Carbon Conservation & Energy Efficiency


Bruce Rowse & Team

Archive for October, 2010

The Victorian Climate Change White Paper Implementation Plan

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

The Victorian State Government’s Climate Change White Paper – Implementation Plan, shows determination to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, with the aim of lowering emissions by 20% compared with 2000 levels, whether or not there is global agreement on greenhouse gas abatement targets.  Around the world other states and countries have also set abatement targets. California has set a target of returning to 1990 emissions by 2020. And the UK aims to reduce emissions by 34% relative to 1990 levels.

In the White Paper 10 action areas for achieving this target are mapped out, which are:

  1. Climate change legislation to cut greenhouse pollution by 20% – The Climate Change Act, which passed state parliament in September .
  2. Moving towards a cleaner energy mix. This includes the prohibition of the construction of brown coal power stations, and also a commitment for emissions from existing brown coal powered stations to be reduced.
  3. Investment in renewable and clean energy in Australia. It has the vision of making Australia the “solar state” with 5% of our power to come from solar energy by 2020, and of bringing in a large scale solar feed in tariff. In 2010 93% of Victoria’s power comes from brown coal, by 2020 the aim is that this will be reduced to 60%, with the rest coming from wind (20%), natural gas (15%) and solar (5%).
  4. Support cleaner and more efficient homes. This will be achieved via expansion of the VEET (Victorian Energy Efficiency Taskforce) scheme and by requiring all homes to be 5 star by 2020.
  5. Positioning Victoria to be a global clean tech leader by 2015. This sees leadership in the area of carbon finance and in helping business reduce its carbon emissions. It doesn’t have any particular focus on a specific area (eg energy efficient buildings in a temperate climate). It sees skills developing in the areas of low energy homes
  6. Creating new opportunities in agriculture, food and forestry, with a focus on carbon offsets, lower carbon agricultural practices and soil carbon sequestration. A Victorian carbon exchange will be developed whereby these offsets can be voluntarily purchased.
  7. Delivering innovative transport solutions. This has a focus towards moving the transport of people and freight from motor vehicles to public transport and rail, and supporting vehicle technology with lower emissions.
  8. Greening government. This has a focus on increasing greenpower purchases, reducing energy use in buildings through an energy performance contract model and installing cogeneration systems in hospitals. It also provides support to local government
  9. Helping Victorians adapt to climate change, particularly in adapting to the effects of heat, floods and drought, and also in researching and understanding better the long term impacts of climate change, in particular along the coastline.
  10. Strengthening “Climate Communities.” This provides grants to community groups through the Climate Communities program. The AuSSI Vic Resource Smart Schools program will also be extended to all government schools.

Access the Whitepaper at

Government funding for “disruptive and innovative” energy efficiency

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

The US government has set up a special agency within the Department of Energy called the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) to promote “Disruptive and Innovative Approaches” to clean technology.  ARPA has the following objectives (from the ARPA website):

  1. To bring a freshness, excitement, and sense of mission to energy research that will attract many of the U.S.’s best and brightest minds—those of experienced scientists and engineers, and, especially, those of students and young researchers, including persons in the entrepreneurial world;
  2. To focus on creative “out-of-the-box” transformational energy research that industry by itself cannot or will not support due to its high risk but where success would provide dramatic benefits for the nation;
  3. To utilize an ARPA-like organization that is flat, nimble, and sparse, capable of sustaining for long periods of time those projects whose promise remains real, while phasing out programs that do not prove to be as promising as anticipated; and
  4. To create a new tool to bridge the gap between basic energy research and development/industrial innovation.

ARPA is currently supporting R&D in the following areas:

  • Better batteries
  • Technologies the reduce carbon emissions in coal powered power stations
  • Grid scale energy storage
  • Material advances in magnetic, high voltage switching and charge storage.
  • Electrofuels – microorganisms to harness energy and convert carbon dioxide into liquid fuels
  • Energy efficient building cooling technologies

This is an exciting program, and I particularly like the focus on breakthrough technologies. For example one of the energy efficiency cooling technology projects ARPA is supporting is thermoelastic cooling. This is a space cooling system that could have a a COP (coefficient of performance) up to 175% better than current vapour compression refrigerant systems.

It would be great to have a program similar to ARPA here in Australia.

Wanted – A Leader To Develop Australia’s First Retrofitted Zero Net Energy Building

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

A zero net energy building is one that produces as much energy as it uses. Yet, to my knowledge, there is not one commercial building in Australia that has been converted to zero net energy use. Its challenging, but not impossible. I’m looking for someone who wants to take up the challenge with us and demonstrate leadership in what can be done with existing buildings.

The imperative for buildings with zero net carbon emissions exists in climate change. It is not practical to tear down all our existing buildings and replace them with new zero net energy buildings. Additionally, the embodied carbon in new buildings is high. There is a strong rationale for taking existing buildings and turning them into buildings that have zero net carbon emissions in their operation. Yet, while I believe this is achievable in many climates (such as Melbourne) with current technology, we are not yet doing it. So I’m looking for someone who wants to demonstrate leadership and start blazing the trail for other building owners to follow.

Globally there is growing support for Zero Net Energy Buildings, and a number of such buildings already exist. The Department of Energy in the US launched it Zero-Net Energy Commercial Building Initiative two years ago in August 2008. It aims to have such buildings marketable by 2025. It  hosts a database ( that features eight buildings that have already achieved this status, ranging in size from 1,530 to 13,600 square meters. One of these is the IDeAs Z Squared Design Facility, a 1960 two storey office in San Jose California that was transformed into a zero net energy building in 2007.

Another example is the Zero Energy Office in Malaysia, built in 2008 and owned by PMT. This building achieves zero net energy in a challenging climate. Singapore also has a 4,500 m2 zero energy building, which was a retrofit, at an academic campus.

We have helped several of our clients achieve energy savings of 50% or close to 50%. I’m itching for the opportunity to go all the way and get a year round 100% reduction in energy imported from the grid, whilst delivering a workplace that is comfortable and healthy. This is extremely challenging, as energy use needs to be reduced to around 30kWh/m2/year for a single storey building – and even less than this for multi-storey – and then the roof covered with solar panels to generate all the energy the building uses year round. But I’m confident it can be achieved. In our existing leased premises we are using just over 30 kWh/m2/year. I know it’s possible to get energy use this low on the top storey of a building (which we are) or in a single storey building. A relatively narrow multi storey building, would also be suitable, but even more challenging.

And the economics? I think that zero net energy use could be achieved at little extra cost with an existing building that was in poor condition and due for a major refurbishment, including a complete changeover of the existing HVAC system.  It won’t be cheap, as zero net energy in Melbourne means a building that is very well insulated and sealed, has a good amount of thermal mass, and has good control over how the sun gets into the building. But if the building is in a bad state anyway, a fair bit of money will need to be spent in any case. The aim would be that anything extra spent on the refurbishment to achieve zero net energy would pay for itself in less than ten years in the energy savings.

Prerequisites are:

  • Single storey, or reasonably narrow multi-storey building no more than 4 storeys high.
  • Building must be a commercial building – for example, an office, library, etc – cannot be residential or industrial.
  • At least 1,000m2, but preferably in the range of 2,000 to 5,000m2 in area.
  • Building must be structurally sound.
  • Owner who:
    • Wants to have the first, or one of the first, existing commercial buildings in Australia to be retrofitted for zero net energy,
    • Is willing to really engage actively in the process,
    • Wants to stand up, be seen as a leader, and promote the concept of zero net energy building refurbishments.
    • Is ready to start now.

Please get in touch with me if you own such a building and are interested, or know of someone who is, or, if you are an investor and are willing to buy an existing building and turn it into a showcase.

Bruce Rowse

A revolution in energy efficient commuting – 20 km/hr for just 35 watts!

Friday, October 15th, 2010
shweeb monorail bicycle

shweeb monorail bicycle

Shweeb, a NZ company, has come up with a fantastic low energy commuting concept that could transform our city scapes. Its based on a monorail concept under which an enclosed recumbent bicycle operates. The aerodynamic fairing reduces wind resistance, and as the rollers are steel on steel (a bit lot a railway) rolling resistance is very low. Its absolutely brilliant!

Check out the shweeb website:

If you are a cyclist  you’ll really appreciate the following elements of the shweeb concept:

  • Its more efficient than a bicycle. Being able to travel at 20 km/hr whilst only producing 35 watts of power is very efficient.
  • Its comfortable (recumbent’s are much more comfortable that normal bikes)
  • You don’t get a sweaty back when carrying a back pack
  • You stay dry
  • You are out of traffic

Will the shweeb concept take off? Whilst the advantages are considerable, it does require a significant investment in infrastructure. As the shweeb network requires staffing, there will also be ongoing operational costs. Its best initial application is for high density areas with lots of commuters travelling the same route every day and poor existing public transport.

If you are in a government (local, state or federal), in a high density area with a lot of commuters and poor public transport consider the shweeb concept!

Raising the profile of energy efficiency

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

Last week  I attended the All Energy conference in Melbourne. Running over 2 days, with over 30 conference sessions, just one was dedicated to energy efficiency.  Rob Murray Leach, head of the Energy Efficiency Council who chaired the session, kicked it off by saying that this was the most important session of the conference, as 65% of the world’s carbon reduction by 2020 to come from energy efficiency according to the International Energy Agency.

But is energy efficiency getting 65% of the press coverage, is it 65% of the conversation around 2020 carbon abatement targets? Clearly it isn’t.

There is a massive vacuum when it comes to awareness and understanding of the most cost effective way by far of reducing carbon emissions – energy efficiency. Have a conversation about reducing your carbon footprint, and the first thing to come up will be solar panels, not building controls.

Yet from an economic perspective energy efficiency is extraordinarily interesting in comparison with solar. At commercial electricity tariffs, without subsidies, even the cheapest solar PV system has a payback of over 25 years.

Cover the entire roof of a typical two or three storey office building with solar panels and you’ll reduce electricity usage at the site by around 15%, whilst spending about four times your annual electricity costs to buy the solar system. Yet energy efficiency could probably deliver that same 15% saving with a 2 to 3 year return on investment.

So why isn’t energy efficiency getting the attention it deserves?

As an industry we haven’t been effective in promoting energy efficiency. The recently formed Energy Efficiency Council, of which CarbonetiX is a member, is now taking up this challenge, but there is a long way to go.
Energy efficiency is not visible. The results of changes to the lights and the way the air conditioning is controlled are only visible to the person paying the much lower energy bills, and the person who championed the changes. Solar panels are visible to everyone.

The invisibility of energy efficiency is compounded by the fact that the good news stories aren’t told. They may not even be told to people in the building where the savings have been achieved, let alone to the wider public.
And energy efficiency, whilst it gets good savings, is not that easy to do, but there is a perception that it is easy. So organisations may undertake a DIY approach, with no training and no experience, and not achieve any noticeable savings. A classic DIY approach would be to spend $2,000 to get occupancy sensors fitted to control the lights in the toilets – I’m sorry but the savings from this simply won’t show up in your energy bills.

The problem arising from failed DIY efforts is that this then creates the perception that energy efficiency doesn’t work. And nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, energy efficiency does work, but you need to know what you are doing. Businesses don’t get the receptionist to do their tax return. A qualified, experienced accountant who  is normally contracted to do so. But when it comes to saving energy, all too often its assumed that an environmental officer or a facility maintenance officer can effectively do energy efficiency.

So, to raise the profile of energy efficiency, celebrate and promote the savings you achieve. Put up a plaque above reception showing how much you have saved, or a graph of how your energy use has gone down. Get a high NABERS rating and put the certificate in reception as well. Talk about what was done to use the savings. Get a case study done and circulate it amongst your staff. Then send the case study off to your local paper and get them to do a profile on what you have achieved.

And to get those savings, to make energy efficiency really work for you, get expert advice and guidance.