Switch off to save this summer

Living Well | RACV | Posted on 13 December 2019

As summer heats up, ease the demand on power grids by powering down. 

As Victoria approaches another sweltering summer with the threat of blackouts, households can save money and help the grid by powering down.

In January this year, 200,000 Victorian households lost power as the grid buckled during a heatwave and authorities now warn of potential blackouts this summer.

To help avert a repeat of last year’s blackouts, the big power distributors that supply power across the state have launched voluntary demand response initiatives offering eligible businesses and households incentives for reducing their energy consumption when extreme conditions push the state energy grid to the brink.

A hot asphalt road close up, with heat radiating off it

As summer heats up, RACV’s Summer Energy Program will help reward householders for reducing their energy use.

The aim is that by encouraging energy users to reduce consumption during the few days a year when the grid is pushed to its limits, the distributors can avoid investing in expensive upgrades to the network – when the extra grunt is only needed for a few days a year.

This summer, RACV will again run the Summer Energy Program, recruiting households on behalf of power distributors Powercor, United Energy and AusNet Services to sign up for demand-response schemes. 

RACV’s product manager energy Lawrence Law says RACV helped recruit 3000 people to the schemes last year. He says distributors operate their own schemes and decide what rewards, including financial incentives, they’ll offer households for reducing energy use on hot summer days when the electricity grid is most under pressure from 1 December to 31 March.

“The Summer Energy Program will help improve electricity grid reliability and reduce energy costs for the community which benefits everyone while allowing households to get directly involved and make a meaningful impact,” he says.

The schemes began in 2017 when the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and Australian Energy Market Operator announced $35.7 million funding for a three-year trial involving 10 demand-response projects. This promoted other distributors to introduce their own schemes.

This year AusNet will run its GoodGrid program for 1000 customers in 10 postcodes, offering up to $15 for each time residents agree to conserve energy.  

wooden ceiling fan hangs from multi-coloured ceiling
white front load washing machine with open door and load of colourful washing inside

Small changes such as using a ceiling fan instead of air-conditioning and limiting heavy use of washing machines will reduce your energy consumption.

“Across Victoria each [of the five energy] distributors run their own demand-response programs in their network area, and each distributor may be looking to trial different things such as remotely switching pool pumps on and off,” says an AusNet spokesperson.

“Reducing demand on local network infrastructure helps keep bills down [in the long term] because it then costs less to maintain the network.”

Last summer, participants in the AutNet program were notified by email and SMS to reduce power on 10 occasions, usually for four hours in the afternoon and early evening, she says.

United Energy has run its Summer Saver program for six years, rewarding customers with $350,000 in rewards. Last summer 1000 participating residential customers earned an average of $246.

“December through to March is often a peak period of demand as people crank up the air conditioning units and other home appliances,” says United Energy’s Mark Clarke.

“This places short, intense periods of pressure on the local electricity network. Rather than conducting expensive upgrades to the network to accommodate just a handful of peak days, Summer Saver allows us to continue delivering a reliable power supply in an affordable way for customers.”

RACV’s senior product manager for energy Kieran Davies outlines several ways people can reduce power while remaining comfortable.

  • Pre-cool the house – use a timer to turn on the air-conditioner during the late afternoon so you enter a cool home.
  • Get the temperature right – set your air conditioner at 23 or 24 degrees, not 18.
  • Avoid cooking – ovens draw a lot of power as well as heating the house.
  • Time the pool pump – set the pump to work in the middle of the day when there’s lots of solar power or in the early hours of the morning to avoid periods of peak demand.
  • Turn off big appliances – dishwashers, washing machines and anything with a motor drain large amounts of energy.

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