When knowledge is power Part 1 by Catherine Watson

Werner Theinert spreads the word

Republished from the Bass Coast Post*

Werner Theinert is explaining the Coefficient of Performance of heat pumps to us. It’s like the miracle of the loaves and the fishes. You put in one unit of energy and get back two to three units of cooling or heating.

Werner has written on the blackboard: THE ENERGY REVOLUTION IS HERE!  He loves this stuff. He’s so excited he strides the width of the room with his pointer. I’m reminded of those old Energizer ads, which is apt since we are here at Bass Coast Adult Learning (BCAL) to learn about renewable energy as part of BCAL’s Sustainability Series.

We could have started at the beginning with volts and amps and kilowatts – the alphabet and times table of renewable energy – but Werner reckons we should dive straight into the interesting stuff. We’ll ask questions and come back from different angles and by the end of it we’ll have absorbed the basic stuff as well. It’s not as if we have to pass an exam or climb on roofs to fit solar panels. Three of us qualify for the seniors’ discount and Olivia teaches at BCAL.

Interestingly, three of the five here today have connections to “the Valley”. Werner worked at the Yallourn Power Station in various roles for decades, interspersed by 15 years in the Middle East where he was in charge of power generation for an aluminium smelter. Sharon grew up in the Valley. Olivia was teaching in Morwell the day the big fire started at Hazelwood in 2014, blanketing the town in acrid smoke. None of them is sentimental about the impending end of coal-fired power generation.

​We students are all at different stages of the New Energy journey. Sharon Wilcox is a former health policy consultant who’s actually studied and lectured in renewable energy. Of course she’s made the switch from gas to electric. She’s installed a Tesla wallboard. I’m too embarrassed to ask whether you put a wallboard in a car or a house. Perhaps next week.

Tim Herring has a degree in electronics so he knows a lot of this stuff on a theoretical level. “A little learning is a dangerous thing,” he says. Tim has made the switch. He installed a heat pump for the hot water system and he’s part of a group pushing to get community battery storage in Tenby Point.

​I know the least but I’m interested in the ideas and the sudden pace of change. I’m in the middle of the switch. Ten years ago when I built my house, gas was the go. Now, inspired by our council’s climate action plan, I’ve made a start. Last month I replaced my gas hot water system with a very small electric tank. Next on the list is a split system and an electric cooktop.

Werner has solar panels and an electric vehicle (EV). To my surprise he’s still connected to the main grid. That’s because he’s been waiting and waiting for the technology – a “black box”, he calls it – to allow his Leaf EV to act as the back-up power for his house. The technology has been available in Europe and the US for ages but Australia is still thinking about it. “We’re always trialling in this country,” he grumbles.​ (to be continued)

*author editor/publisher of the Bass Coast Post. The full article can be read here.