Aircraft may spot energy wasters

The Christchurch City Council says it may "shame" people into more energy-efficient ways by using an aircraft with infra-red imaging to identify poorly-insulated houses.

The proposed aerial thermal imaging map is part of an ambitious plan to slash Christchurch's $1.6 billion annual energy bill and cut energy use by every city resident by 9 per cent.

The scheme will be rolled out this winter.

The $1.6b annual bill, or $4300 per person every year, includes direct fuel costs and indirect costs included in the price of consumer goods.

The 10-year, $6.6 million energy plan includes a $240,000 scheme to target poorly insulated homes via a heat-sensitive eye-in-the-sky.

The infra-red camera, on an aircraft, will take a photograph of Christchurch and identify homes with particularly poor insulation, so householders can be given insulation advice.

The plan also includes initiatives to introduce free parking for energy-efficient cars in the next month, subsidise building consents for solar water-heating systems and introduce interest-free loans for home insulation from July.

The plan will be funded by about $4m raised through selling carbon credits to British Gas in 2006.

Council energy manager Leonid Itskovich said the thermal-imaging map could shame people into improving energy efficiency.

"People will be shamed and will have to do something about insulation," he said.

"As soon as we do the thermal imaging, the map will be available for the public."

The plan aimed to cut growth in energy use from 18.8 per cent between 2008 and 2018 to just 0.04 per cent, said Itskovich.

There is also an ambitious target to boost renewable energy use by a quarter and cut carbon dioxide emissions by 16 per cent for every resident.

"The increase in the use of our energy is unsustainable and we must take immediate action to reverse the trend," he said.

"It is only by the actions and attitudes of the people that we can achieve a flat-line growth."

The car-parking scheme will offer owners of hybrid, fuel-efficient and alternative-energy vehicles one-hour free parking in council-owned parking buildings.

Itskovich said this would cost about $25,000 a year and could be introduced in the next month. A list of eligible vehicles would be published by the council.

The consent fee for installing a solar hot-water system will be reduced from $550 to $350 under plans out for consultation. The subsidy will cost about $30,000 a year.

The interest-free loans for home insulation would be up to $4000 and would be paid back over 10 years. The loans would be run by the council, Environment Canterbury and the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA). The council would borrow the money and EECA would pay the interest on the loan, ensuring no cost to the ratepayer.

The proposal is included in ECan's 10-year spending plans, which are out for consultation.

The energy-saving plans were passed by Christchurch City councillors in 2007, but implementation has been delayed.

The Press