Free energy audits pay off

By David Porter

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Nik Gregg wants to make Bay of Plenty homes more energy-efficient.
Nik Gregg wants to make Bay of Plenty homes more energy-efficient.

Nik Gregg and his brother Phil have an unusual business model with their company Sustainable Options.

They want to give away their sustainable energy expertise - and make a living out of it.

The theory, says Nik Gregg, is that giving free energy audits to local Bay of Plenty home owners will spread the word and generate interest from people and businesses that will pay to have their own audits done.

"Our objective is to engage people with how they're living in their homes, have them think about sustainability in the context of what's good for the environment and their community," he said.

Nik Gregg is a member of the Bay of Connections' Energy Strategy Committee and the committee's chairman, Anthony Olsen, said his input had been helpful from the beginning.

"Energy's not just electricity, it runs across the board and it also has a strong social component," said Mr Olsen. "Nik's been the one we've relied on to go down that road.

He's been excellent in that way."

The Bay of Connections was exploring a range of integrated energy generation options, including existing geothermal and hydro resources, solar and wind generation.

"Nik's perspective has been to say, it's fine to generate sustainably, but we're losing out at the user end," said Mr Olsen.

After 25 years working in Auckland, the Gregg brothers took on a community-owned energy efficiency and renewable energy business in Whakatane for six years, as the Government began to implement its policy of encouraging home owners to insulate.

"Kiwis grow up in 'wooden tents', where we put another log on the fire, throw on a blanket and toughen up to keep warm," said Mr Gregg.

"In the past our houses were quite well designed, with big fireplaces in many rooms and natural ventilation. Now we have condensation issues and damp, cold homes and our most vulnerable can't afford the large heating costs needed to stay warm."

Early last year the brothers decided to form Sustainable Options. The company says that 85 per cent of its profits are directed to charity/community, to their vision for doing good, to their staff and back to their customers.

Working with the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority, they undertook a project to visit 50 Tauranga homes and give out free advice on becoming more energy-efficient. Returning to 39 of them later, they found all families had done something to improve their efficiency, and of these, 35 had invested money in an action or activity - anything from changing light bulbs to energy-efficient ones to insulating their home or investing in solar energy.

"We hope that as we give our time and knowledge away for free, households, the community and businesses will support us and enable us to give away more time and knowledge," said Mr Gregg.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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