We love a happy story, particularly at a time like this, and if you’re keeping an eye on social media or the news you might have seen that the recent emptying out of many of the world’s largest cities has had some inadvertent, positive impacts on emission levels.
In places like China, India and Italy, where lockdowns or curfews have been put in place, recent data is showing a big drop in air pollutants. And here at home we’re also seeing big differences in air quality, particularly in suburban Auckland, where NIWA has reported a noticeable drop in nitrogen dioxide from vehicles.
While lots of us are currently - and understandably - focused on other things during lockdown, working from home also offers us the opportunity to do our bit to help the environment, by easing pressure on our infrastructure and reducing the emissions created by electricity generation. But how to lighten the load on the national grid in lockdown? Well, the good news is that’s largely down to us and how we choose to use our power.
Supply and demand
Demand for electricity tends to be lower (i.e. we’re collectively using less) throughout the day or night when most people are at work (pre-COVID-19!) or asleep, or during the summer months when it’s warmer. When demand is low our sustainable, renewable generators, like hydro and wind, are usually able to supply what’s needed. Yass!
Demand for power is usually higher during the winter months, and at certain times of the day and night when we’re all at home with the lights on, making protein shakes, Netflix-and-chilling or pestering our pets on TikTok. During periods of high demand, sometimes our clean generation can’t produce enough energy to meet our needs, so the reserve generators, powered by fossil fuels (coal or gas) or diesel, are turned on, creating loads of carbon emissions. Yuck.
Change with CHOICE
So how do we know when our power is generating lots of carbon emissions? Never fear, Kiwis – that’s where our carbon-counting tool, CHOICE, comes in! CHOICE lets Kiwis see the carbon emission levels that energy generators are producing at any given time, so that you can keep an eye on exactly which forms of generation are creating carbon emissions and how much (thanks to information from Energy Market Services by Transpower). That way you’ll know when’s a good (or not-so-good) time to use your power. Cool, huh?
Download the Flick app
How to get started? First things first – download the Flick app (the Apple and android stores are linked here), then head to the ‘CHOICE’ tab inside the app. From there you’ll be able to scroll down and see the current carbon split and how that relates to the power that’s currently being generated. You can also head to the ‘Settings’ tab and switch on your mobile notifications so that you’ll be alerted when to switch things on and off to reduce your carbon impact.
Shift your load in lockdown
With lots of Kiwis home during the day at the moment, now’s a great time to be able to shift some of your power use to times of lower demand. Think switching on the dishwasher and washing machine late morning, baking with the kids in the early afternoon, using the slow cooker to avoid the 6 o’clock rush, or maybe even switching off the lights and indulging in a romantic, candle-lit dinner for two. Ooh-la-la!
While it’s too early to see the supply and demand changes in our data, you can be sure we’re watching closely! The system operator is predicting changes, with lower overall demand and usage similar to that of a weekend (due to less businesses operating). There’ll also probably be a delay in the morning peak times. Overall, it’s likely to be good news for carbon emissions!
By individually taking a few steps to change the way we do things, we collectively have the power to do a bit of environmental good in these tough, isolated times. And we reckon that’s flickin’ choice.