Australians spend $22 billion on renovations a year and not-for-profit Beyond Zero Emissions aims to capitalise on that market with a new book promising to “wipe out electricity and gas bills” in nine steps.
The Energy-Freedom Home, being released this week, is targeting the 50 per cent of Australians looking to renovate their homes over the next four years with detailed yet easy to comprehend, structured information on the key techniques to achieving an energy-bill free home, saving on average $2400 a year.
BZE chief executive Stephen Bygrave says the organisation’s buildings plan, which looked at how to retrofit Australia’s ailing building stock – both residential and commercial – resonated particularly strongly in the community.
“There was a lot of technical information in there we wanted to make more accessible,” he told The Fifth Estate.
With renovations almost a national sport in Australia, as can be seen in the countless TV shows, injecting a sustainability narrative into the sector could be a huge win. But, as many know, messaging around sustainability can be difficult, often getting tied up in politics. This is why the focus has been deliberately shifted with Energy Freedom. It’s not necessarily about being green, it’s about being smart with money, it’s about being comfortable in your home, and it’s about autonomy.
This concept of “freedom, autonomy, taking back power and taking back control” is one Bygrave thinks gels particularly well with Australians.
“In Australia we don’t like authority and power structures necessarily,” he says, so the concept of getting away from the electricity and gas utilities is one that resonates with the Australian psyche.
Bygrave says the messaging of energy efficiency, similarly, has failed to get much leverage, as it is tied up in notions of constraint.
“Energy freedom is about doing stuff. It’s about productivity.” he says.
Making zero-energy real
The book’s nine steps – replacing old lights with LEDs, stopping draughts, improving insulation, upgrading windows, using energy-efficient appliances, installing reverse-cycle airconditioning, using solar or heat-pump systems for water heating, monitoring and controlling energy use, and switching to solar – don’t have to all be done at once, Bygrave says.
The book acts as a resource, so when an appliance fails, or when there’s some money to spend on a renovation, solid information is there to help make an informed decision.
It can be an iterative process that happens over a long timeframe towards the goal of energy freedom. Bygrave believes the energy-freedom home can be reached within the space of a year, however.
And for those sceptical or hesitant about their own home’s ability to get rid of energy bills, case studies are provided for reference.
“It’s about making it real for people,” Bygrave says. “There are a lot of people who say zero emissions is unachievable. We show through case studies that it is eminently achievable.”
Partnering with industry
The Energy Freedom initiative has been running since 2014, with a website giving home-owners easy-to-follow information on getting their homes bill-free and creating a community committed to the task.
As part of this BZE has taken the step to partner with organisations it thinks are creating the best products in a particular space and also “get the message around energy freedom as a holistic framework”.
“We did a lot of research about who was supplying in our view high quality and high efficiency products,” Bygrave says.
“It’s about selling the package that gives you the whole thing. All our partners get this.”
Current partners include Knauf Insulation, SunEdison Australia, Energy Matters, Cherry LED, Apricus Australia, Torus, Daikin and Powershop.
Up next for BZE
Coming up on the agenda for BZE is a new electric vehicle fleet report and a super power report, which details how Australia can use its competitive advantages to become a renewable energy economic powerhouse.
The Energy-Freedom Home is being launched at events across the country. See the Energy Freedom website for further details.
We have five copies of the Energy-Freedom Home to give away to our readers. To be in running, tell us to where you’d redirect the money saved from having no electricity or gas bills. The five most creative answers, judged by TFE, will receive a copy of the book. Entries are now closed.