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Understand renewable energy
You can generate free, clean electricity at home by installing a solar (photovoltaic or PV), wind or small hydro (water) renewable energy generation system. Your choice of sustainable power will make a big difference to your energy bills and greenhouse gas emissions. You can also buy GreenPower through your energy supplier, committing them to buy some or all of your energy needs from renewable sources, without the costs involved in installing a renewable energy generation system yourself.
Participating in a carbon offset scheme to offset (neutralise or counterbalance) some of the emissions you emit through day-to-day activities—such as electricity consumption and driving—is another option that can provide support for renewable energy.
Electricity accounts for about 53 per cent of the energy used in Australian households, but creates about 87 per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions because most electricity is generated by burning fossil fuels. Coal, oil and gas are non-renewable energy sources.
Renewable energy (also known as clean energy) is energy sourced from natural resources and can be constantly replenished—it'll never run out. Renewable energy technologies have a much lower environmental impact than traditional energy sources like fossil fuels.
More than 1.65 million rooftop solar power systems have been installed across Australia (as at 20 March 2017). This helps to reduce pressure on electricity networks by lowering peak demand.
You may be able to generate your own electricity at home by installing a renewable energy generation system such as solar, wind or small hydro. Generating your own power can make a big difference to your energy bill and means you'll be using a zero emission energy source.
Solar power is the most common system used for Australian homes, you can be connected to the electricity grid for mains power as you need it or to batteries to store your own energy for later use. There are also combined grid-connected solar panel and battery system being offered by a number of suppliers and energy companies. You may also be able to sell your excess energy to your electricity provider.
Your choice of a renewable energy source depends on what you can afford to spend and where you live. For example, if you live in the country, you'll often have more choice as urban areas generally don't have the right conditions for wind or hydro power. See our information on solar and installing solar, and our wind power and small hydro page for more details.
'Green power' is electricity generated from renewable sources like wind, solar, hydro and even decomposing organic waste material. Switching to GreenPower commits your energy retailer to sourcing some or all of your energy from renewable sources. More than 460,000 households in Australia are already buying GreenPower.
Most retailers will offer you the choice of how much of your power is 'green'. Green power is just as reliable as traditional electricity generated from burning coal and helps to significantly reduce the impact on the environment. There's no need to change your current electricity provider and no need for any special equipment.
The GreenPower program sets the rules and ensures your energy comes from government-accredited sources. So if you opt for GreenPower you know your money is being invested back into the renewable energy sector to reduce carbon emissions.
To get started, see switch to green power.
You may be able to sell excess energy generated by your renewable energy system that feeds in to the mains electricity grid through a feed-in tariff arrangement. 'Gross' and 'net' arrangements refer to the way your renewable energy system is connected to the grid and how your electricity is metered.
Gross feed-in tariff
Under a gross feed-in tariff all electricity generated by your renewable energy system is fed through your meter and back to the electricity grid. Your electricity provider pays you for all the electricity generated. Your electricity usage is metered separately and you're charged for this by your electricity supplier. You may be paid at one rate for energy produced, and charged at a different rate for energy consumed. Your electricity bill will generally show both your energy consumption and production which will give you a good indication of how well your renewable energy system is performing.
Net feed-in tariff
Under a net feed-in tariff, electricity generated by your renewable energy system that's surplus to your needs is fed through your meter and back to the electricity grid. Your electricity provider pays you only for the excess electricity you produce. If there's no-one at home during the day and the electricity generated from your system is not used, your system will export electricity to the grid during those hours. Then at night you'll purchase electricity from the grid as normal. The amount by which your next bill is reduced will depend on:
- how the electricity supplier measures the surplus electricity you exported to the grid, it could be hourly, daily, weekly, monthly or over the length of the billing period
- the rate your electricity supplier pays for the surplus electricity you exported to the grid.
On a net feed-in tariff your electricity bill will only show how much electricity you've purchased from the electricity retailer—it won't show how much electricity has been produced by your renewable energy system. So while you'll enjoy a reduced bill you won't normally be able to tell how much you've saved unless you install a separate metering system to monitor your electricity production and use.
If you don't connect to the mains power grid, you may need storage batteries or a generator to give you a constant supply of electricity when you need it.
Different states have different tariffs and feed-in tariff rates. You’ll need to check which type of tariff your state uses and the feed-in tariff rate you’ll be paid.
State and territory electricity feed-in tariff arrangements:
You can also consider carbon offsets, carbon neutral and carbon abatement schemes which offer the opportunity to offset (counterbalance or neutralise) the greenhouse gas emissions produced from activities such as household activities, and car and air travel. Many of the projects certified for carbon credits involve generating power from renewable sources such as wind, solar, hydro and biomass offering another way to support renewable energy. See our information on carbon offsets and abatement to ensure the offsets you purchase are certified and will result in a genuine reduction in greenhouse gases.
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