Turning OFF my energy expectations

As the sun sets on the Tasmanian Budget 2012-13 and winter approaches, I have been pondering a thing or two about energy expectations.

For the record, I’m privileged. I have a job that pays well, and at this point in time, I’m in good health. This means energy is a luxury I can afford.

At the same time I know many Tasmanians are very concerned about the escalating cost of living, they experience terrible chronic illness and pain, are subject to sick housing and are overwhelmed by the unattainable cost of home heating.

These are real problems. Poverty, desperation and cold are no-one’s friends.

Perhaps Tasmania’s Labor-Green Government should be commended for their move to legislate against the next wave of electricity increases estimated at around 26 % or $400+ pa per household.

But why shouldn’t we pay for the power we use?

The prevailing views tend to be:


  • affordable heating should equate to heating the entire home or
  • the temperature of your house should be sub-tropical.

There are many people who are power poor. They can’t choose to turn electricity ON because they are already doing it hard.  Their circumstances warrant heating a number of rooms in their home: people who are sick or disabled; student homes etc etc etc.

I can’t help but think about how I grew up. We turned off the lights and we didn’t plug in a heater unless it was desperate and sanctioned (for the record that was when I was studying …but only for the HSC) because we couldn’t afford it. Otherwise we were all in the lounge room around the open fire because it was the only heated room. That was close enough to 30 years ago that we don’t need to quibble about the small change.  But it makes me wonder if cost of living might be more about expectations, at least for some of us.
I don’t much like seeing my own breath on winter mornings either, but I don’t want or need to heat my bedroom (….unless of course it’s a critical success factor for some other bedroom activity). I choose not to do other stuff in winter unless it’s in the one room we always heat. On an exception basis we may heat another room but it’s something we don’t do lightly.
The other problem I’m having is with how much of the world’s resources we think we have a right to and why we think we can continue to consume them…cheaply.
I totally get how politically unpalatable this may seem to our great leaders…but I LONG for one of them to say….’you must use less’.
The West has benefited from the riches of our beautiful earth, to its detriment, and left it tired out and gagging. We have stolen from some people so we can have more and exploited our environment without care.
Of course this is fraught with issues of class and privilege and deals done with trans-nationals and oh my god, the economy! Yes those things need to be addressed too.
But at the end of the day, has the rampant consumerism of the C21st amplified our expectations?
Many countries live with blackouts because their electricity supplier cannot afford to meet peak energy requirements.
Today’s Sunday Tasmania has just featured cost of living and the clanger was by social commentator Bernard Salt who said ‘You can moderate the cost of living if you moderate your expectations, and people don’t want to do that’ (Sunday Tasmania, 20 May 2012, p.7).
I’ve noticed Aurora has stopped producing their quaint little comparative electricity consumption bar charts on the quarterly bills. A little device I liked to use my monitor my efforts to use less.  The bar chart probably got the flick because it demonstrated price increases above anything else.
 seriously folks…
…at least for many of us….
….isn’t it about using less?
Don’t we just need to turn things OFF more than we turn them on?
If we were to truly commend our government we would do it because they showed us world-class leadership.  They would demonstrate the vision that would pave the way to the earth’s sustainability. Maybe that’s just outside the scope of an election cycle.
What are your energy expectations?

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