By Phil Browne, as told to David Waterworth
I’ve been on a personal journey to reduce my emissions, and hence my carbon footprint, over the last 20 years. This is my story — from the early beginnings, to supporting unique climate action projects, to charging our EV from home solar.
My husband, Ray, and I live in a fully electric home in Hervey Bay in regional Queensland. Initially, we avoided unnecessary energy usage (switching things off) and walked or cycled where possible rather than driving. Then came changing all the lights over to compact fluorescent globes, followed by LEDs in later years. Plus, as appliances died, including the fridge and TV, they were replaced with new appliances with a much higher energy star rating.
About five years ago, I learnt of Citizens Own Renewable Energy Network Australia (CORENA), a great non-profit organisation that uses donations to crowdfund interest-free loans for projects that enable not-for-profit, community and social-enterprise organisations to pay for projects to reduce their carbon emissions. Eligible projects include solar installations, energy efficiency upgrades, replacing gas appliances (including water and space heating) with energy-efficient electric alternatives, and purchasing electric vehicles (EVs).
I was excited by CORENA’s revolving fund model, whereby donations are recycled and used again on subsequent climate projects. I donated some dollars and my donations have gone on to help fund multiple climate action projects. This is a powerful way of getting more climate goodness for my buck, rather than donations being exhausted after only one use — my donations keep on giving again and again.
I then used my previous skills by volunteering on CORENA’s small marketing team, and more recently I joined the great team of passionate climate advocates on CORENA’s committee.
Over their nine years of operation, CORENA has provided $975,244 in interest-free loans to fund 46 separate climate projects. To date, CORENA’s completed projects have avoided 3,128 MWh of grid electricity, which equates to 244.6 average households having switched to using 100% renewable energy instead of grid electricity.
Then, a few years ago, we bought electric bicycles, which are frequently used instead of the car. They’re wonderful, make riding up hills or against a headwind super easy, and can carry lots of groceries.
In 2019, we installed a 6.6 kW rooftop solar system and shifted our high energy loads, including the electric hot water system, to during the day to maximise our solar self-consumption and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. The plan was to use solar to charge a future EV.
A year ago, we bought a full EV, bypassing hybrids and ditching combustion engines completely. EVs have astounding acceleration and great handling due to their lower centre of gravity. The quietness and absence of fumes is brilliant, as is one-pedal driving or “regen” braking, which uses the motor to slow the car. You rarely need to brake, plus regen captures energy and recharges the battery.
Many people ask me about EVs and I say that if you can manage charging your phone, then you will be fine with an EV.
Our entry-level Tesla Model 3 gets over 400 km (249 miles) on a single charge — which covers our frequent 300 km (186 mile) trips from Hervey Bay to Brisbane, with more than 100 kms left on arrival. The car is charged from home solar and it’s great using the sun knowing that I’m not producing transport emissions to worsen climate change. The 300 km Brisbane trip costs $2.20 (in lost solar feed-in tariff).
“I always wondered why somebody doesn’t do something about that. Then I realised I was somebody,” Lily Tomlin says.
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