Need to know
- This year, World Consumer Rights Day is focusing on empowering consumers to switch to more sustainable energy practices
- We provide expert advice on the latest cost-saving cooktops, going solar and what to consider when buying an electric vehicle
- CHOICE is calling on the government to introduce national energy efficiency measures and make electric vehicles more accessible
World Consumer Rights Day, held each year on 15 March, is one of the most important days in our calendar. This year, CHOICE is joining consumer organisations from around the world in highlighting the work we've been doing to empower consumers to make the transition to clean energy.
And the timing couldn't be better. With the cost of living rising and energy prices soaring, more and more people are asking; how do I make the switch?
Whether it's switching from grid power to solar, petrol cars to electric or phasing out gas appliances altogether, our experts have been hard at work to answer this question. To kick off the celebrations, we've put together some of our most useful clean energy advice.
1. Turning off the gas
When it comes to cooking, many of us feel stuck with what's built into our benchtops. But for those who can afford the initial outlay for a new cooktop, there's a growing list of reasons to switch off the gas for good.
While most people already know about the environmental and health benefits of switching from gas, our latest cooktops comparison found that induction cooktops also beat out their gas counterparts in terms of both cooking performance and running costs.
Because the heat is coming from the cookware itself, rather than the cooktop, your cookware reaches the desired temperature more quickly, cooking your food fasterCHOICE kitchen expert, Fiona Mair
Our kitchen expert Fiona Mair conducted a 'boil time test' measuring the time it takes to boil one litre of water on different cooktops. One of the top-performing induction cooktops took just 2.37 minutes, while a gas cooktop can take up to 4 minutes or longer. This faster cooking time is not only convenient, it also means you'll be using less energy in the kitchen.
"Because the heat is coming from the cookware itself, rather than the cooktop, your cookware reaches the desired temperature more quickly, cooking your food faster," says Fiona.
While the upfront cost of switching from gas to induction is considerable, making the switch will likely save you money in the long run. The Climate Council has calculated that Australian households can save between $500 and $1900 a year (depending on the price of gas in your area) by cutting off the gas completely.
"I don't think we'll ever again see the cheap gas prices of past decades that once made gas attractive," says CHOICE expert, Chris Barnes.
2. Getting started with solar
Over 3 million Australian homes have made the switch to solar energy as of June 2022. Panel prices are dropping and the technology is as good as it has ever been, so it's a great time to get solar installed and save money on your energy bill.
Worried about installation costs? For most households, solar is well worth the upfront cost. The cost of installing a solar system has fallen by around 58% in the last six years and research shows that a typical system will pay for itself in around four to six years.
Panel prices are dropping and the technology is as good as it has ever been ...
"Households paying hundreds of dollars per quarter for electricity will definitely benefit from looking into solar. So will households with low electricity consumption, though their payback time might be a bit longer," says Chris.
In sunny Australia, solar panels are a safe bet for most households, but there are a few factors that will affect how well they work:
- Location: Southern regions like Hobart receive less sunlight than northern areas like Darwin.
- Roof: Check which direction your roof faces. North-facing panels catch the most sunlight, but even south-facing panels can still produce about 80% of their rated power.
- Shade: Ideally there should be no trees, power lines or other structures shading your roof.
- Council: Find out what approvals you'll need from your local council.
If you're considering going solar and don't know where to start, check out our four step guide.
3. Switching from petrol to electric
The number of electric vehicles on Australian roads has almost doubled over the past year, growing from 44,000 to more than 83,000. And their increasing popularity makes perfect sense – electric vehicles and hybrids have much lower running costs than petrol and diesel-powered vehicles. Over a ten-year period you could save around $13,060 in fuel for a full electric vehicle and about $10,640 for a hybrid.
And the electric vehicle (EV) owners we've spoken to are also happy with their car's performance.
"We chose an EV that had enough range to get us from Canberra to Sydney without having to re-charge along the way. We love the performance and the quiet of the Kona," says Donna, who drives a Hyundai Kona EV.
Over a ten-year period you could save around $13,060 in fuel for a full electric vehicle and about $10,640 for a hybrid
Transport accounts for approximately 17% of Australia's carbon dioxide emissions. Not only will making the switch to electric vehicles benefit your bank account, it will also help to reduce your carbon footprint and improve the quality of the air in our cities. Especially if you're charging your electric vehicle using renewable energy from your home solar or a green energy provider.
If you're considering buying an electric vehicle, check out our electric vehicle quick start guide for facts and tips to get moving.
Campaigning for clean energy for all
Brand new induction cooktops, solar panels and electric vehicles are all great ways to make the switch to clean energy. But for many of us, these solutions are too expensive or simply inaccessible. So we've been calling on the government to make changes that ensure all consumers can access the benefits of clean energy.
In February this year, CHOICE made a submission to the National Energy Performance Strategy, encouraging the government to include measures that empower consumers, particularly renters and low income earners, to make energy-efficient choices by getting the market setting right for household appliances.
... we've been calling on the government to make changes that ensure all consumers can access the benefits of clean energy
We're also calling on the government to remove some of the barriers to electric vehicle ownership and to introduce strong mandatory fuel-efficiency standards to make electric vehicles more accessible in Australia. People are eager to transition to electric vehicles, but many are worried about the cost of owning one and the accessibility of charging stations across the country.
"Many people told us they were interested in electric vehicles and aware of their benefits, but that they were currently out of their budget," says CHOICE senior campaigns and policy adviser Alex Söderlund.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.