So, you’re a conscientious electricity customer and you’re flirting with the idea of going green. However, you’re a cautious person and you like to take things slow. You don’t want to go rushing into a relationship with just any old provider, so perhaps you start by comparing your prospective energy supplier against other retailers who offer green plans. The price looks good, and the new energy plan appears to satisfy your needs – by all accounts, it’s looking like a match made in heaven.

But before you take the plunge and commit to a clean, green lifestyle, you want an even better idea of what you can expect both up-front and further down the line once the honeymoon period is over. Better yet, you should determine what it would be like to go fully renewable – ‘off the grid’, as they say,

We’re well-versed in helping consumers find the electricity provider of their dreams; we strongly recommend checking out the pros and cons of renewable energy to help you find that special energy solution that’s right for you.

Why switch to renewable energy?

Self-sustainability

Whether you choose to disconnect from the grid entirely or simply supplement your electricity with renewable energy, installing a solar power system at your home provides you with a higher level of self-sustainability. Having an independent source of electricity means you’ll be less affected by mains outages, which can be fairly common occurrences in some parts of the country.

In addition, if you generate your own power, you’ll be insulated to increases in the price of electricity, which can help you save on your power bill and reduce your overall cost of living.

Better for the environment

With a smorgasbord of world-class beaches and stunning desert landscapes, it’s no exaggeration to say that Australia is one of the most beautiful countries on the planet. Renewable energy can help keep it that way for future generations.

By switching to sustainable sources of power, such as solar and wind, you’re doing your part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and minimise the impact your household has on the environment. The Climate Council explained that renewable energy also has the auxiliary benefit of reducing the pollution generated from coal, further helping preserve the quality of Australia’s air, land and water.

Feed-in tariffs

A unique way to offset the costs involved with investing in solar energy is to take advantage of feed-in tariffs. Under this arrangement, you’re able to sell some of your surplus energy back into the grid. The Parliament of Australia noted this financial incentive encourages you to be more mindful of your energy use and also serves to decentralise the process of power generation.

You may be eligible for a feed-in tariff if your energy system meets certain criteria set out by your electricity retailer. The exact amount of money you could receive (if any) will depend on where your dwelling is located, as well as your specific provider.

Free electricity

The cost of electricity accounts for a considerable amount of the average household’s budget. This has become increasingly noticeable in recent years, with the price of power increasing by around 72 percent between 2003 and 2013, according to figures collated by the Parliament of Australia. With this in mind, it’s only natural that electricity customers are exploring alternative, cheaper sources of power.

Renewable energy could be the solution you’ve been looking for. After your initial investment, there are few costs involved with running or maintaining a renewable energy system, meaning you’re generating electricity at a very low cost. In fact, the Climate Council noted that an average 1.5-kilowatt photovoltaic solar system will pay for itself in just seven years, after which you could enjoy annual savings of around $528.

Depending on your circumstances, you may not be able to disconnect from the grid altogether, but nevertheless, the amount of money you stand to save cannot be ignored.

What are the disadvantages of switching to renewable energy?

We’ve discussed at length why you should switch to renewable electricity, but it’s important to keep in mind that the transition is not without its drawbacks. Here are a few things to consider before making a move to green energy.

Significant up-front costs

While it’s possible that renewable energy can save you money on your power bill in the long term, it’s also true that there are significant up-front costs involved with the purchase and installation of such a system. The total cost of your investment will depend on a range of factors, including your household’s energy consumption, your location and whether or not you plan on becoming completely self-sufficient for your electricity.

Some states or territories have subsidies to offset these expenses, but a solar power system with storage capacity will likely still cost upwards of $10,000 – a figure that may be out of reach for many.

Difficult to time your purchase

The technology involved with generating and storing solar electricity is increasing at an exponential rate, meaning that a top-of-the-line system today could well be superseded by a cheaper and more efficient solution just a few months down the track. This makes it a little tricky to time your purchase, as you have to weigh up the benefits of buying a system in the here and now against the advantages of waiting for the next advance in technology.

Intermittent electricity

If you’re considering going off-grid and relying exclusively on solar energy to power your home, there’s a real risk that you may be forced to go without electricity for short periods of time. While most of Australia receives excellent sun exposure for much of the year, there will inevitably be days where the weather simply isn’t conducive to producing solar energy.

Of course, battery systems and backup generators can help minimise this risk to some extent, but you’ll need to take the costs of such components into account when calculating the economic benefits of moving to renewable energy.

Efficiency is determined by your location 

Another limiting factor to consider before moving to renewable energy is that the efficiency of your system is inextricably linked to your location. For example, those living in Northern Territory or Western Australia could find solar power to be a good option, considering that many regions in these states receive more than 10 hours of sunlight per day on average, according to the Bureau of Meteorology. On the other hand, solar energy may be significantly less effective in Victoria and Tasmania, which typically see only six hours of sunshine per day during certain seasons.

Renewable energy is significantly better for the environment, and in many circumstances is cheaper in the long run than traditional sources of electricity. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the right choice for you. After taking these points into account and weighing up the pros and cons, you’ll be better able to determine if you should make the switch to green energy.