We humans are a dirty lot, especially when it comes to carbon emissions. In NZ, our energy sector produces around 41% of our greenhouse gas emissions, with transport taking out the top spot at at 19.7%. Electricity generation produces around 5%, which might not sound like a lot – except, in the greater scheme of things, it is. Every little bit counts, and we know there’s lots of room for improvement, especially when we’re still relying on fossil fuels to meet Aotearoa’s demand for electricity. (Stats courtesy of NZ’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory)
We all influence NZ’s total electricity demand, and therefore the kind of generation that gets used, too. Demand for electricity tends to be lower throughout the day or night when we’re out and about, or asleep, or during the summer months. When demand is low our renewable generators, like hydro and wind, are usually able to supply what’s needed. Yass!
But demand is usually higher in winter, and at peak times of the day and night when we’re all at home with the lights on, Netflix-and-chilling or testing out the new airfryer. During peak periods, sometimes our clean generation can’t produce enough energy to meet our needs, so the reserve generators, powered by fossil fuels or diesel, are turned on. And that means more carbon emissions… yuck. So we all have a responsibility to think about the carbon emissions that are being created to satisfy our thirst for electricity.
But if you’re with a power company that generates electricity from renewables, you’re using cleaner electricity at your house, right? Uh, no. Our national power supply is like a pot of vegetable soup – you get a mix of whatever’s in the pot when you take your serving. Some may be clean, and some dirty, but being with a renewable generator doesn’t mean clean electricity gets to your place.
So, how can we be smarter with our energy use and cut back our carbon emission levels? It’s actually pretty simple (phew!). Here’s our pick of the carbon-cutting crop:
1. Take if Off Peak
For a few years now, some network companies have given their customers time-based pricing plans that encourage users to shift their usage from peak to off-peak times. Lots of retailers don’t pass these prices on to customers, but we do - not only because we’re awesome (true story), but because we know it’s a great incentive for our customers to shift their usage to low-demand times. Our Off Peak pricing plan gives you access to cheaper power prices during off-peak hours and all weekend long – that’s a saving of between 23 - 57% on your power bills. Well worth a little shift in usage, we reckon!
2. Use Flick’s Carbon Tracker
How many farting goats does it take to turn on a light switch? Jolly good question - and Carbon Tracker (formerly known as CHOICE) has the answer. Carbon Tracker is a world-first product, available through the Flick app, that gives Kiwis live updates about the carbon impact of the electricity in the National Grid. You’ll receive alerts based on total carbon emissions, so you know the best time to use electricity to reduce your carbon footprint. It’s real-time info that puts your power use in your hands.
But the best bit? Flick customers also receive information that shows them their personal carbon footprint (with the help of a few farting goats), and can also choose to offset their carbon use by making a donation to Trees That Count. It’s all about providing our customers with the power to make a sustainable difference with their energy use. Wahoo!
3. Choose energy efficient appliances
It’s an obvious one, but a smart one too. Energy efficient appliances use less electricity to get the job done, meaning there’s less demand on our electricity infrastructure, and, in turn, less reliance on our dirty generators. Before you purchase a new appliance, check its Energy Rating Label to see how it stacks up against similar appliances. The more stars, the better! We’re also big proponents of energy efficient lightbulbs, which could slash up to 80% off your household’s lighting costs.
4. Use those timers
If changing the time you use your appliances sounds like a big job, keep it easy with a timer. Many appliances have these built in already, helping you to make use of off-peak hours and that nice, clean generation. No timer? No problem. Simply check out WeMo or take a trip to your local Bunnings or Mitre 10 and pick one up. Job done.
5. Track your usage
A simple glance over your electricity data can be a dead giveaway of any inefficient appliances around your house. During the night, for example, when you’re all asleep and your appliances are turned off, you’d assume that your household shouldn’t be using much power at all. If your usage data shows peaks when you’re fairly sure everyone’s asleep or out of the house, it could indicate an issue with your hot water cylinder or other appliances (or something else, like a little person up watching TV when they should be in bed!). If you’re a Flickster, it’s as easy as checking the Analyse Tab of your dashboard to see when you use power and how much you’re using.
6. Think about the power you might be wasting
We hate to sound like nagging parents, but there’s loads of ways we waste power each day that can add to our usage and overall impact on the electricity sector’s carbon emission levels. Turn the lights off when you leave a room, don’t leave your bathroom fan running all day (guilty…), only run your heated towel rail for a couple of hours rather than non-stop, and turn your appliances and chargers off at the wall. As painful as it might be to admit, our folks actually did have a valid point!
Remember - every little bit counts in reducing our carbon footprint and helping to take care of this place we call home, so while big change might be a hard ask to begin with, it all adds up. Start small and see where you go from there!