Friday, 24 April 2009

NEWS: Money more important than environment in Waitati?

Money more important than environment in Waitati?

By Lynnaire Johnston and Scott Willis

The Waitati Energy Project meeting on Thursday 23 April to hear the
results of the recent energy use survey undertaken in Waitati heard
that residents' professed environmental values do not match their
behaviour when it comes to energy use in their homes.

Professor Rob Lawson from the Otago Energy Research Centre told
attendees that the survey results indicated 20 percent of local
residents do not heat their living areas while another 40 percent do
not heat their bedrooms or dining rooms.

The most common method of heating, by a wide margin, is wood burners,
followed by heat pumps. Electric heaters were well down the list,
along with open fires, while there was a smaller percentage of
households burning coal than in Auckland – a surprising and positive
result.

Rob said 7 percent of those surveyed had changed their main form of
heating in the past year, indicating a motivated community (by
comparison, the figure in Auckland was just 2 percent). He said there
were indications of heat pumps being installed in homes as an
alternative source of heating but that families may be finding them
too expensive to run.

In Waitati, 32 percent of homes have no wall insulation and 45 percent
have no underfloor insulation. By contrast, 91 percent have ceiling
insulation.

Most people – 80 percent – heat their hot water with electricity, but
surprisingly 10 percent have solar hot water heating.

Nearly half of all houses have a clothes dryer (in Auckland the figure
is 70 percent), which is probably used to supplement the dominant line
drying – something that bucks international trends.

In terms of energy saving behaviour, the survey indicated the most
common action taken is using energy-efficient light bulbs, switching
off unused lights, line-drying laundry and turning off the heat in
summer: all easy, low-cost actions, and not too surprising.

Waitati residents were also asked about their least-common
energy-saving behaviours. These turned out to be rinsing dishes in
cold water, cooking with gas, installing energy-efficient heating
systems, reducing the hot water temperature and installing double
glazing.

Rob Lawson said the results suggested that people's energy use
behaviour was primarily motivated by money rather than concern for the
environment. While people might have strong pro-environment values, he
said, it seemed to bear little relationship to their behaviour.
However, other variables such as whole-life behaviour were not
included.

Some 43 percent primarily wanted to reduce their energy use in order
to save money while 26 percent would do so to protect the environment.
Older people were less likely than younger generations to alter their
energy-use behaviour patterns, he said, indicating that bad (but also
potentially good) energy habits can become locked-in with age. A small
percentage wanted to increase their electricity consumption – however
this group were very low income and would probably be more comfortable
if they could consume more (or improve their household efficiency
through other measures).

Rob indicated that those most likely to be taking action to reduce
their energy use for environmental reasons are the affluent, a pattern
in line with international findings. Overall, however, he found that
there was a high level of energy awareness in Waitati, a higher
percentage of change to more energy efficient practices, and a greater
willingness to engage in energy reduction behaviour – particularly in
terms of transport (using the 'W3' rideshare, the recent one-off
passenger train, public transport, cycling and walking).

Rob concluded by arguing that making economic incentives part of the
environmental and social vision was likely to be a very successful
strategy In moving towards a more sustainable, resilient community.

Photo caption: Professor Rob Lawson in full flight at the energy
survey feedback evening in Waitati. Photo by Lynnaire Johnston.


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