Power Savers making gains

Sixty households in Coonamble have signed up to a community program to cut their electricity  bills. The Coonamble Power  Savers Program is an energy efficiency program in operation since July 2016. The Program is funded by the NSW Environmental Trust and covers households in Coonamble, Gulargambone and Quambone. The program aims to reduce a household’s energy use  by an average of 15%, while improving the households’ self-reported comfort levels. When  fully operational the program  will support 100 households.

“The Coonamble Neighbourhood Centre was coming across more  and more people who were struggling to pay their high energy bills “, says Rachel Mimmo, the program manager, from GeeMimmo Pty Ltd. “Some were over $2,000 a quarter. We knew  we needed a program like the Power Savers to help people understand why their bills were  so high, and also understand  how to read their utility bills.”Power savers

GeeMimmo is a consultancy  firm with expertise in energy  efficiency programs, especially around vulnerable households  and provides education for sustainability, organisational  change and community engagement programs.

The program is for renters and owners of both houses and units.  For renters, Coonamble Neighbourhood Centre seeks permission from the landlord  before any alterations are  made to the home.

The program’s main partners are Coonamble Neighbourhood Centre, Landcare, Coonamble Shire Council, and GeeMimmo Pty Ltd. The energy assessors are contracted  through Murdi Paaki Regional Enterprise Corporation which is the peak provider of services to Indigenous communities in  Western NSW.

To be eligible for the program, householders must:

  • Live in NSW
  • Contribute to the energy  utility bills of the household
  • Be an energy utility hardship customer or hold a concession card from Centrelink or the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

Once households have joined, an energy assessment is undertaken at the home by an assessor from Murdi Paaki Regional Enterprise Corporation. The energy  assessment takes around 2 hours, and increases the households’ energy literacy and ‘smart’ use of energy by taking households through their energy bill, helping the household understand where they are using energy in their house (including appliances) and what measures they can take to reduce the amount of energy they use.

An action plan is then sent to the house, which sets out what the assessor has spoken about with the household, and reiterates the steps the households can take to reduce the amount of energy they use in their home.

Some of these actions are simple, such as turning off the lights when leaving the room, switching off all appliances at the plug rather than leaving them on standby, taking shorter showers, washing clothes on a cold wash, and hanging out washing rather than using the tumble dryer.

Small retrofit items are given to the household to help them start reducing their energy use, such as LED lightbulbs, power boards, door snakes, a shower timer and a temperature gauge for the  fridge and freezer. A further $50 is given to each participant to put towards buying either a new Fridge or TV through the Home Energy Action Program run by the NSW Government, or to spend at the local hardware store in Coonamble.

Follow up visits are made to the household after two, six and twelve months to assist with implementation and evaluation.

From follow up phone calls made two months after the first energy assessment, the majority of households stated that their latest bill showed a reduction in energy use from the same time the  previous year.

One participant stated: “The energy assessment was really useful. I knew a few things before like turning off my lights, and power at the plug, but I learnt some other things about how to run my air conditioning properly and the correct temperature for my fridge. My power bills are down since the same time last year and I am back on track with my payments.”

If you are interested in participating in the program, please contact the Coonamble Neighbourhood Centre on 02 6822 1872. If you are interested in running a similar program in your area, please contact Rachel Mimmo on rlmimmo@aol.com.


Leonie
“Power Savers showed me a few great tips that I didn’t need landlord approval for. Things like installing a ‘valve cosy’ and pipe insulation on my hot water system – the energy assessor was really knowledgeable, and estimated I could save up to $10 a quarter just through this small change!  Every little bit counts, right?” – Leonie

The original Power Savers project started in 2013 and assisted over 1,000 low-income households in  NSW, including tenants, to reduce their power bills and improve comfort in their homes. Participants  received tailored education and energy solutions, as  well as ongoing support  and advice.

The project partners were United Voice, the Nature Conservation Council NSW, Solahart Industries and  the Institute for Sustainable Futures at UTS.

The TU participated in  the Power Savers advisory committee. We helped  ensure that the program  was accessible to tenants.

Power Savers produced  a set of factsheets on saving power at home, through cooling, heating, draft-proofing, efficient lighting, windows and appliances. Check them out at powersavers.org.au.