by Crikey intern Matt de Neef

So apparently Kevin Rudd is still committed to action on climate change. It’s not that the Labor party has lost faith in the ETS, rather it’s the rest of the world’s fault for holding Australia back at Copenhagen.

“There was no government in the world like the Australian Government which threw its every energy at bringing about a deal, a global deal, on climate change”, he told Kerry O’Brien in his much publicised visit to 7:30 Report-land.

So while K-Rudd et al. are busy ensuring that Australia doesn’t act on climate change, and Mr Abbott is branding everything with his ‘great big tax’ stamp, what can the average Australian do to reduce their own carbon footprint?

Well, we could always take the train to work rather than driving, but that’s fairly unoriginal. We need something new and interesting and something that gives us the requisite amount of the “I’ve done my bit” feeling. The Australian “Zero Emissions House” (AusZEH) provides that feeling in spades.

The AusZEH was built in the Laurimar housing estate — 30km north of Melbourne — in a collaboration that included Delfin-Lend Lease, the Henley Property Group, La Trobe University and the CSIRO. The house is fitted with a monitoring system that tracks the residents’ energy usage and allows the collection of data which will be used to “improve the design of future zero and low-emissions houses”.

As exciting as all of that is, this part is even better — the house’s monitoring system can be controlled remotely using a mobile phone or via the internet. Forgot to turn the lights off? Not a problem. Want to put the whole house “on standby”? Sure. You can do it all remotely.

The Director of CSIRO’s Energy Transformed Flagship, Dr Alex Wonhas, believes that housing like this could make serious inroads into Australia’s attempts to combat climate change, announcing in the press release:

“CSIRO scientists estimate that if all the new housing built in Australia between 2011 and 2020 were zero-emission houses, 63 million tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions would be saved.”

According to Dr Wonhas, a reduction of this magnitude is the equivalent of “taking all of Australia’s private cars off the road for two years and 237 days or closing all Australia’s power stations for up to 100 days”.

If that isn’t positive enough for you, the news gets even better. If Channel Seven’s Sunrise is to be believed, an eight-star energy-efficiency house like this would only set you back about $290,000 and would allow you to save around $3000 a year in energy bills.

Granted, it’s a little more expensive than a basic house and land package. But with an energy consumption that’s 70% less than a regular house of similar size, what’s an extra $40k when we’re talking about the “I’ve done my bit” feeling?

However, the real question is: will that feeling be enough when you realise you’re living in a lifeless housing estate, miles from anywhere?

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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