We know we need to do things differently to reduce our emissions. We know we need to change. But how?

“It’s really difficult to talk to adults and ask them to change,” says Jenni Hagland, leader of Zero Emissions Schools program. “I had this epiphany one day at the bakery. There was an adult in line with his bread bag. I said, ‘Oh, that’s amazing,’ and he said, ‘My kids make me do it, I don’t want to.’

“It made me think: get the kids doing it, then their parents will change. It’s so much easier to get adults to change when their kids are involved.”

Jenni Hagland is new to ZESN but no newcomer to change-making. She has been directly involved in sustainability for more than a decade. In 2006 she began working for the Carbon Disclosure Project, a global NGO based in London, followed up by work for the CDP in Hong Kong. She moved to Sydney in 2016 and started the Mosman Public School Sustainability Club in 2018.

The club started small, fundraising for recycling bins, having ‘nude lunch’ challenges, turning off lights and installing LEDs. Then this April, after a year of planning and fund-raising, the school installed 50kW of solar panels on its roof. The system will provide 25% of the school’s electricity needs, saving $8,000 a year.

Now Jenni has joined Zero Emissions Sydney North to work on sustainability in schools across the region, starting with a new range of resources available from the Zero Emissions website. There are practical, step-by-step guides to forming a school sustainability team, revving up your recycling and active transport, and making sustainability a part of the curriculum. Plus there are inspiring case studies from Mosman Public School and Manly Selective showing how young people are making change happen, and benefitting their schools and communities at the same time.

“People overlook the impact kids have on their parents. You’re changing their behaviour at an early age, making them aware of the problem. These little people are going to turn into adults. I think it’s really important to make that not new or weird. It’s a part of their behaviour, and that will rub off at home, their parents will change, small business will respond to that, community will change.”

If you are inspired by these stories, if you want to help your school save money and carbon emissions, please get in touch.

 

As a partner with local real estate agency Cunninghams, Georgi Bates is often asked for advice on house builds, layouts and renovations. Should we put on solar? Should we have a battery? Do they affect the value of our home?

When I drop by to talk about sustainability trends in real estate, the answers are clear. From the street, Matt and Georgi Bates’ house looks much like its neighbours: a weatherboard cottage with a picket fence and a bullnose verandah. But walk out the back and it’s all happening. There’s a new garage going up on the back boundary, complete with solar panels to heat the new pool. There’s an electric car charger, batteries and a green wall, ready to plant.

“We’re pretty much off the grid,” says Matt. “The oven’s running off the battery and we’re feeding to the grid. We have about 6kW [of panels] on the roof, providing about 5.5kW per hour. We realistically only need about 3kW per hour for our charging and usage.

“We’ve got a Tesla [car]. We’re putting in a pool, and that’s going to have heating costs, but we’re not going to run it on gas. We’re putting more solar and another battery on. We’re going to run it on the sun and the battery.”

Matt and Georgi’s top TV tips: Ewen McGregor’s Long Way Up, a rollicking adventure through South America on *electric* Harley-Davidsons!

A self-confessed sustainability nerd, Matt has driven the research and design of their renovation. Georgi, meanwhile, has driven the Tesla.

“I’m not a car person. But particularly during Covid, working from home, the Tesla is another office, another workspace. I recently got into a petrol car and it felt like a dinosaur. It was a nice car, but it’s amazing the difference of the sound and fuel compared to battery operated.”

Beyond their own home, Georgi is seeing interest in solar power, sustainable building and energy efficient housing growing.

“It starts with someone [putting on solar] in the street then everyone is curious. They all speak to Matt and ask about the benefits. And I’m starting to see more of a shift with people wanting to put green gardens on their garage roofs, or looking into rooftop gardens.”

This trend is set to strengthen with recent developments in the building codes. At the moment the Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme – aka NatHERS — requires new houses to score at least 6 out of 10 for energy efficiency. In 2021, NatHERS is set to be extended to existing homes, so that when you buy or sell, just like household appliances, each property will come with an energy efficiency star rating. At which point it’s not just about saving money on a power bill: it directly affects the value of your house. So Matt and Georgi are not just champions for sustainability: they’re smart investors.

“I think sustainability is the future of real estate. It will become one of the must haves.”

Georgi Bates is a partner at Cunninghams Real Estate. Whether you are looking to buy or sell, or just to find out more about the market, she’s happy to hear from you.

 

 

 

A guest post from Robert Gavin and Di Elliffe, owners of Evie the Nissan Leaf, who recently took them all the way from Hobart to the Northern Beaches. Rob and Di participated in the Good Car Company‘s first community bulk buy.

We are not frequent car drivers. Our preference is for active transport – riding our electric bicycles and walking – around our hometown (Hobart) and when we are in Curl Curl we use our Brompton folding bicycles, and public transport for longer trips.

But, like most families, we occasionally find a car convenient … so when our existing fuel sipping car was due for a trade-in we took advantage of The Good Car Co bulk electric vehicle purchase of second hand imported Nissan Leaf sedans – and so Evie joined our household in May 2020.

The Good Car Co is a Tasmanian-based initiative giving Australians access to reliable, affordable second hand electric cars. Register here to find out how you could be part of their next bulk buy, or join us at ‘Accelerate your transition’, our free webinar on electric transport.

Evie is a 2017 Nissan Leaf with a 30kWh battery. When we bought her she had done 13,000 kilometres, and she cost $30,000 … effectively, almost a new car at just over half the price of a current model. Inside and out, she was in perfect condition, and The Good Car Co ensure the battery is at least 85% useable prior to purchase. The cost included purchase, shipping to Australia, conversion to Australian standards, and insurance while in transit – all handled by The Good Car Co.

Her first job was to help us move all our household goods into storage. The back seats fold down to provide a good volume of space (though a little odd in shape). Evie excelled at this task, quietly running to and from our store with countless loads of boxes. Around Hobart she averaged 7.2 kms per kilowatt hour (30 kWh battery, so a notional range of 210 kilometres, though in practice this was closer to 170 kms for us). We charged her at home where we had off street parking and access to a household power point and our own solar panels.

Her second job was to take us to Sydney in June. Being a city girl, a road trip was a bit of a stretch for a Leaf like Evie, but we quickly found that, as long as we were prepared to take it easy and enjoy the trip, the journey with Evie was a treat.

Icy start.
A cold morning in Campbelltown, Tasmania

We stayed in a small B&B in Campbelltown, Tasmania, to break our journey to Devonport where we caught the ferry. This had to be done because the distance between the fast chargers in Hobart and Launceston was greater than Evie’s range, so she needed a slow (overnight) charge somewhere along the way. On our return, this will not be a problem because Campbelltown now has its own fast charger.

Tesla has a network of chargers across Australia.
Making friends with a Tesla, Devonport, Tasmania

A fast charger will recharge her batteries from low to full in 20-30 minutes. An overnight charge on a domestic power point (10 amp) will take about 12 hours.

Charging an electric car from a household power point. Not fast, but you charge while you sleep.
Leisurely overnight charge at a guesthouse in Tasmania

In Melbourne we charged up in Coburg and headed North. Like Tasmania, Victoria does not have a well developed fast charging network yet (and it was very frustrating driving past countless petrol stations along the way to the next fast charger … When are we going to grasp the future?).

Using the app “Plugshare”, we plotted our trip based on available charging stations. In Victoria we stopped at Seymour Park (which had a 15 amp plug, effectively almost twice as fast as a 10 amp plug) and then at a fast charger in Euroa. The Seymour Park stop was for three hours, which allowed us to do a great walk along the Goulburn river while waiting … an EV gets you fit as well!

Travelling at speed is a big drain on the battery, and we found our optimum cruising speed with Evie turns out to be between 85 to 95 kph. At that speed we could achieve a theoretical 150 km range comfortably. Given the slower travel speed, if an alternative route was available we would always choose it over the freeway – and fortunately, the old Melbourne to Sydney road is still running close by for much of the trip. It winds its way through the countryside and it is a pleasant, quiet and comfortable alternative road to use.

After spending the night in Wangaratta we headed off into NSW via Albury. Once in New South Wales we were pleased to find that the NRMA has had the foresight to build a network of fast chargers to compliment the commercial chargers already available. As a result, plotting a route for an electric vehicle of Evie’s range all the way to Sydney is easily done. We stopped at Yass for the night, ready to head into our destination the next day after an overnight slow charge.

NRMA charger at Gundagai. Free to NRMA members.
The NRMA thinking about the future and installing fast chargers across the country

On average we were charging Evie up three times a day to allow for contingencies. Just as well, actually, because we had a minor drama at Tarcutta where a fast charger was not working properly and we could not charge up at all … so we had to drive relatively slowly to the dog on the tuckerbox (Gundagai) for our next charge.

While frequent fast charges are not a problem, doing four of them in one day, combined with fast driving at 110, almost sent the temperature of our batteries into the red zone (there is a temperature gauge for the batteries on the dashboard), so I learned to enjoy the slower pace the car is more comfortable with.

Entering Sydney, Evie came into her own and it was a pleasant drive through the suburban highways from the South up to Curl Curl. By the time we reached our destination she had reached 6.9 kms per kWh, nearly the same result as suburban driving around Hobart. It cost us just over $20 for energy for the entire trip (charging overnight at motels is included in the tariff, and NRMA fast chargers are free at the moment).

Living and driving around Curl Curl for three months, we have enjoyed having Evie there when we need her. In suburban Sydney she is now achieving 7.6 km per kWh and we charge her up during the day, at home, taking advantage of home solar to get free energy from the sun. We charge up about once a fortnight. Best of all, it is really satisfying to know we are travelling in Evie without contributing anything towards global warming.

The Nissan Leaf has five seats and a capacious boot.
Job done, Evie gets back to her normal routine, shopping at the local market.

Our shopping centre has given six priority spaces to electric vehicles (Stocklands, Balgowlah), so it is always easy to get a park there, and if we are going any distance (over 100 kms) there is always a fast charger somewhere along the way for a top up if necessary.

In summary, a 30kWh Leaf is an ideal runabout for everyday suburban driving. It is easy to drive and has more than enough energy for a full day of commuting. Being 100% electric, the mechanics are simple and reliable. Nissan also produce a small electric van which can come configured with five or seven “fold away” seats. These are also imported by The Good Car Co at a good price. Although second hand, these cars look and feel like new, and will easily pay for themselves in fuel savings over their life. If you must have more range, the newer Leaf models they import have 40kWh and 62kWh batteries which match petrol car ranges, but at an extra price.

The Good Car Co are a pleasure to deal with. Anthony, Anton and Sam are passionate about transitioning away from carbon based transport and they have worked out a successful business model that everyone (including the planet) benefits from.

Robert and Di are leaders in climate activism in Tasmania. They volunteer with Bicycle Network Tasmania and Coast Watchers and are setting up Australia’s first community owned electric vehicle carshare for an apartment block in Hobart. 

The Good Car Co is a Tasmanian-based initiative giving Australians access to reliable, affordable second hand electric cars. Register here to find out how you could be part of their next bulk buy, or join us at our next EV webinar, where Anthony and Anton will be our guest speakers.

It was one of those lightbulb moments. Ursula Hogben, founding member of Zero Emissions Sydney North (ZESN) was filling up her car at the local petrol station when, chatting to her kids, she said, ‘it’ll seem really strange to you in the future that we all put petrol in our cars and all drove around burning fossil fuels.’ Her son’s reply pulled her up short.

“Mummy, it seems really strange now. Why wouldn’t you just have a battery and fill the battery up from the sun?”

Yes. Of course. Why wouldn’t you? It was the starting point for the next Zero Emissions Sydney North program, Zero Emissions Vehicles.

Video conference + Q&A, Wednesday 11 November 7 pm to 8 pm, EV Essentials + Affordable EVs. Special guests: Anton and Anthony from the Good Car Co. Book your free ticket here: https://events.humanitix.com/accelerate-wed-11-nov

“If you’re trying to make a difference it feels really incongruous to then be filling your car up with fossil fuels each week and emitting greenhouse gases as you drive around,’ says Ursula. “We want to help people move away from fossil fuels and be part of industry level change. Supporting active transport, E bikes and EVs gives everyone low emissions choices.”

Electric cars — EVs, as they’re known in the business — are the exception in Australia, but that’s changing as manufacturers and consumers rush to catch-up with the worldwide shift to low-emissions transport. Elon Musk’s high performance Tesla has made electric cars desirable, and now other manufacturers, along with government incentives in some countries, are making them affordable. But what’s available? How do they work? Where do you get them? What do they cost?

ZESN’s Electric Transport working group has been doing the research and finding out answers to these and many more questions. Next week, Ursula will host the first of ZESN’s regular events to share what they have learnt. Accelerating your transition covers why people are buying EVs, how EVs perform, the financial savings (and the environmental benefits), and features guest speakers who will be more than happy to answer questions.

“We want to help make EVs more accessible. We looked at options and we’re glad to partner with Good Car Co a Tasmanian-based company pioneering the import of low mileage, reasonably priced (from $19,000!) second hand electric cars with a guarantee and user support. We’ve also done a research review of Councils installing EV chargers to help people who can’t charge at home.  We’re very excited that Mosman Council is installing an ultra-fast charger soon!”

If you’re even slightly curious about electric cars, don’t miss Accelerating your transition. Our events are informal with plenty of time for questions, and Covid-safe online for the moment, so you can join the conversation from home. EV owners will be there to share their stories, and we’ll be taking registrations from interested parties so we can make a Good Car Company bulk buy a reality.

Maybe you’ll be driving an electric car sooner than you think.

Tickets for Accelerating your transition are FREE but limited so please register soon!

Video conference + Q&A, Wednesday 11 November 6 pm to 7 pm, EV Essentials + Affordable EVs. Book your free ticket here: https://events.humanitix.com/accelerate-wed-11-nov

A shout out to Manly Food Co-op, who are our special guests at the next Solar My House session on October 27th at 6.30pm. The Co-op is a bit of an inspiration for me — a community organisation which has survived many challenges, not least, adapting their entire business to socially-distanced and online shopping on a week’s notice back in March. You can now shop in person, or online, then pick up your goodies from their shop on Wentworth Street. It’s just down the street from Coles, next to one of the pedestrian entrances to the Wentworth Street Municipal carpark.

October’s Solar My House session is still on Covid-safe Zoom, but inspiration for my BYO drinks and nibbles comes from the yummy selection of locally-produced, organic, plastic-free produce stocked at the Co-op.

Sophisticated attendees could try Pickled cucumbers with seaweed and sesameOr chocoholics (er, guilty as charged) might go straight for Chocolate popcornThe great thing about all the Co-op recipes is that all ingredients are available in the shop, and they’re all packaging free and mostly organic, locally-sourced and competitively priced. For example, their certified organic milk is only $1.95 a litre. Although you do need to bring your own bottle or jug!

Non-MFC-members are welcome to join us for Solar My House on October 27 but places are limited, so book your spot. Or, even better, join MFC (it’s only $5 and you’ll get that back in your 10% discount) and grab some good things to eat while you find out about renewable energy, rooftop solar, rebates, batteries and more.

 

 

**STOP PRESS** **STOP PRESS** **STOP PRESS** **STOP PRESS** **STOP PRESS**

Since publishing this post, we’ve been able to confirm three electric cars and four electric bicycles will be at our first stall at Mosman Arts and Crafts Market on Saturday October 3.  Come and see the Nissan Leaf and the Hyundai Kona (from 9.30am) and the Tesla (from 12.30pm) and chat to the owners about the driving experience.

For the curious, young and old, there will be hands-on exhibits, like a pool pump which could save you $100s of dollars, and a photovoltaic panel, converting the sun into power in real time. Plus have you seen the Tesla PowerWall battery in action? We’ve got an app for that, and you’re invited to come and play.

We’ll be there from 8am till 3pm, with information on ways to reduce your emissions ranging from rooftop solar to electric bikes to home efficiency tips. If you’re in the area, please drop by and say hello.

Many thanks to Mosman Council for their support, and don’t forget to sample the food, have a good coffee and browse the beautiful, hand-crafted jewellery, clothes and other treasures while you’re there.

I am a shameless early adopter, first in the queue for the new gadgets. I installed solar back in 2011. I paid around $6,000 for a 5.5 kW system, 20 panels. The system has more than met my expectations. It’s easily paid for itself, and I love knowing that I’m producing my own power.

But… You knew there was a but coming, didn’t you? I have no regrets, but I learnt a few lessons the hard way. Here they are:

  1. You get what you pay for

Photovoltaic panels are well-established technology. They’re not hard to manufacture. That means there is a huge range on the market, some of them very cheap. Sadly, the usual rule applies: you get what you pay for. If they’re cheap, they’re cheap for a reason. (The same applies to the inverter, by the way. Finn Peacock does a handy summary of good brands at SolarQuotes.)

My panels were mid-range price. They’re doing ok. They’ve certainly paid for themselves. But there are cracks in the panels which suggest they might be on the way out.

2. Google maps is not enough

Most solar sales teams will look at your roof on Google maps and tell you instantly how many panels you can fit on your roof. However, Google can’t tell them the whole story. A reputable company will visit your house to check the access, the shading, the state of the roof etc., as well as to discuss with you, in person, how it works. If they don’t offer to do this, they might not be the company for you.

When my panels arrived, the installers discovered that they could not fit all the panels I had purchased on the north-facing side of my roof. They ended up putting 5 panels on the east-facing roof. It means I get a bit of power early in the morning, but it is heavily shaded in winter – not ideal.

3. Know your trade

Some companies do not have installers on staff. They make the sale, then use contractors to install. This model is common with the cheap cheap online deals you see. Because the price is so low, the contractor only gets a slim margin, with no incentive to ‘go the extra mile’ in service or quality. You’re generally better off with a company that has its own installation teams. In other words, actually solar technicians!

I got quotes from SolarQuotes and chose a company from the list. The panels were installed by contractors. I called up two weeks after installation because a circuit had tripped and was told, “someone will get back to you.” Guess what? They didn’t.

4. Weasel words and warranties

A 25 year performance warranty is pretty standard for all solar panels. This means that after 25 years, your panels should still be pumping out the power. It’s not, however, a warranty against manufacturing faults on the panels or, more importantly, on the inverter. A reputable company should offer at least 15 years on panels (the best offer 25 years) and at least 10 years on the inverter, and give you a number to call if either fail. If they don’t offer this kind of follow-up, you could make an expensive mistake.

I thought my panels were guaranteed for 25 years. Turns out I mistook the ‘performance warranty’ for the ‘product warranty’. Rooky error.

5. Solar panels really are a no-brainer

In spite of the various traps I fell into, I have nothing but love for my solar panels. They have been worth every penny. Two years ago we added a Tesla battery to the mix, meaning that some days we are running on 100% solar power. I’m proud of taking action, and my electricity bills have reduced by around 60%. I’d encourage anyone who has a suitable roof to install solar panels if at all possible, because both financially and environmentally they represent a no-brainer. And looking at the app and seeing you’re 91% self powered is SO satisfying!

So… Do it, do it now, but do it smart. You can avoid my mistakes by coming to a Zero Emissions Solar My House info session to find out how solar works and how to make sure you get the best system for you.

What rebates can I get? How much does it cost? How do I choose a reputable company? Are batteries worth the money? And what’s with these Facebook ads for cheap deals?

Bring all your questions to our free Solar My House webinar at 6.30pm on September 16, 2020. Hosted by volunteers Ann-Charlott and Ursula, with the expert input of solar guru David Veal, this relaxed and friendly info session aims to get you up to speed on rooftop solar and show you how you could save money on power bills and help the environment.

We’ve already helped 100s of households start their solar journey. Here’s what some of them have said:

I thought the evening was honestly great. For me it removed any barriers to entry with making the switch, mostly around research, clarity and options. I thought the good, better, best approach was perfect. Thanks so much for starting this clever, helpful and powerful (no pun intended) initiative.

I love the fact that you guys are getting up and doing something when so many others just worry but never take action. It is exciting to have a target to work towards for our region. I love the fact that you have built in a ‘giving loop’ and plan to install solar for various charities to allow them to focus their funds on their core work, while simultaneously reducing emissions. Simply brilliant!

Tickets are FREE but space is limited, so please book in here: https://events.humanitix.com/solar16september2020

 

Cool but sunny. A perfect day to show off two solar installations in Manly. Many thanks to generous householders John and Dof, who welcomed people to their homes and answered all the questions.

How much did it cost? What does it look like? How much space does it take up? How long did it take to install? What are your bills like? Would you recommend your installers? Would you do anything differently? And how do I get that amazing app?

Thank you to all the people who came visiting and we hope you found it useful. Hopefully this can be the first of many Solar Open Days. And if you’ve got rooftop solar and would like to demonstrate it, let us know.

Catherine Willis and her husband John attended one of our first Solar My House parties (pre-Covid), and were immediately inspired to make changes. They were keen to install solar panels but, with a roof due for an overhaul, it wasn’t the right time for them. So they decided to put solar panels on their childrens’ roofs instead.

Putting solar panels on their childrens’ houses has had a range of positive effects: by reducing their electricity bills for the life of the system — hopefully at least 25 years — it’s a way of supporting them, financially, on an ongoing basis. It’s also been a conversation starter, both for the family and for their friends, who now see the panels and hear about how they work. And personally, it has made Catherine and John feel like they are making a difference.

After the Solar My House party Catherine also immediately contacted Diamond Energy (via the Zero Emissions Sydney North website) to enquire about how it worked. The changeover was, she says, seamless.

It’s not hard and it’s also not expensive. I thought it would be more expensive with renewables, but it turns out it’s not.

Now she’s a big fan, and recommends Diamond Energy wholeheartedly, both for their customer service and for their environmental credentials.

I don’t really worry about myself. I just worry about the grandkids, and what world we’re leaving. We do what we can. …When we switched to renewables with Diamond straight away we felt much better.