Possums go BANG when they climb into the Waitati substation and electricity gets a little disorientated (temporary short-out). OtagoNet's (forthcoming, as I write) maintenance on the network in late March will present another reminder of the electricity we usually take for granted. Infrastructure is not solid or guaranteed, and indeed, without planning for the future, maintenance and provision of replacement or new infrastructure, we can easily find ourselves lacking basics.
Nicole Foss's presentations demonstrated just how close we are to some very 'interesting times' where uncertainty will be king, adaptability will be needed and the basics strongly desired. Nicole's visit gave further justification to the local energy goal via the wind cluster and in April the latest update will arrive in your mailboxes, with new information posted on the website. There is so much still to do but the path forward has become much clearer and very soon we'll be in a position to run a second set of community meetings on the project.
Meanwhile BRCT continues to support efforts to fund a Community Energy Advice service and I have been working with the Wellington-based Community Energy Network to advance this. However, there are some simple things we can immediately do ourselves to prepare for tough times, even if it's only as 'tough' as a cold winter. Household insulation, while not visible, is almost the only home investment you could make that returns immediate financial and health value. All of us spend money keeping our houses and families warm, whether it be on wood, electricity or even diesel and coal. All off us know, too, that cold damp houses create high energy costs and poor health. Insulation can cut costs significantly and improve health dramatically, so much so that even within a year you may have covered the 'extra' cost of insulation through cheaper heating bills and improving health. But there's a significant difference between 'knowing' and 'doing'.
What exists now?
- The Warm Up New Zealand Scheme, (http://www.eeca.govt.nz/node/3107) offering $1,300 (or 33%) towards the cost of ceiling and under floor insulation if you are on a general income or up to 60% if you have a Community Services Card. Phone 0800 749 782.
- The DCC's 'Healthy Homes Grant', which is additional to the WUNZ scheme and prioritises households with Community Services Cards who are high users of the health system. If you are eligible, costs for insulation can be negligible. Contact Lauren McDonald at the Otago Regional Council on 03 470 7433.
- Another DCC initiative, called the Eco Housing Retrofit Scheme, is in development to facilitate access to insulation retrofits.
Subsidies won't last forever, so there's no point hanging out in the cold waiting for a better deal. There are now many insulation providers out there and it can be a minefield choosing the best, both in terms of installer and insulation product. They all want to sell product, using the available subsidies. Asking questions like "what is the performance guarantee? (how long will it keep its 'R' value?)", and "what happens to the product if I get a leak in my roof?" can be a good start to choosing a provider. Wall insulation is more costly, unsubsidised, yet not as hard as you might think. And then there's double glazing and the less expensive option: curtains and a possum fur jersey.
For information on BEP contact Scott on 4822048 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org