State of the Environment Report 2007

Canberrans going WEST

There’s no need to trek across the Nullarbor to go WEST in the ACT. WEST in the ACT means 'Water and Energy Savings in the Territory'. It is an ACT Government program about doing things at home to cut energy and water use – and so benefit the environment and the hip-pocket.

The program involves government agencies and concerned welfare groups: companies have also provided products and help at low cost. WEST commenced in 2003 as an initial trial of less than 20 households. It has grown each year and is aiming to approach 100 households in 2007–08.

WEST assists those low-income households identified as having high energy and water consumption. So far, about 80% of identified target households are public housing tenants (see Public Housing snapshot too). The objectives are to raise householder awareness of the key contributors to high consumption—and associated cost—and to provide the means to lower consumption. Benefits flow to the environment and to the householders in lower costs and higher comfort. The approach has a focus on information, education and behaviour change.

The first step is to conduct and assess individual audits. Then each householder is advised face-to-face on what they can do, and provided with some of the means for low cost upgrades. Actions taken range across such matters as fitting better curtains and blinds (along with pelmets), external shading, adding draught excluders and weather seals, filling in cracks, fitting low cost plastic double glazing; installing fluorescent light bulbs; and adding low flow shower heads and tap aerators. Items are provided from program funds or donations.

As well, advice is given on how to operate the house better such as timely opening and closing of curtains; keeping some of the internal doors shut; taking shorter showers; turning heaters off overnight; and using outdoor clothes-lines rather than dryers. These behavioural changes provide savings without cost.

The auditors, or volunteers, make a further visit to most households to check refit efforts and advise on modifications or additional steps. It is estimated that the program has had considerable success in at least half the households involved, with some reducing energy usage by up to 50%. WEST 2 in 2004–05, with 48 participants, saved nearly 70 tonnes of CO<sub>2</sub> per year, equivalent to taking 16 cars off the road. The average annual energy saving across participants was around 20% of an average Canberra household’s usage, perhaps $250 per household. With more participants and accumulated experience, savings in 2007–08 should be commensurably greater.

The program has focussed on less advantaged households; but the practical steps it involves are relevant to all ACT Households. In fact, WEST could also mean 'What Everyone Should Try'! 

living sustainably

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