Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Queen on the Brink of Fuel Poverty

We’ve come across a feature in the UK’s Financial Times newspaper this week concerning the Queen and her struggle against high energy bills. We only wish Her Majesty had stopped by the SmartNow office on her recent trip to Australia for some advice!

Never one to be left behind, the Queen’s five “occupied royal palaces” have been fitted with Smart Meters in an attempt to monitor and control energy consumption. Despite an initial drop in consumption there is no hope of lower electricity bills for Her Majesty with a shocking 20 per cent rise in the UK’s average combined gas and electricity costs. In fact, the Queen is close to “fuel poverty” whereby a household is spending 10 per cent or more of its income on heating the home.

Buckingham Palace is in need of various repairs and replacements to its archaic heating and electrical system. We suspect it is not the most energy efficient of homes. Whilst the article suggests that the royal household could exercise choice in its energy provider and even purchase energy in advance on the wholesale market, writer David Blair concludes the the Queen’s best option may be to turn to renewable sources of energy. Construction has begun on a hydroelectric scheme on the Thames which would enable another home of the Queen – Windsor Castle – to generate its own energy and sell any surplus back to the grid.

This is all well and good but it is the energy efficiency of the palaces themselves that should be tackled first and foremost. Insulation and overhaul of any ancient systems should be the priority as well as reviewing the lighting and seeing if energy is being wasted. We’d delighted to give her Majesty some advice or send her over an EnviR home energy monitor to get her started!

Read the full article here:

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sunny Days for Solar Overseas

We're seldom short of solar news from around Australia to bring you in these turbulent times for clean energy. Today, however, we're bringing you solar news from elsewhere on this lovely planet of ours.

First to the UK: construction has recently been completed on the UK's largest solar power plant. Completed in an impressively tight timeframe of just ten weeks, Spanish firm Isolux Corsan spent 40 million Euros on the 15 megawatt facility located in rural Cornwall. The fast turnaround to install the 22,000 panels was partly due to Britain's latest reductions to solar feed-in tariffs, a story all too familiar to the Australian solar industry.

It's great to hear of large scale solar projects like this being completed so quickly. All the UK now needs is some sunshine!

There is also positive solar news coming out of the US, where during the second quarter of 2011 solar PV installations increased by a huge 69 per cent. California is leading this surge, closely followed by New Jersey which has has the largest non-residential solar market in the US. Google has recently invested US$250 million into a residential solar project which will no doubt provide a fantastic boost for the solar industry in the US.

Another US giant, Walmart has taken a great initiative in renewable energy by placing solar panels on the rooftops of many of its stores in California, enough to generate up to 70 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year - an example which retail giants or owners of large commercial premises around the world would do well follow.

As the globe is gripped by economic uncertainty we hope that investment in clean energy will not wane. Even if residential installs slow down thanks to reductions in feed-in tariffs, we hope that large scale installations will thrive.

For information on how SmartNow can enable you to get the most from your solar panels and reduce wastage please visit

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Solar Power to Undercut Coal?

An interesting article here from the All Energy Team

Australia's reluctance to embrace solar power could well change dramatically over the next 20 years even without a carbon tax. Due to the massive leaps that China is making at the moment in production and the reduction in cost of solar panels, it might not be too long before the price per kWh of solar electricity is lower than that of coal-fired power stations. Yes, admittedly, there remains some serious work to do to be able to replace coal-fired power as a reliable source of base-load power - i.e. there needs to be some serious energy storage facilities built - but it's an interesting thought that coal-fired power could soon be considered the expensive option.

Roll on that day we say. Whatever the case maybe for base-load coal-fired power, there is a certain elegance to achieving our energy requirements through nothing more than pure sunlight instead of setting fire to things.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Turbulent Times for Wind Power

Instead of bringing you news of yet another blow to the struggling solar industry, today we bring you news of a crackdown on another form of clean energy - wind.

The Victorian Government is amending planning laws regarding wind farms, giving households the power to veto wind turbines within two kilometres of their homes. Turbines are also due to be banned in areas of natural beauty popular with tourists near to the Victorian coast and within five kilometres of numerous Victorian regional centres.

This will inevitably divert multi-billion dollar investment in regional Victoria interstate and is therefore seen as hugely detrimental to clean energy infrastructure in the state.

The Australian public seems to have mixed views on wind turbines and their potential impact on people's quiet enjoyment of their homes and surrounding areas. Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Matthew Warre has no doubts as to the negative impact that will have on clean energy investment in Victoria, citing the setback policy as "completely arbitrary".

To read the full press release from the Clean Energy Council click here:

Or to read The Age's piece on this development click here:

For further information on SmartNow and how to save money on your power bills with our home energy monitors please visit

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Using the Current Cost USB Data Cable with Windows 7 x 64

Please find below some helpful links for those customers trying to download the Driver for the USB data cable, with Windows 7 x 64.

SmartNow USB Drivers Page

PLEASE NOTE - unbelievably, just because there is a newer driver available than the ones we have posted, it doesn't mean it will work!  The drivers we have on our site are tried and tested and work.  PLEASE do not go googling for newer drivers, as all that will happen is you'll wind up calling us because you can't get them to work.  Strange but True.

Alternative Software for the USB Data Cable

As most of our customers are aware, Google PowerMeter is due to close in September.

We’ve already brought you some updates on what Bridge users can expect when this closure happens:

But we know that many customers use the USB data cable to upload data from their EnviR home energy monitor.

Current Cost, manufacturers of the EnviR, have put together some very useful information regarding software options for users of the USB cable:

As you can see, there are plenty of options available to enable you to get the most from your EnviR, to eliminate wastage and reduce your power bill.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

WA Solar Scheme Victim of its Own Success

This week the Western Australian government has announced that the current solar panel rebate scheme is being axed. It seems the popular scheme has been a victim of its own success and the budget couldn't be stretched to meet the huge demand for the scheme. Effective immediately, no new applications will be accepted.

The government already reduced the feed-in tariff from 60 cents per kilowatt hour to 40 cents and then down to 20 cents in May. Rebates will continue to be paid to existing users for the 10 year agreed payment period.

Unsurprisingly, the decision to axe the scheme so suddenly has angered solar industry experts and businesses who have questioned why they weren't given fair warning that the scheme was fast approaching its cap.

We're sorry to see the WA feed-in tariff reduce. It appears to have been a great success in promoting the installation of solar panels. We're not sure that it yet makes economic sense to install solar panels without a subsidised feed-in tariff as is claimed, but the proof will be in the pudding. It'll be very interesting to see how many solar installations happen this year. We don't think it will be half as many as the government expects.

In the meantime, we'd like to encourage the government to support medium and large scale solar in sunny WA. Now we've got 150MW of installed capacity on individual residential roofs, it would be good to see some large-scale installations on the tops of the commercial property out there. A prime candidate would be for supermarkets and shopping malls - solar can seriously reduce the load that the massive aircon units place on the grid on a sunny afternoon.

To read the full article about the scrapping of the scheme in WA click here:

To learn how to monitor your solar generation and to reduce your electricity bill with an EnviR home energy monitor from SmartNow click here: