Sept 23, 2016: Catch Power – So What’s The Catch?

In last week’s Newsletter I mentioned a sort of simplified Energy Management System called Catch Power. If you happen to live in the Southern Highlands of NSW you may have heard about a seminar on Monday offering information for people coming off the 60c Feed-in Tariff. This seminar will be promoting the Catch Power system. If you happen to be going to the seminar (or if you live elsewhere and are interested in the Catch Power system), the following are some questions you might want to get answered before signing a big cheque to Catch Power. I have sent these questions to the company but I have not received the answers yet. I could be wrong and will try to keep an open mind, meanwhile I encourage you to proceed with caution.

Questions About Catch Power

As I understand it, the Catch Power system costs $1,700 and does one simple thing… it diverts some of the excess power from a home’s rooftop solar system either to an electric water heater (resistance element, not heat pump) or to an electric in-floor heating system. Assuming this is correct, I have the following questions about the system:

  1. Most people who still have the old-style electric resistance water heaters are running them on off-peak at night and paying around 7cents/kWh for the electricity. If they have a solar system, after the end of this year they will get paid about 7c/kWh for any excess solar power that they export to the grid. So where is the economic benefit for them in shifting their water heating to the middle of the day? Without Catch Power they simply export their excess energy to the grid and get paid the same price that they pay at night on off-peak. So how can they ever recoup the $1,700 cost of buying the Catch Power system?
  2. For about the same amount of money the same customer could buy a heat pump water heater from an Australian company named Hydrotherm. These systems come with a built-in timer that the customer can easily set so the heat pump only operates between 10am and 3pm (the time of peak solar output and warmest air temperature). This system is three to five times more efficient than their old electric resistance water heater and would end up costing the customer about a quarter as much to run as the Catch Power system. Wouldn’t that use less energy and make more sense?
  3. Some local friends of mine have an electric resistance in-floor heating system that operates on off-peak at night and uses about 60kWh/day to heat their house. In order to make enough solar power to run that heater using Catch Power they would need to spend about $30,000 on a 20kW solar power system (plus $1,700 for the Catch Power system). Alternatively they could install a high-efficiency reverse-cycle air conditioning system for about $10,000 and run that on a timer during the day. That system would be 3-5 times more energy efficient than the in-floor electric resistance heating they currently have so it would only require a solar system a third the size with a cost of about $10,000. So they could save approximately $11,700 compared to using their current system with Catch Power plus the running cost would be about a quarter as much. So why would they choose to install Catch Power?
  4. As far as I know, you can’t build a new house in NSW with either an electric resistance water heater or electric in-floor heat because they are outdated and inefficient technologies that won’t meet the BASIX requirements. So, just to confirm, Catch Power only works with those outmoded technologies, is that correct?
  5. I’m looking into a system called Reposit Power that promises to be a complete home energy management system that can do much more than Catch Power and costs less than half as much to install. So why should I choose Catch Power over the Reposit Power system?
  6. The two technologies that Catch Power work with, i.e. electric resistance water heaters and electric resistance in-floor heat, are very old technologies that are rapidly being phased out because they are such inefficient ways of using power. So how does Catch Power help people to use less energy?
  7. The only real benefit I can see in the Catch Power system is its ability to incrementally adjust the amount of excess power it diverts from a solar system to a resistance heating element (which is, of course, is the reason why it can only work with resistance devices). So, while I don’t see any cost advantage to the customer in this (see items 1 and 3 above) I do acknowledge that it does allow a home to use more of its own renewable energy and less fossil fuel generated power. So there is a bit of an environmental benefit there. However, isn’t there a bigger environmental benefit plus a potential economic benefit to the customer from installing energy efficient heat pump water heating or reverse-cycle air-conditioning and simply running it on a timer to coincide with the period of maximum solar production?

Do Not Press For 90# Anyone

I just received this message from a regular reader about a rampant phone scam so I thought I’d better pass it on:

‘Got a call last night from an individual identifying himself as a Telstra Service technician who was conducting a test on our Telephone lines. He stated that to complete the test I should touch nine(9),zero ( 0), hash (#) and then hang up. Luckily, I was suspicious and refused.

Upon contacting the telephone company, I was informed that by pushing  90#, you give the requesting individual full access to your telephone  line, which allows them to place long distance telephone calls billed to your home phone number. I was further informed that this scam has been originating from many of the local Jails/prisons.

DO NOT press 90# for ANYONE. PLEASE pass this on to your friends. If you have mailing lists and/or newsletters from organizations you  are connected with, I encourage you to pass this on.’

Stephen Cooper
Detective Senior Constable 29748
Victoria Police State Crime Squads

New Developments in Sustainable Transportation

Over the last week I’ve come across some excellent articles about new forms of sustainable transportation including:


The Scion Crowdfunded Solar Car – ‘The Sion is an innovative electric car with integrated solar cells in the body, a range of 250km and a price of less than € 16,000. 30 free kilometers per day are possible with electricity generated by the sun. The stored energy can be used through bidirectional charging for all common electronic devices. Sion is a family friendly vehicle, thanks to 6 seats and optional trailer coupling. In Short: A self-charging electric car for infinite, sustainable driving.’


The Proterra 1000km Electric Bus – ‘Cars aren’t the only form of transport moving towards the zero-local emissions benefits of electric power. Proterra has been working on its pure electric buses for some time and the latest addition to its stable, the Catalyst E2, has logged more the 600 miles (966 km) on a single charge under test conditions at the Michelin proving grounds in South Carolina.

Although that kind of range is not necessarily possible in regular day-to-day driving conditions, the Catalyst E2 with its storage capacity of 440 – 660 kWh is still capable of posting some pretty impressive figures. According to Proterra, its claimed nominal range of 194 to 350 miles (312 to 563 km) makes it capable of covering most daily American mass transit routes on a single charge, meaning it could directly replace the current fossil fuel buses in service across the country (and the world).’


And the Vello Bike+ Folding Electric Bike – ‘Between its quick-fold mechanisms, compact folded size, light weight and versatile electric drive, the Vello Bike+ looks like one of the most convenient electric city folders out there. It certainly seems like a good way of commuting around tight city spaces, from small apartment, to public transit, to office cubicle, and back again.’

General Motors Commits to 100% Renewable Energy by 2050

My how things have changed! You’ve probably all heard the rumours about General Motors (GM – the American parent company behind the good-old iconic ‘Aussie’ Holden)… how they bought up the Los Angeles tram system in the 1940’s and scrapped it in order to force people to buy their cars and buses… or how they manipulated the Californian government in the 1980’s to stop the development of electric cars (I recommend watching ‘Who Killed The Electric Car’ if you haven’t seen it already). So I was quite amazed when I read this New Atlas article outlining how ‘GM has promised to use only renewable energy in its global operations by 2050.

True, 2050 is some way off, but with 350 operations spanning 59 countries General Motors faces a huge task if it is to make good on the pledge.

All those factories, offices and workshops required around 9 terawatt hours of energy in 2015, although the company does expect that figure to fall as its facilities slowly adopt more energy-efficient technologies.’

Who would have thought we’d see the day….

Anyway, next week we start on the energy retrofit of the old fibro cottage next to the Greeny Flat so I hope to be reporting on some good progress over the coming weeks.

Thanks for reading.

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