Friday 1 July 2011

Solar subsidy phase-out

Adelaide Advertiser
24 June 2011, Page: 23

Australians have been queueing up to get on to the bandwagon but the experience of going solar is starting to turn sour for many as waiting times blow out to up to six months. Many are now caught in a logjam of thousands trying to flick the switch on green power as quickly as possible before federal and state solar subsidies are phased out. Solar subsidies, which helped the industry find its feet under the Howard Government years, are on the way out, creating a number of network connection, resource and supply issues for the industry.

From making a decision to buy the solar panels, to installing them, and to actually connecting them to the grid is taking anywhere between two and six months, irrespective of size or value of the installation. This is largely because of the demand caused by the phasing out of the existing state solar feed in tariff scheme and the federal solar certificates scheme. Adrian Ferraretto, from the SA Solar Panel Industry Group, said consumers could be forced to wait up to six months to have panels installed.

Under an amended state solar feed in tariff scheme passed yesterday, every household that generates solar power and feeds excess power back to the grid gets 44¢ from the energy retailer until 2028, with this scheme closing for new entrants on September 30. New entrants signing up before September 30, 2013, will get only 16¢ (plus 6¢ from their retailer) until September 30, 2016.

South Australia was the first state to introduce a feed in tariff scheme in July 2008 and it will run until 2028. But all states are now phasing them out because of the cost burden shared by all power customers in every state with a scheme. Anyone deciding to install a solar panel system today would first need to pick a solar retailer and they are a dime a dozen.

Choosing an accredited supplier with a good track record is best because the boom in the industry has left the door open to a number of dodgy installers. This is especially important, given that the installation contract comes with a 30 year warranty for the panels, a five year warranty for the electricity inverter and a five year warranty for the workmanship.

In the case of Solar Shop, customers contact the call centre first and are asked to choose between having a detailed phone conversation, visiting a branch, and having a renewable energy advisor come in for a free house consult. Most decide on a house consult, which follows two weeks later. The visit includes site/roof assessment and finding out what the customer wants reduction in electricity bills, excess power generation to take advantage of solar feed in tariffs, or both.

A north facing roof is ideal for installations. The advisor provides a quote based on the needs, pricing, available subsidies, discounts and any financing facilities the customer wants to use. Customers can then take up to 14 days to decide on the quote, following which a contract is signed and a 10% deposit paid to the solar panel retailer.

The installer co ordinates with ETSA to get permission to connect to the electricity grid, which then needs to be approved by the customer's energy retailer. It is sent back to ETSA for a date at which an import-export meter can be installed, which allows electricity generated to be put into the electricity grid and the house to draw any electricity it needs. A shortage of import-export meters saw waiting times for connection to the grid balloon by up to four months in May.

However, a spokesman said an increase in installer resources, coupled with a reliable new supply of meters, had allowed some bookings to be brought forward. Customers calling ETSA today would get a booking for a meter in the second half of August. That means panels can be sitting on a customer's roof for at least two months before they are connected to the grid. Once the meter is installed, customers can be paid for all the electricity they generate. Currently about 41,888 households have solar installations and there are more than 26,789 households waiting to be connected.

SA solar: Bruised but not beaten
24 Jun 2011

Last night's decision by the South Australian parliament to extend the solar feed-in tariff at a lower level for two years is a much-needed reprieve for the local industry, according to the Clean Energy Council's Chief Executive Matthew Warren today. Although the transition package is modest and less than what the industry believes is appropriate, it will nevertheless help to reduce the rate of jobs losses that would have otherwise occurred.

"This is important for South Australian consumers and the industry. There's no doubt the industry is disappointed with the severity of the changes, but we are appreciative the Government was open to significantly improving its original legislation," Mr Warren said.

"Without these amendments there would have been a huge spike in demand for solar after the proposed increase in the feed-in tariff, followed by a big slump when it ended later in this year. "This wouldn't serve consumers or be conducive to industry best practice in South Australia. There are more than 1000 well-trained workers in the industry, which is a significant part of the local economy.

"However, there should be no misunderstanding about the serious impact this legislation will have on the economic viability of many solar installer companies. Much of the South Australian solar industry is made up of small businesses. "While some will find ways to adjust to the lower levels of support, many will not."

The Clean Energy Council is hopeful the door remains open to improve the package at a later date. It offered alternative models, which would have both significantly reduced the overall cost to South Australian households, and more effectively smoothed out the process of rolling back the feed-in tariff.

Nevertheless, the medium term outlook for the solar industry remains positive, with the costs of solar technology continuing to fall rapidly. "Grid parity" (where the cost of energy produced by solar panels is equal to what consumers pay for electricity) is likely to be achieved in three-to-five years. Solar PV is a great investment for households concerned about rising electricity prices and wanting to help cut pollution and consumers should be confident that the local industry will deliver quality products and services.

Wind farm inquiry balanced and reasonable: industry
23 Jun 2011

The renewable energy industry has welcomed today's report of the Senate Inquiry into the Social and Economic Impact of Rural Wind Farms, saying it provided no reason to stop the roll out of this important clean energy technology. Clean Energy Council Policy Director Russell Marsh said the report raised some issues to consider, but it was critical the industry got on with the job of building clean energy in Australia.

"The Senate inquiry process was a way for the silent majority of wind farm supporters to have their voices heard," he said. "While we acknowledge that any change will have its critics, the vast majority of submissions to the inquiry were positive about wind farms in rural communities. Around 80% of the submissions were positive and there were more than 1100 submissions from the Hepburn community alone.

"Several findings within the report recognised the contribution of wind power to jobs in regional areas, as well as its contribution to the incomes of farmers. It reflects opinion polls that consistently show approximately 80% of Australians support wind power. "Our only regret is that there were not more opportunities for residents supportive of wind power to appear before the Senate committee."

Mr Marsh said the inquiry found nothing to suggest that wind farms directly cause health problems and suggested that symptoms could potentially be related to other factors such as stress.

"It did make a recommendation that Commonwealth Government studies into noise and health should be conducted, and the industry welcomes this. We also support the continuing review into the science of wind turbines and health by the National Health and Medical Research Council. "The Clean Energy Council would like to thank the Committee for examining this issue so thoroughly and providing a forum where all stakeholders were able to have a voice."

Thursday 30 June 2011

Solar panels top safety record: industry
23 Jun 2011

Incorrectly installed solar panels pose a very low risk to households, and the safest thing to do is leave the system alone, according to the Clean Energy Council. The advice follows the statement by NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell who today flagged the result of new inspections in western Sydney reporting an unacceptable level of systems with an incorrectly installed system.

The peak body's Chief Executive Matthew Warren today reassured consumers about the safety of solar power technology which is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 households around Australia. An independent assessment by the industry's expert advisory panel confirmed the risk from any incorrect installation of the switch is very low.

"The solar PV industry has an excellent safety record. There are now more than 300,000 solar systems in Australia some of them operating for more than a decade, and only three minor incidents have been reported during this time", Mr Warren said.

The main issue identified in the recent audits was an incorrectly wired circuit breaker. This issue had been identified by governments and industry late last year and remedial action by the solar industry was already well underway. "We would like to remind solar households that the safest thing to do is to leave your system alone. In the unlikely event that there is a fault with your system, it is only triggered by incorrectly switching it on and off".

Mr Warren urged anyone with concerns about their solar panels to contact the company who supplied their system. By law solar panels have to be installed by a licensed electrician who has been specially trained to install household solar, with all systems inspected at least once by an independent authority before they are switched on. "There is a rigorous compliance system for solar panels that has been in place in Australia since it was introduced by the Howard Government in 2001", said Mr Warren.

Don't short change solar - Industry

Clean Energy Council
22 Jun 2011

The SA Government should be congratulated on today's news that it has reached its 20% Renewable Energy Target, but has been warned not to short change the solar industry in Parliament tomorrow.

The Clean Energy Council, the peak body of more than 500 renewable energy companies, urged the Rann Government to consider South Australian consumers and the local solar industry when it debates the final detail of changes to the feed in tariff in SA Parliament tomorrow.

The solar industry this afternoon urgently called on the SA Government to avoid an unnecessarily severe transition package as part of the scaling down of the feed in tariff. The Clean Energy Council's Policy Manager Tim Sonnreich feared the Government had its priorities wrong, by giving more on households which already have solar, at the expense of those who would benefit from installing it in the future.

"The industry has identified potential savings of well over $100 million and is asking for just a fraction of this to be added to the transition package. This would minimise potential job losses and protect consumers. "There is a better way to resolve this, which costs households less but helps them more to access the benefits of solar PV. Mr Sonnreich said.

"We're very close to getting a package that the industry can support which will ease the pressure on South Australian taxpayers. But we're not there yet. "We concede the Government is making progress in its bid to support the industry, but time is almost up to get this right". The Clean Energy Council is working with the Government to ensure the industry can continue to operate in a way that is efficient and safe for consumers.

UK Met Office launch eco T-shirt range
June 2011

UK: The Met Office has teamed up with Rapanui, an eco fashion company, to create a range of weather related T shirts just in time for summer. The Met Office eco clothing collection is made from organic cotton in an ethical, wind powered factory and features a range of weather related designs inspired by the imagery, science and history of the Met Office.

Mart Drake Knight co founder of Rapanui said: "The Met Office is the international authority on climate change research, as well as being our national weather service that provides weather forecasts that we can trust and rely on".

"At Rapanui we think that it's not that people don't care about climate and the environment, it's just that they don't know where to start when it comes to organic, ethical or low carbon alternatives. Our brand is about making eco fashion cool and accessible. We were delighted when we were invited to design these Met Office t shirts. I think as well as being a nod to the Met Office's heritage and expertise, we managed to add a bit of 'Britishness' and humour to capture the spirit of 'the weather' as a subject".

The collaboration was designed to bring new audiences to the Met Office. Luke Green from the Met Office said: "Weather fascinates everybody and these t shirts provide a fun way of reaching new audiences about the work the Met Office does. The collaboration with Rapanui to design and produce these t shirts is hopefully the first step in developing new partnerships to promote our brand".

T shirts are available online via the Rapanui website.

Wednesday 29 June 2011

Spaniards want more than Moree

Summaries - Australian Financial Review
22 June 2011, Page: 50

Javier Huergo of Fotowatio Renewable Ventures, backed by General Electric and a major partner (along with BP and Pacific Hydro) in the forthcoming Moree solar power project, says his firm envisions a future firmly ensconced in Australia's power generation mix. The firm does not do "one off" projects, he says. The Moree plant was instigated by the federal government's Solar Flagship initiative. The Renewable Energy Certificate system, a mechanism for the funding of such projects, is still in the doldrums following the blowout of various state residential solar panel schemes. The Moree plans are not finalised, with FRV being advised by Investec Bank in the matter.

Fracking nightmare

Hobart Mercury
23 June 2011, Page: 20

I AM astonished that the Federal Government is classifying natural gas and "clean" coal as clean energy. That is absurd: both are carbon fuels that release CO₂ on burning. Further, clean coal has yet to be made and it uses a lot of energy in becoming so, if it ever does.

Gas opens up the nightmare of coal seam gas fracking fracturing a rock layer which destroys the water table and perfectly good farmland with it, not to mention methane release, which is worse for greenhouse than CO₂ and the health risks of the chemicals used in fracking.

The Government is heading down a nightmare scenario for all, except for the short term interests of mining companies. The Government is being disingenuous. Clean energy includes sources that leave no carbon footprint, like wind, tidal, solar and thermal. These are the way to go.

John Biggs, Sandy Bay

Govt rejects solar tariff amendment

Canberra Times
23 June 2011, Page: 6

ACT: Sustainability Minister Simon Corbell has rejected an emergency measure to save the household solar feed in tariff scheme, saying it would only offer false hope. Greens Speaker Shane Rattenbury introduced an amendment to the Government's legislation yesterday that he said would save small businesses in danger of going bankrupt over the scheme's ending. The Government abruptly ended an incentive scheme designed to encourage householders and small businesses to install rooftop solar power, and benefit the sustainable energy market.

At the time, Mr Corbell said the cap of 15 MWs had been reached far earlier than the Government had expected, but the medium scale scheme would continue. Mr Rattenbury's proposal would have rolled the household in with the existing medium scale scheme, which has not yet reached capacity. It would also mean all connections made after September 1 would be eligible for 75% of the rate, making the scheme cost neutral to Government.

Mr Rattenbury said yesterday he was in discussions with the Government and the Opposition over his proposal. But Mr Corbell rejected the Bill last night, saying it would damage the medium scale scheme designed to harness large rooftop spaces for solar power. He said he had been forced to take an estimated 6 MW of capacity from the medium scale scheme to honour existing commitments in the small scale sector.

"If we open up the medium sector, it will be fully subscribed by the end of the year, and then we'll be exactly where we are now", he said. "In simple terms, what Mr Rattenbury is offering is false hope". Mr Rattenbury said the small scale solar sector was caught by surprise by the scheme's abrupt ending.

"Everyone was bundling along, building up their skills and all of a sudden the minister's come along and said, 'It's over.' Mr Rattenbury introduced his amendment the day after about 100 protesters rallied outside the Assembly calling for respite for the industry.

David Payne, of Environmentally Friendly Products said axing the small scale scheme would devastate the industry and cost up to 200 jobs. He said the industry was not yet prepared to jump wholesale into the medium scale sector, which had different risks and demands to smaller schemes. A Liberals spokesman said the party had not decided whether to support Mr Rattenbury's proposal. "We are prepared to negotiate to assist the industry through a transition".

Tuesday 28 June 2011

Solar rethink
Thu, 23 Jun 2011

The Australian Greens and key independents Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor have supported a push to have a national approach for the solar industry, rather than piecemeal policies from the states. The Greens and the solar industry have been pushing for a 1:1 net tariff for rooftop solar, and also measures that will encourage development of commercial and large scale installations. They'd probably like to use the policies of the ACT as a template. "What we now need is,.. a one for one, so for every kW that you generate from your renewables you should get the same price as you pay for a kW you take from the system", Senator Christine Milne said. "That way we would get the industry on a long term sustainable basis".

The politicians have also questioned the Productivity Commission assessment of solar tariffs, suggesting that like the NSW government assessment of the costs of the solar bonus scheme they have have got their figures wrong by underestimating the size of the average solar system, and over estimating the ratio of power going back into the grid. Meanwhile, the two major solar peak bodies, the Australian Solar Energy Society and the Solar Energy Industries Association, are holding a "national solar summit" at NSW Parliament House on Thursday to devise a national strategy for solar policy and push their case for a 1:1 net tariff.

Grid gains
Thu, 23 Jun 2011

Australia's first community owned wind farm, the two turbine Hepburn Wind, began exporting energy to the electricity grid for the first time on Wednesday. The 4 MW wind farm, located near the town of Daylesford, was initiated and funded mostly by 1700 members of the local community, and will provide more than local needs. "This is a great achievement for the Hepburn Shire Council and community. Six years ago, our community chose to be a beneficiary of the move to clean energy", Hepburn Wind chairman, Simon Holmes a Court said.

"While the political debates about carbon pricing have bogged down, the Hepburn community has built its own wind farm, which will generate enough electricity to offset most of the town". Holmes a Court said more than 45 communities have contacted Hepburn Wind's sister organisation, Embark, about adapting the Hepburn model to create similar community projects, be it in wind, solar or bioenergy. The Hepburn wind farm last week won the Victorian Premier's sustainability award.

Premier supports wind farms

Adelaide Advertiser
23 June 2011, Page: 33

THE Government is examining options to provide certainty for new wind farms in SA after a court disallowed an application because of its impact on visual amenity. Premier Mike Rann told Parliament yesterday the Government was concerned about future wind farm investment after the recent judgment by the Environment, Resources and Development Court. The decision blocked the proposed $175 million Acciona Energy wind farm at Allendale East.

There have also been growing protests from residents in the Mid North about wind farms on the grounds of their possible health dangers. "I note that the visual impact argument was dismissed by the court in an earlier appeal of another wind farm proposal", Mr Rann said. "A large part of our success in building an international reputation for hosting wind investment has been our commitment to making the regulatory environment as certain as possible. The Government will now be considering its options for maintaining that certainty in the light of the court's decisions".

Bligh seeks to build on exemptions for coal seam sector

22 June 2011, Page: 6

QUEENSLAND is attempting to quarantine its boom coal seam gas industry from the Gillard government's carbon tax after successfully gaining an exemption from the mineral resources rent tax. The Bligh government is arguing for further protection for the $30 billion industry in a submission on the proposed carbon price to Climate Change Minister Greg Combet.

Queensland also wants an assistance package for coal fired electricity generators and compensation for households under the proposed carbon tax, which economist Ross Garnaut suggested should be priced at $26 a tonne of CO₂emissions. Its submission on the tax was prepared by Queensland Office of Climate Change assistant director general Greg Withers, husband of Premier Anna Bligh and a close friend of Mr Com bet.

Queensland Finance Minister Rachel Nolan said gas fired power was the most cost effective method of lowering greenhouse gas emissions, while the industry could bring up to $65bn in investment to the state. "We've sent a message to Canberra loud and clear that,., we'll be looking for compensation for Queensland households and compensation for Queensland industries, including our electricity generators and our LNG industry", she said.

Monday 27 June 2011

Leighton wins contract

West Australian
21 June 2011, Page: 41

A Leighton Holdings GE consortium has been awarded a $130 million contract to build the Mumbida wind farm south east of Geraldton. Subsidiary Leighton Holdings Contractors and global conglomerate GE expect the project, which they said would generate enough power for about 35,000 homes, to be completed by November next year.

Leighton Holdings said also it had appointed Craig van der Laan to the newly created positions of chief risk officer and group general counsel for the Leighton Holdings group.

Giant solar energy plants to run 100,000 homes

Sydney Morning Herald
20 June 2011, Page: 4

THE two giant new solar power plants slated for Moree in western NSW and Chinchilla in Queensland will mark the first time solar power in Australia is deployed on a scale large and reliable enough to rival coal as a source of "baseload" energy. Neither plant is close to being the world's biggest, with much more powerful solar power stations in the US and Spain already under construction, but enough power to run more than 100,000 households will be generated without the use of fossil fuels.

The NSW government agreed to chip in $120 million and the federal government $306 million towards the Moree project, which will cost an estimated $923 million to build. Building from scratch means the project, which will generate up to 150 MWs of electricity, will be much more expensive than coal, even with no fuel costs.

The private consortium building the plant is led by BP Solar, Fotowatio and Pacific Hydro. It is not clear yet whether the state or federal governments can expect a return on their investments. The state government said the Moree solar farm was expected to contribute around $210 million to the NSW economy, much of it flowing through the Moree district, and would lead to at least 300 new construction jobs. It said over the 30 years the power station was expected to operate it would displace about 10.8 million tonnes of greenhouse gas that would otherwise have been released by the burning of fossil fuels.

The project will drive regional investment, create jobs and ensure NSW is well positioned to meet its future energy targets", the Energy Minister, Chris Hartcher said. "Moree is an ideal place to host the plant, with good links to the national electricity grid and a climate that will deliver strong outputs from the plant".

The NSW plant is based on large photovoltaic cells, which are similar in some ways to rooftop solar panels. The Chinchilla plant, which is slightly larger, uses solar thermal energy concentrating the sun's rays via mirrors on to a central point to generate huge amounts of heat. solar thermal energy is seen as more likely to replace baseload coal and gas plants over the longer term.

The Australian Greens leader, Bob Brown, said pressure from his party had brought the federal government to a position where it had to help fund the projects. The NSW Greens said the state government had settled for the poorer option, when compared with the Queensland plant. "It's a tribute to the lack of interest and ability of successive NSW governments that this state ended up with lots of rooftop solar panels connected together while Queensland secured the much more exciting and innovative solar thermal power station", the Greens MP John Kaye said.

UBS looks at more WA wind farms

Summaries - Australian Financial Review
20 June 2011, Page: 17

UBS global head of infrastructure Paul Moy says that the investment bank would 'certainly look at doing more' wind farm projects in WA. Mr Moy's comment followed news that the UBS and Retail Employees Superannuation Trust's Collage farm in Western Australia's wheat belt would be finished prior to its anticipated completion date. Mr Moy added that he saw the level of debate over the carbon tax in Australia as healthy saying it was more active than in other parts of the world. Aside from its Australian investments the UBS international infrastructure fund has investments in Northern Star Generation, Saubermacher and Southern Water. Meanwhile a joint venture entered into last week by CDC and Njord Gas Infrastructure has brought a halt to the purchase of Exxon-Mobil's 8% stake in Gassfed's natural gas joint venture in Norway.

Sunday 26 June 2011

Pratt's $500m in energy plants

20 June 2011, Page: 21

THE Pratt family's $3 billion Visy paper, packaging and recycling empire will spend $500 million building a raft of clean energy plants around Australia as it ramps up plans to be a worldwide leader in generating electricity from waste. Visy executive chairman Anthony Pratt said the company planned to spend an initial $100m to build a 30 MW clean energy plant on the site of the group's Tumut pulp and paper mill in southern NSW.

"I have a dream that in the not too distant future, Visy Tumut will spend around $100m to expand our clean energy generation here and take in additional waste forest wood to generate clean renewable energy and sell it into the power grid", Mr Pratt said at the official opening of Visy's $550m expansion of the Tumut mill on Saturday by NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell.

"An additional 30 MW clean energy plant here at Tumut would be another big step along the way towards my vision of making clean energy a whole new business division for Visy", Mr Pratt said. The expansion doubles the production capacity of the Tumut mill and takes total investment in the project to almost $1bn, the biggest single investment on any one site that Visy has ever undertaken.

Mr Pratt's plans for the clean energy plant at Tumut follow his commitment four years ago to invest $US1bn in paper recycling and waste-to-energy infrastructure at a Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York. The Tumut plant will be the second such plant in Australia and the Pratt family's third in the world.

Visy is building a similar plant at its Coolaroo manufacturing and recycling plant in Melbourne. Last year, Visy's US associate, Pratt Industries, commissioned a $US60m energy plant in Georgia that converts waste from its manufacturing into gas. The next Australian clean energy plant after Tumut is expected to be at Smithfield in Sydney's west. It is expected to cost between $50m and $100m.

Visy currently generates renewable energy from waste wood and other bi products to help power the Tumut Mr Pratt said that over the past decade, 1.2 million MW of energy had been generated from renewable sources at the plant, enough to power 160,000 homes in NSW for a year. In the 2009 10 financial year, the first to incorporate the upgrade, the mill's on site renewable and cogeneration system produced 73% of total energy and 42% of power for the plant.

It also generates 190,000 to 250,000 NSW greenhouse gas abatement certificates each year through renewable energy production and energy efficient investments. "My vision for Visy Tumut is not only to keep our position as an example of world's sustainable manufacturing, but to build on it", Mr Pratt said. The mill's expansion is also expected to add an estimated 20% to Visy's total EBITDA. This year, Mr Pratt revealed he was planning to return to Australia to run Visy.

He said that after two decades in the US running Pratt Industries, he wanted to return to his homeland. He currently spends six weeks out of eight in Australia. Under the late family patriarch Richard Pratt's succession plan for Visy, his three adult children each inherited a one-third stake in the company. But Mr Pratt, who is executive chairman of Visy, has the ultimate decision making rights. His mother, Jeanne, is co chairman.

Under the succession plan, Mr Pratt also inherited ownership of Pratt Industries. His youngest sister Fiona and her partner, Raphael "While" Geminder, took control of the old Visy Packaging business now called Pact Group. Ms Geminder is also actively involved in the Visy business. Mr Pratt's elder sister Heloise and her partner, Alex Waislitz, inherited the family's investment arm, Thomey Holdings.

On site power a winner

Weekend Australian
18 June 2011, Page: 8

AUSTRALIAN cities could save up to 540 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in the next 20 years if they adopt a plan similar to the City of Sydney trigeneration plant rollout. In the European Union, cogeneration, which includes trigeneration (called polygeneration in the EU) is estimated to have delivered a 15% cut in greenhouse gas emissions between 1990 and 2005.

The Sydney City Council's trigeneration energy plan would create clusters of buildings with low carbon electricity, heating and cooling, slashing greenhouse gas emissions by 40% to 60% by 2030. The council's planned network of trigeneration plants could achieve savings by producing electricity locally, instead of importing it from the grid, of more than $200 million by 2020 and upwards of $1 billion by

"The City of Sydney is in negotiations with a number of companies to design, finance, build, operate and maintain trigeneration energy systems to supply council buildings, and the first phases of the city wide trigeneration network to supply non-council buildings", council chief development officer, energy and climate change, Allan Jones says. "The council will select a company in coming months and work could start on the project by the end of this year". Australia uses relatively few cogeneration or trigeneration technologies.

The plants accounted for 5% of Australia's total energy production in 2006 compared with 40% in The Netherlands and 55% in Denmark. Cogeneration and trigeneration technologies result in buildings functioning with more energy efficiency and lower tenant energy bills, attract higher quality tenants and ultimately add to the capital value of the property.

Mirvac, Investment Property Group and GPT Group are among the large office tower owners that are adopting the technologies. Investa's general manager for sustainability Craig Roussac says while trigeneration is efficient at generating the energy, there are challenges. "It is difficult to estimate the final energy demands as that largely depends upon your tenants", he says. "In some instances where a building isn't being used to full capacity it makes sense to partner up with someone". This is exactly what Investa did at 40 Mount St, North Sydney.

Investa installed a trigeneration plant at the Coca Cola Place building that supplies lower carbon electricity, hot water and chilled water to the building, and also exports surplus electricity via Ausgrid's electricity distribution network, so the benefits can be shared with another Investa building (Deutsche Bank Place, 126 Phillip St, Sydney). This is a first for a commercial building in Australia and paves the way for precinct based trigeneration systems that can serve multiple buildings.

"It has worked out to the benefit of both parties and it is something we will hopefully see more in the future", Roussac says. Mirvac installed a trigeneration plant in 101 Miller St, North Sydney, jointly owned by Eureka Funds Management, last year and received a five star energy rating.

"When compared [with] an average [25 star] building of the same size, the emissions savings of 101 Miller St is approximately 2300 tonnes CO₂ e per annum. This is the equivalent of removing 640 average cars from the roads for a year", Mirvac Asset Management's sustainable building operations manager Adrian Michaels says. "Trigeneration plants have many benefits, especially as the fuel source is natural gas, which is carbon efficient.

Hospital, hotels and buildings in constant use will benefit from trigeneration plants". Federal government reports have indicated that commercial buildings in Australia account for 19% of energy use and just under 10% of greenhouse gas emissions. Energy Action's head of energy efficiency and sustainability Edward Hanna says there are three key benefits to trigeneration: more energy is used on site, less is wasted, leading to lower CO₂ emissions, and there are long term operating cost savings. "More importantly, trigeneration utilises energy more efficiently than grid delivered electricity", he says.

Energy Action, an independent energy advisory company, says only 28% to 33% of electricity produced in Victoria or NSW from coal is used as energy on site. The rest is lost in generation and transmission. "If you produce energy on site using a gas engine, then straight away up to 44% of the energy utilised by the engine can be used as electricity", he says. "A lot of the energy losses from the gas engine are in the form of heat.

"If you capture the heat via a heat recovery process and use this heat, then up to 87% of the energy utilised by the engine can be used. "So electricity and heat are both utilised, hence cogeneration [or combined heat and power, CHP]. "Once you have recovered heat, then you can direct all or some of that heat through an absorption chiller and produce chilled water for cooling. "So electricity, heat, and now cooling are utilised, hence trigeneration".

Cogeneration and Trigeneration

  • Cogeneration uses natural gas powered engines to generate on site electricity.
  • The waste heat from the engine is captured to provide heating or for conversion to chilled water for cooling through an absorption chiller.
  • When an absorption chiller is used the system is often referred to as trigeneration.
  • Using gas as a fuel offers a significant reduction in CO₂ emissions compared with coal fired power generation.

Precautionary principle

17 June 2011, Page: 15

HAVING a headline about the health impacts of wind turbines is like running a story on how seat belts are causing chafed shoulders.

Electricity generated from wind reduces the need for coal fired power, and thus greatly improves public health. The burning of coal doesn't only contribute to global warming, it poisons the air with a cocktail of chemicals that can contribute to premature death. Wind may have health effects, but coal definitely does, and they are far worse.

Joel Dignam, Hampstead Gardens, SA