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The green glossary

Your go-to guide for deciphering renewable energy buzzwords.


‘Energy efficient’, ‘carbon offset’, ‘green energy’…we get it, energy industry jargon can be confusing! 

As Canberra’s local energy retailer, we want to empower you! So we’re breaking these terms down and giving real world examples in our ‘green glossary’.

The green glossary

    • A universal measurement metric that describes the amount of greenhouse gases (mostly carbon dioxide) produced and released into the atmosphere by something.1

    • An equal balance of carbon emissions and carbon removal, which create a net-zero outcome. You can work towards being carbon neutral by replacing a carbon-emitting object (e.g. a traditional car) with a zero-emission one (e.g. an electric vehicle). 2

    ActewAGL initiative

    Do you want to offset your carbon footprint? Our Greenchoice program allows you to do just that, helping you reduce the net-emissions of your electricity bill. For a small cost on top of your electricity bill, you can contribute to the purchase of electricity from renewable sources, including wind power, biomass, hydro and solar.

    This green energy is fed into the electricity grid, replacing electricity that would otherwise have been generated by fossil fuels—and that means reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

    Find out more about Greenchoice

    • Vehicles powered by electricity, rather than gas, petrol or diesel. They can be battery electric (solely powered by electricity delivered through plug-in chargers), plug-in hybrid (a combination of traditional fuels and plug-in electric chargers) and non-plug-in hybrid (where the electric battery is recharged through regenerative braking). 3

    ActewAGL initiatives

    We’re powering sustainable transport solutions within the ACT by hosting and supporting programs that drive sustainable transport adoption. Our Realising Electric Vehicle-to-grid Services project investigated how EVs can be used to stabilise the grid during times of high stress, while benefiting the owners. Our EV charging network consists of Rapid Chargers and Fast Chargers around the ACT.

    We also hosted a Zero Emissions Transport Hackathon with the Canberra Innovation Network, focusing on novel solutions to drive adoption of zero emission transport solutions throughout the ACT.

    • Energy efficiency is all about using less energy to perform the same task. 4

    Tips to save energy in and outside your home

    ActewAGL initiatives

    Looking to make your home more energy efficient? You can get year-round comfort plus instant and ongoing savings with our appliance upgrade offers.

    Upgrade from ducted gas heating to ducted reverse-cycle air conditioning

    Replace your old ducted gas heater with an efficient ducted reverse-cycle system to ensure year-round comfort. You can save on the cost and installation of your new unit and ducts plus receive a credit on your ActewAGL quarterly electricity bill for three years.

    Upgrade from a flued wall gas heater to reverse-cycle air conditioning

    Upgrade to an all-in-one solution for your heating and cooling needs! Save big on the cost and installation of your new unit and receive a credit on your ActewAGL quarterly electricity bill for three years.

    Upgrade your hot water system to a hot water heat pump

    Hot water heat pumps use the available heat in the air to heat water—even if it’s freezing outside. They can be two to three times more efficient than conventional water heaters. Upgrade your water heater to an energy-efficient hot water heat pump suitable for Canberra winters and take the guesswork out of your hot water system.

    Fridge Buyback

    Have you got an old, power-hungry fridge or freezer lying around that’s on ‘The List’ for your next clean up? Not only will ditching it save you in energy costs (up to $200 a year), through our Fridge Buyback program we’ll pick it up for free, ensure it’s responsibly recycled and give you $30* credit on your ActewAGL electricity bill.

    *T&Cs and eligibility criteria applies. 

    • Fossil fuels is the generic term used to refer to non-renewable resources such as coal and gas, which are used to create energy through various processes. According to the Australian Government, fossil fuels (coal and gas) still account for 79% of electricity generation fuel5
    • A collection of gases (water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane, ozone, nitrous oxide and chlorofluorocarbons) that are emitted from the earth's surface and trapped in the atmosphere. 6 Human activity is thought to be contributing to the increasing amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and in turn, this is warming our planet. 7
    • Hydrogen can be a liquid or gas and used for a variety of purposes, from fuel in vehicles to heating. Hydrogen is the most abundant chemical in the universe, according to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), and is quite literally what powers the sun! However, it needs to be extracted from natural sources, such as water or fossil fuels, through a number of processes, including electrolysis or coal gasification. 8
    • Electrolysis uses solar or wind generated electricity to split hydrogen from water to create renewable hydrogen. 9
    • Coal gasification produces hydrogen through a thermochemical reaction between coal and water, creating carbon dioxide emissions as a by-product, meaning it is not a clean or renewable process. 10

    ActewAGL initiative

    Our Hydrogen refuelling station once complete, will support a fleet of hydrogen-powered vehicles to replace traditional-combustion engine cars. The hydrogen will be created onsite using the electrolysis process, then stored and delivered under high pressure. Hydrogen vehicles use fuel cell’s powered by hydrogen (generally in liquid form) instead of a battery to power the car.

    The ActewAGL Hydrogen refuelling station is the first of its kind within Australia and will assist the ACT Government reach their 2045 net-zero emissions target.

    • Hydroelectricity is usually generated in big reservoirs or dams with gates to control the outward flow of the water. When producing energy, water is released through these gates, flowing downward towards turbines, which are then turned by the energy of the flowing water. In doing this, electricity is generated, which is then fed into the plant’s storage system and transferred to the grid for distribution. 11
    • A property without connections to utilities such as water, electricity, gas or sewerage. Sometimes only refers to not being connected to the electricity grid. 12
    • The ‘grid’ is the interconnected network that delivers the electricity from huge power stations to where it will be used, like cities and major towns. First, power stations convert energy from sunlight, wind, gas, water and coal into electricity using generators, and sold in the National Electricity Market. Electricity is then carried from the power stations along transmission lines to substations where transformers lower the voltage, preparing it for household use. Finally, electricity is delivered into homes and businesses through lower voltage poles and wires, ready for your daily use. 13

    Learn more about the electricity journey

    • Natural resources that create energy and aren't depleted as they’re used. Includes: wind, solar, biomass energy, geothermal energy and hydropower. 14

      Biomass energy is created by using organic materials (biomass) to produce energy in the forms of heat, electricity biogas (organic gas) and liquid fuels, according to ARENA. 15

      Geothermal energy is natural energy resource generated by drilling into the earth’s interior, surfacing naturally heated water which is pumped through a turbine to create energy, according to ARENA. 16
    • A digital electricity (or smart) meter measures and records electricity use in 30-minute (or less) intervals. 17 Because it’s digital, it can be read remotely, providing accurate information on your usage and eliminating the need to be manually read by a contracted meter reader quarterly.

    ActewAGL initiative

    A new smart meter can help you make informed choices about how and when you use your appliances—and unlock potential savings. Track your electricity usage at My.ActewAGL anytime, without waiting for your next bill. If you’ve signed up to a new ActewAGL plan, you may need to upgrade to a new smart meter. You’ll also need a new meter if your current meter is faulty or needs replacing. As your energy retailer, we’ll organise the installation for you, and in most cases, the upgrade is FREE.*

    *Learn more about smart meters

  • According to ARENA, a battery stores generated energy using chemicals, allowing you to also release absorbed electricity on demand. 18

    When your solar panels create more power than your home uses in a given day, the excess is stored in your solar battery storage system. You can then release this energy during peak demand times, meaning you’re using stored energy from your system, not from the grid. When your battery is full of excess energy, surplus energy will be fed into the grid. Similarly, if your battery is empty, you will be able to draw energy from the grid. 19

    Virtual Power Plants connect a network of residential and business solar battery storage systems to provide energy to the grid when it’s needed most. They also provide extra value to the solar battery storage owners who participate.

    Learn more about solar battery storage from our partners at SolarHub

    • Energy from the sun is converted into heat, producing electricity. There are two processes typically used to generate solar power. 20

      Solar panels made up of photovoltaic (PV) cells absorb sunlight, creating direct current (DC) electricity, which can’t be used by your home. The DC electricity is then inverted into alternating current (AC) and fed into your house and power grid. The solar system is connected to a meter (typically a smart meter), measuring energy use. 21

      Concentrating solar thermal plants use mirrors to concentrate a large area of sunlight into a targeted location, producing heat. This heat is generally captured using a fluid, such as oil. The heated fluid is then used to create steam either through chemical process or by heating water. The steam then powers the generators turbines, producing electricity. On a smaller, household scale, solar collectors and tubes containing water absorb the sun’s rays and transfer the heat directly to your household water. 22

    ActewAGL initiative

    We’re committed to helping you harness the power of the sun and take control of energy bills. Our Solar Saver plan is designed to help you maximise the value from your solar system with great feed-in tariffs for both new and existing systems. If you’re looking to get solar, the experienced team at the SolarHub & ActewAGL Smart Energy Hub will help you design the most effective system for your home.

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