begun, but as
I write in late March, I can only confirm that contracts have been
confirmed and signed, allowing the hard work to begin. And begin it
will! Because of the ambitious nature of this rollout (large number of
homes within a short timeframe), the pre-project stage has been a
little complex, but I've been impressed by all partners in getting
this thing rolling.

Here's what's happening: EnergySmart (the retrofit contractors) have
been compiling the applications, and in collaboration with the WEP an
ongoing retrofit rollout plan is constantly being elaborated (which
houses, where). Essentially we're using preset criteria (social
priority and geographical zone) as well as order of received
applications. The retrofitters first contact households who've made
applications to make a time for a scoping visit. The house will be
scoped (householders pay $30) and householders confirm (or not) the
next retrofit stage designated by the scope. At this point,
householders will know exactly how much their 20% cost will amount to,
and will have several days to decide, or arrange a loan (from WINZ,
the Credit Union, or elsewhere). To keep admin costs down and the
retrofit process rolling along, EnergySmart are requiring your 20%
cost paid upfront.

Retrofits will begin (or will have begun by the time you read this) in
Waitati, followed by the larger Blueskin Bay area, then Waikouaiti,
then 'Transition Valley 473' (inner suburbs of North East Valley,
Normanby, Mt Mera, Pine Hill, Liberton, Dalmore & Opoho), until
resources are exhausted. From initial discussions estimating 260
retrofits, the contract for funding that the Energy Efficiency and
Conservation Authority (EECA) has agreed with the Otago Regional
Council for this project is for approximately 170 homes (final numbers
will only be known on completion, as no two houses are the same).
However if all rolls out smoothly and quickly we will have an
opportunity to apply for further funding. I don't want to offer false
hope – we'll almost certainly have 170 applications in by April (not
bad since application forms were only issued on the 5th of March) –
however if we're full up this time, with names still on file we'll be
well prepared if we get a chance to continue. The WEP is also offering
to facilitate unsubsidized retrofitting for those who require it. For
any information please email the WEP or call me.

Waitati Energy Survey

Remember the recent Otago Energy Research Centre's survey? I've seen
the raw data and it is both surprising and fascinating to see the
practices and habits that have been laid bare. The data (and the
comments scrawled in the margins) will be presented in an easily
digestible and engaging format by OERC researchers, and we'll get an
opportunity to ask questions, make suggestions and more (Waitati Hall
at 7.30 on the 23rd of April). The usual refreshments and occasion to
chat will follow. This will be a wonderful opportunity to glean an
objective perspective on the Waitati Community, so mark it on your
calendar.

Renewable Generation

What I have to report on this front would fill a whole column, so look
out for more details next month. However, Otago University students
will be doing site visits during April, with wind monitoring masts to
be in place next month, and we're collaborating with the DCC on
another renewable generation project, while a whole host of other
conversations with interested parties have been profitably initiated.
The Powerhouse Wind prototype is about to be installed and I'm looking
forward to Hagen's impressions and the first results. This project is
breaking new ground in more ways than one.

You can join the email list at this address (waitatienergy@gmail.com :
please note, the WEP email address has changed to allow me to better
manage the quantity of correspondence), visit the web-pages
(http://www.transitiontowns.org.nz/waitati) or importantly come to the
events publicised here and on local notice boards. Or phone Scott
Willis Tel: 479 5327 or 482 2249.


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