Top 10 technologies to double energy efficiency, deliver zero emissions

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Australian study says ‘energy system renewal’ could double nation’s ‘energy productivity’ and slash emissions. These are the technologies to get us there.

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A newly published report from ClimateWorks has found that by investing in a “renewal” of the nation’s energy system, Australia could not only double its energy productivity by 2030, but get on an “achievable pathway” to zero net emissions by 2050.

According to the report, Australia’s Energy Productivity Potential, this 97 per cent improvement in energy economics would be achieved “without major structural change to the economy and using technologies that are already available or in development in the areas of energy conversion, energy efficiency and electrification.”

So what are these technologies? And how are they being used in Australia?

As part of its report, ClimateWorks lists ten of the top clean technologies it believes would put Australia on target for zero net emissions while significantly boosting energy productivity.

Some were included in the modelling for the study, others were not, depending on the level of development and commercialisation, the report says.

Taken from the report, the following is a summary of these technologies, and some Australian examples of what they can – and already do – achieve:

1. Data collection and analysis: Enables companies to better understand where energy is being used, and identify opportunities for improvement.

By way of example, the report points to the Murray Goulburn Cooperative, which used an energy monitoring system to identify projects estimated to save over $400,000 a year. Two of these projects required operational changes only, and no capital expenditure, says the report.

2. Improved controls and automated systems: Technologies and software that allow equipment to run faster or slower depending on the demand; remote control and automation of equipment, improving accuracy, efficiency and removing human error.

The successful use of centrally controlled autonomous vehicles (on private roads) by mining companies is one example. According to the report, Rio Tinto has hauled more than 200 million tonnes of material with its fleet of 54 AVs.

3. Advanced manufacturing: As is true of any industry, the report notes that “the use of new materials and manufacturing techniques could offer breakthroughs in production that could significantly reduce the inputs of energy and materials required for production and transportation of goods and provision of services, while driving innovation.”

ClimateWorks points to 3D printing as an example, but in the solar industry, the huge improvements in manufacturing techniques of PV panels is another illustration of the impact this can have on end costs and efficiencies.

4. Heat Pumps or ‘geoexchange’ technologies: These clever technologies can drastically reduce the amounts of energy required for heating and cooling by drawing heat or cold from outside or underground and pumping it into the conditioned environment.

The report cites the January 2014 installation of a ‘geoexchange’ system on an ageing property owned by the Tumut Shire Council in NSW, which has delivered energy savings of 66 per cent and cost savings of over $215,000 per year, as well as noticeable improvements in the building’s comfort levels.

5. Innovative building design: As was noted in a recent Rocky Mountain Institute blog, buildings consume an estimated 40 per cent of total global energy (along with 25 percent of water, and 40 percent of other resources), so present great opportunities in energy and emissions reduction.

In hotels, the introduction key-card-based energy management systems – where guests must insert their key card to activate the room’s electricity – achieved reported 20- to 30-per cent reductions in guest room electricity consumption, according to the research group Hotel Energy Solutions.

On a residential level, the goal is to build 10-star homes, which have almost no need to use enpenolahouseergy to maintain comfortable temperatures and air flow throughout the year. In Australia, homes built just over a decade ago averaged a 1 star energy rating. In 2012, according to the federal  the NAThers Scale, the average home was being built at 6 stars. So there’s still quite a bit of room for improvement.

In 2012, a new-build home in the Victorian suburb of Preston achieved a a 9.1 star energy rating using current technologies, clever design and modern materials. As we noted back in 2012, a 9-star home uses 80 per cent less energy to heat and cool than a 6-star house, and one-tenth of the energy of average existing housing stock from that year.

6. LED lighting: There is no excuse, these days, for households, businesses and the public service not to make the switch to LED lights, which use almost 80 per cent less energy than halogen globes and 25 per cent less than CFLs. What is more,  their price has dropped by almost 90 per cent over the past decade while light output has increased almost five-fold.

The report notes the example of the City of Sydney, which recently announced that it had saved $370,000 and cut energy use by 34 per cent, just by installing 4,100 LED street lights. In Victoria, the City of Warrnambool won CEFC funding towards switching around 2000 mercury vapour street lamps to LEDs, a move that was expected to slash its street lighting costs by almost 70 per cent.

7. Electric vehicles: Australia remains well behind most of the rest of the developed world on EV uptake, despite the fact that hybrid EVs are up to 65 per cent more fuel efficient than traditional petrol fuelled vehicles, while pure EVs use about four times less energy than a new internal combustion engine car today.

Of course, they remain more expensive than conventional cars, but while the cleantech world works on improving the economics, many governments have chosen bridge the gap with subsidies and incentives. A lack of supporting infrastructure is also a barrier to uptake in Australia, although efforts from Australia’s Tritium and US EV maker Tesla are working to address this problem.

8. Electric appliances: In this case, ClimateWorks is talking about technologies that replace non-electric appliances in the home with electric alternatives, such as electric induction cooktops – which deliver the same energy output as gas burners, with about half of the energy input – and high efficiency electric water heaters.

9. Solar technologies: As we well know, global production of solar PV has boomed, increassolarpanelunswing 30 per cent a year over the last 30 years and prices falling by around 10 per cent a year. New technologies are constantly under investigation to further increase efficiency, decrease costs and and find new applications.

As the report notes, Australia’s University of New South Wales has a proud history in the development of solar PV and improvements in efficiency. In December 2014, UNSW scientists converted a record 40.1 per cent of the sun’s energy into electricity via an innovative take on Australian solar tower technology. Australian listed company Dyesol, meanwhile, is a leader in building integrated solar technology.

10. Storage technologies: Described as the missing link for mass uptake of renewable energy in a recent Deutsche Bank report, energy storage is a range of technologies that offer huge potential for energy productivity. Batteries have the potential to take households and businesses off the grid, and to smooth grid supply – and reduce infrastructure costs – as more and more renewable capacity is added. Still cost prohibitive, ClimateWorks notes the cost of battery technologies is expected to halve by 2050 – although according to Deutsche, it will come to the point of mass adoption before 2020, with incremental prices as low as 2c/kWh.

In Australia, battery developer Redflow made its first Australian sale of a commercial large-scale energy storage system to the company’s director Simon Hackett, who will install it in a renovated office complex in Adelaide as part of longer term plans to take the office off-grid.

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9 Comments
  1. Raahul Kumar 4 years ago

    I wish the Beyond Zero Emissions people and ClimateWorks could get together, it seems there is room to fine tune the proposals in the BZE plan to work better.

    • Alastair Leith 4 years ago

      You might want to ask the Climate Works staff why they promote gas as a clean, climate saving technology. (BZE developed a No Gas position for Launch of it’s ZCA Buildings Plan for a raft of good reasons). And a whole bunch of other questions. Which Zero Carbon Australia Plan are you talking about anyhow, the ZCA Buildings Plan?

      • Raahul Kumar 4 years ago

        Strong agreement that gas is toxic, but I’m not saying all of their ideas are good.

        However, 3 of their points could be integrated into the BZE plans:

        1. Data collection and analysis: Enables companies to better understand where energy is being used, and identify opportunities for improvement.

        2. Improved controls and automated systems:
        Technologies and software that allow equipment to run faster or slower depending on the demand; remote control and automation of equipment, improving accuracy, efficiency and removing human error.

        3. Advanced manufacturing: As is true of any industry, the report notes that “the use of new materials and manufacturing techniques could offer breakthroughs in production that could significantly reduce the inputs of energy and materials required for production and transportation of goods and provision of services, while driving innovation.”

        In particular, self driving cars should find a mention in their transit plan. This reports implications cut across all the BZE plans, and they could probably be revised incorporating these technical advances, which should probably cut costs.

        • wideEyedPupil 4 years ago

          hey Raahul, have you actually read the buildings plan? I guess not its a free download you know. bze.org.au/buildings

          when I go to a seminar and see climate works on a panel with an origin energy rep talking about the wonders of gas expansion in QLD to offset peak load electricty demand it kinda makes me want to head plant desk but there was no desk available. I asked questions afterwards in private about fugitive emissions, CSG expansion and redundant infrastructure spending and got blank stares. I don’t think BZE and the engineers who collaborated on the Buildings Plan need to be taking pointers from Climateworks. That’s my personal view nothing to do with BzE.

          • Raahul Kumar 4 years ago

            The United Nations also suggested the optional use of carbon sequestration in their decarbonization plans. Combining Climate Work’s efforts on energy efficiency with BZE’s plans would help fill some big gaps in both.

            Brave New Climate’s biggest criticism of the BZE plan which is here

            “They assume we will be using less than half the energy by 2020 than we do today without any damage to the economy. This flies in the face of 200 years of history.”

            http://bravenewclimate.com/2010/08/12/zca2020-critique/

            Climate works shows how to address that problem

            “New analysis by ClimateWorks shows that Australia
            has the potential to nearly double primary energy
            productivity by 2030 by investing in the modernisation of its energy system (see Exhibit 1). This investment – which is achievable using technologies that are available or under development today – would help Australia to generate almost twice as much output (in dollars of GDP) from every unit of energy in 2030 compared to today”

            That’s 10 years later than BZE thinks is possible, but BZE’s plan was always very aggressive on the timetable.The plan should be revamped taking into consideration modern technology, which Climate Works did.

          • wideEyedPupil 4 years ago

            I ask you again Raahul have you actually read the ZCA Buildings Plans? Many of the efficiency technologies you talk about have been discussed and recommendations are in the plan for usage of this technology in presence to that (for eg heat pumps over solar water heating).

            Of course the ZCA Stationary Energy Plan is dated. But still
            relevant in terms of it being the first proposed soliton for 100% RE to decarbonisation of the SE sector. This is a fast moving industry all of a sudden and the assumptions about efficiencies to be found on buildings sector for example was overshot by double once work
            on the buildings plan was completed. also buildings plan would benefit from more utility scale PV coupled with CST and storage now PV has sailed so far down the cost curve and shows no sign of slowing down.

            I can assure you the BZE contributing engineers don’t need to take pointers from a counsultancy that greenwashes fossil
            fuels like Climateworks has
            done in the past. If you ask around the leading energy consultancies in Melbourne you can canvas opinion about the vale of their contribution for yourself. As it’s not my profession I won’t say any more than that.

            Transport, Industrial Processes and export plans still being worked on obviously which goes to so of your other

  2. john 4 years ago

    As we are seeing month by month the cost of implementing RE is going down.
    The benefits are not questioned on any level.
    Energy efficiency is one we really have to move on; just look at your local council are they using led lights for all those street lights and traffic lights and their own buildings are they supplying power for the buildings for that matter?
    I bet they are not, because we have 60 year old blokes, who think power comes our of the wires and have zero idea about the savings they could make.
    Are they going do anything NO because we have a mob of people with zero idea and zero attitude to actually look.
    Good luck with your local council they are myopic and inept at best.
    Yes a few are doing some work but the minority by a long stretch.

  3. Smurf1976 4 years ago

    Not my actual local council, but the one nearby where I used to live has just installed a massive solar PV system on the roof of their office building. The council and the town itself have come a long way it seems, growing up there as a child there was still a dirt road just one block from the main street and the council office was basically an asbestos clad box with a few windows. All replaced and much more modern now, and yes they have sealed that road and all the others too. Not all councils are backward it seems. Closer to home, at least where I live we do get a monthly green waste collection – and yes it gets recycled as mulch etc.

  4. Rob 4 years ago

    This is a great list. Our governments ( federal, state and local ) could be assisting households and businesses to adopt all, or some of these measures, but seem to be ignoring/avoiding this opportunity for some reason ( except for some notable exceptions ). If businesses and households are spending less on energy they would have more disposable income to spend in other parts of the economy.

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