Lifestyle interlude 6 – Divestment

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I figure it’s no good making a big effort to lower my own carbon footprint while still dealing with financial institutions and energy suppliers that have giant footprints. So there’s yet more goals to reduce emissions – find a bank and super fund that don’t invest in fossil fuels, and switch energy providers because I know ours is bad!

Gas

We have instantaneous gas hot water, gas stovetop and very old ducted gas central heating. There isn’t really an easy option here without spending money to get rid of the gas appliances and switch to all-electric that can run off our rooftop solar.

IMG_3450 IMG_3448 IMG_3447 I know gas doesn’t have quite the CO2 output as coal-fired electricity but it’s still not good. In the long term we’ve decided we will go all electric but it might take a while to get around to this so it’s on hold for now. Eventually we want to get solar thermal hot water and replace the old central heating with something better. In the meantime, we’ll just try to use the heater less and wear more clothes instead.

Electricity

Our solar output is improving, but although we’re now producing more than we use, our bills are still quite high (I’ll write a separate post about that). We still have to buy power. Our power supplier is Origin, known as one of “the dirty three”. We have to ditch them. We’ve been paying the 100% “green” levy option for years but I don’t really trust how that all works so it’s time to change. I did a little spread sheet to compare the alternatives using green electricity guides from six different sources: Greenpeace http://www.greenpeace.org/australia/en/what-we-do/climate/The-Green-Electricity-Guide/ , Switchwise https://www.switchwise.com.au/ , Getup https://www.getup.org.au/campaigns/renewable-energy/switch/join-the-switch-to-save-renewables , Renew economy http://reneweconomy.com.au/2014/who-is-the-greenest-energy-retailer-in-australia-90911 , Yourchoice http://www.yourchoice.vic.gov.au/ and Iselect http://energy.iselect.com.au/electricity/info/save-electricity/compare-energy-victoria.html .

Five out of six had Powershop as their number one recommendation, on price as well as greenness. Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 12.53.28 pmPowershop claims to be 100% green power from Meridian Energy, which operates wind farms in Victoria. There seem to be three other power suppliers in Victoria with relatively good credentials who were consistently recommended in the top four: Momentum Energy (Tassie hydro electric) Red Energy (Snowy hydro) and Diamond Energy (mix of renewable options but still sell the coal-fired stuff as well). It’s hard to compare costs directly, but Powershop and Momentum seem to have slightly better rates, though Diamond pays slightly more for the feed-in solar tariff – 8c per kW compared to the standard 6.2c (Powershop pays 6.4c). We’ve decided to go with Powershop but haven’t manged to make the switch yet as we need to give them a credit card number and we’re in the process of switching banks as well. Once the banking is all sorted, it’s goodbye Origin and hello Powershop.

Mortgage and banking

Our house mortgage was with the ANZ – one of the worst offenders (along with the other “big three”) with billions invested in various fossil fuel ventures including coal mines. One of my goals has been to join the divestment campaign and find a bank that is “clean”. Market Forces http://www.marketforces.org.au/ has done some comprehensive research here and is constantly updating its information about banks, super funds and government fossil fuel subsidies. The next two biggest banks in Australia after the big four are Bendigo-Adelaide Bank and the Bank of Queensland. They both claim to have no investments in fossil fuels, as do many of the smaller banks and credit unions.

Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 1.00.30 pm Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 12.59.34 pm

After a bit of research and discussion we decided to go with Bendigo-Adelaide, though this has not been a smooth transition. We used a broker who got us a good deal on our mortgage with the Adelaide arm of the bank, but knowing what we do now, I would have gone straight to the local Bendigo branch. Although these banks have merged and are one organisation (and both fossil free), Adelaide Bank still operates separately from Bendigo; and has not been easy to deal with. We started looking around and doing our research last year, and although the mortgages were finalised in back in May, there were issues with the setting up of accounts and credit cards that are still being sorted out in October. It’s been very frustrating and not very straightforward. But it’s nearly all done now.

Investments and super

I’ve chosen the ethical option for my superannuation fund (VicSuper) and have requested a no-fossil-fuel option, which they claim they’re working on and will offer soon. If enough people email their super funds and ask for better options, it will increase the chances of this happening. Market Forces  have certainly helped put the pressure on with their research and publicity, and made it easy to contact banks and super funds through their website. As for our investments, we do have some and they need to be greened up too. But that’s my partner’s job. And he’s on notice!

Changing all these things is all harder and way more time-consuming than I expected. However, it feels really really good to have ditched the ANZ.

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