Thursday, 15 June 2017

Electricity costs going through the roof

Electricity has been in the news quite a lot this year in Australia. South Australia had power blackouts during the Summer when an unusual weather pattern produced lots of cloud cover and no wind -- making their high reliance on wind/solar 'renewal' power supplies problematic. Normally they'd have managed using 'surplus' power from neighboring states (Victoria and NSW), but some issues with the instate load-sharing system apparently meant this wasn't possible, so some 'planned outages' were required. A lot of unhappy South Australians, and a lot of media discussion regarding whether the problem was due to over-reliance on 'renewal' power supplies, without adequate base-load supply or a means to store power (Elon Musk got in the act by offering to sell some 'cheap' battery storage to Australia), or whether it was just due to a problem with the interstate transmission system...

Anyhow, aside from supply issues, the cost of electricity to consumers has already been increasing faster than inflation for many years, and some even larger increases will soon bite. A just received an email from my electricity supplier showing my 'old' rates and the 'new' rates that will apply from next month. The head-line 'peak' rate is rising from ~54c per kWh to ~59.2c per kWh (an increase of 9.6%!). However, the reality is even worse, as the 'shoulder' and 'off-peak' rates will be increasing much more - 'shoulder' period electricity is increasing by 24.4% (!!) from ~21.6c per kWh to ~24.4c per kWh, and the 'off-peak' rate (used to heat up our hot water tank at 1-2am) is increasing by an eye-watering 36.5% (!!!!) from ~12c per kWh to ~16.4c per kWh.

Overall, based on last quarter's electricity bill, our mix of off-peak/shoulder/peak electricity use, and the total amount used, our overall bill will be increasing by around 18.8% from next month unless we take some drastic energy-saving measures. We've already time-shifted our normal electricity use as much as possible from peak period to shoulder (by not using the washing machine during the evening 'peak' hours), so now we'll have to look at reducing the amount of power used. Looking at our hour-by-hour energy use (fortunately the data is readily available online these days), it appears that when we were running the pool filter it uses around 0.5 kWh, so I definitely have to only run it for a couple of hours daily rather than non-stop. It was also noticeable that when the family was away during the school holidays, the household 'baseline' electricity use was around 0.25 kWh each hour (probably due to leaving the refrigerator running, a few 'security' lights on, and the various TVs and computers left in 'standby' mode. And the water-bed heater) When the family is at home the 'baseline' power use is around 0.25-0.5 kWh per hour higher, probably due to leaving some lights on during the day, and having more laptops/tablets etc. left plugged in to charge up etc.

I'll have to start actively checking that computers, TVs etc. are turned off rather than left in stand-bye mode during the day, and checking that no lights are left on during the day or when everyone goes to bed. We'll see how much of the hike in electricity prices can be off-set by being more frugal with our electricity usage...

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