Carbon Conservation & Energy Efficiency


Bruce Rowse & Team

Forget the CPRS – its up to you

March 10th, 2009

This blog aims to show how acting vigorously to reduce carbon emissions is good for the environment and good for business. That it is possible to create a “win-win” with the right approach. The Emissions Trading Scheme – officially known as the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) clearly, as explained in earlier blog posts, is climate negative - its not good for the environment.  

Various blogs today responding to the release of the draft CPRS legislation by Climate Change Minister Penny Wong point out that its not just bad for the environment – it goes so far in its compensation to major emittors that its actually good for big business. refer to a study commissioned by the Australian Conservation Foundation which shows that many of the major polluters will actually benefit from the CPRS as a result of the free permits handed out. The Crikey post summarises this as follows “So let’s be clear: the the Government’s rationale for amending its already-generous ETS so that it rewarded big polluters was not to prevent the loss of jobs and emissions overseas, but to ensure the profitability of big polluters.”

Paul Gilding in the Business Spectator writes “This is as good a deal as business will get. It is easy to imagine a future government, when the icecaps have melted, the cyclones are hitting and the fires are burning, imposing a much tougher regime than the one currently on the table. The CPRS is a bad deal for the climate but it’s a great deal for business. Take it and run or you’ll rue the day you didn’t.

So lets summarise the above. The CPRS is bad for the climate, but good for big business. Its lose-win legislation – a loss for the environment and a win for those businesses that are major pollutors. In the short term anyway its a win for the major polluters, but in the long run won’t be - big business managers and shareholders won’t be immune to the effects of dangerous climate change.

Which brings me back to the argument that those of us who want to be climate positive need to be coming up with ways of reducing carbon pollution that are also great for the hip-pocket - in the short to medium term and not just in the long term. With products and services that business willingly buy because its good for the bottom line as well as being good for the environment. And that we need to be making the CPRS irrelevant – by making it so easy to be sustainable that its foolish not to. We have clarity now that the CPRS won’t cut emissions, and may actually put a floor on the amount of emissions reduction that can be achieved. Hopefully this flaw will be removed over the next few months as the legislation is debated. But we have a heck of of an innovation and entrepreneurial challenge!

And there is also a tremendous social challenge – the challenge of changing society to the point where carbon pollution becomes abhorrent and morally repugnant – for most of us.

If you care about future climate stability I’d encourage you to act as a carbon-saving innovator or entrepreneur, or to influence to create a society that is carbon-intolerant, and not put too much faith in the CPRS.

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Overnight energy audit saves $50,000

March 4th, 2009

We assume so much in life, both personally and at work. Our assumptions and reality aren’t always the same. An occasional “reality check” can be very valuable. I wonder what expensive assumptions our organisations might harbour?

One of our clients, a medium size organisation somewhere in Australia, discovered in a very easy way that they were unnecessarily using $50,000 extra electricity each year.

It only took an overnight audit to discover this fantastic wastage. It was done by their staff as participants in our Greenhouse Gossip program

Most staff would shut down their computers when leaving work. No one was there to see that many of the computers were turning themselves back on around 8pm! Really, who would expect that?

After their audit, the staff came back the next day, to speak to the staff members whose computers were on. They discussed this and discovered the problem. By speaking to staff in other buildings in their organisation, and the ICT people, they discovered it was across the organisation.

The problem is now solved and they have an additional $50,000 to use each year from that one building (plus other savings identified and implemented in the program).

This is the kind of benefit that a structured, inquiring program can deliver.

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Sunlight in a Cable

February 25th, 2009

We are all familiar with the concept of the traditional skylight or solar tube that directs sunshine through a duct or a flexible tube from the roof to a ceiling. This is an easy way to get natural daylight into a room but it is dependent on tube length and on a direct route between the roof top and the ceiling. There is another way known as ‘fiber optic solar lighting technology’.

Parans , the Swedish company behind the ‘sunlight in a cable’ concept, believes that it is possible to have sunlight in every single room of an indoor environment – even underground. The principle of the Parans’ system is simple; first the sunlight is collected by panels outdoors then it is transported through fiber optic cables into carefully designed luminaires located anywhere within a building including between floors.


The system consists of a light-collecting panel called a SkyPort that’s made up of a layer of movable and a fixed layer of lenses that track the movement of the sun through stepping motors controlled via a microcomputer. These can be mounted on a roof, facade or the ground just like other solar collecting devices; however glare shields may be used to throw direct sunlight onto its surface if the orientation is not quite perfect. The SunWire, consisting of a bunch of optical cables, then guides the sunlight indoors with minimum light loss. Very high quality light can be transported for up to 15-20 metres without major losses since the decrease of intensity for visible light is only 4.6% per metre.

The Björk luminaires are designed to give a spectacular sunlight experience both as strong light beams and as ambient light. The luminaires are made from thin sheets of semi-transparent acrylic. The feeling of natural light is immediate. The light intensity under one of these luminaires can be as high as 4000 lux when 100 000 lux outdoors (based on seven metres of fiber optic cable). UV and IR radiation are naturally blocked out by the Parans system making it the perfect solution for environments where these must be avoided. It is possible to ‘switch off‘ the system in case the darkening of a room is necessary for presentations etc.

While the Parans system works perfectly well in reasonable daylight conditions it is necessary to use artificial lighting during overcast days or when the hours of daylight diminish in winter. To counteract this there is a hybrid luminaire that incorporates T5 lighting technology, which dims automatically according to how much natural light is emitted.

However, the main focus of the system is to harness as much sunlight as possible before needing any artificial lighting thus reducing energy costs and most importantly greenhouse emissions. The only power the Parans system uses is 0.9W for the motorised panels and the microprocessor. Using the Parans lighting system can lower energy costs by 20-25% annually and probably around the same percentage of GHG emissions (based on brown coal emissions).

(Ref: and

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Cogeneration Opportunities in Leisure Centres

February 23rd, 2009

Leisure centres are notorious for their high green house gas emissions. These facilities use energy for water heating, filtration, air heating, air handling, lighting, air conditioning, and gym equipment, to name the main loads. To maintain the strict chemistry requirements of the pool water and to avoid corrosion brought about by moisture laden air, several of these systems operate 24/7.

These characteristics often make a compelling economic case for onsite power generation through cogeneration. The perfect candidate for cogeneration is a leisure centre that has an indoor all year round heated pool, with an air handling system, and a base load of above 30kW. Below this magic mark, the cost associated with installation reduces the appeal of the investment.

Most Australian leisure centres use both natural gas and electricity, supplied through utility providers. Recently we have seen a growing interest in cogeneration from leisure centres that realise large greenhouse gas savings can be achieved, with reasonable pay back periods of 5 – 10 years.

Cogeneration is the process of converting combustible fuel into electricity and usable heat. This can be done in a variety of ways depending on the requirements of the facility. A cogeneration system is made up of the following:

cogeneration schematic

Prime mover


Heat recovery system

Control system

Picture modified from

In leisure centres the most suitable style of prime mover is a gas fired micro turbine, or an internal combustion engine. To size the optimal cogeneration system a numerical model is designed which considers the sites heat and electricity load profiles, electricity and gas associated cost parameters, and the market available technologies.

In conventional power generation 35% of the combusted fuel is converted into usable electricity, while the other 65% is lost as heat. A further 5 – 10% of this electricity then disappears through transmission. By producing electricity onsite with a cogeneration plant, the heat needn’t be wasted but rather put to work in heating operations, and in some cases it can be used for cooling when coupled with an absorption Chiller. By using the waste heat, the efficiency of the system increases up to 90%, and because the power is generated on site, transmission losses are kept to a minimum.

Cogeneration’s fast pay back and large greenhouse savings, situate it as an important short to medium term technology for carbon reductions. The current drawback is that the system does rely on natural gas which is not renewable, so its long term feasibility may rely on the development of grid connected bio fuels or reliable carbon offsets.

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The ETS wipes 7 years off my life and perhaps yours too.

February 13th, 2009

Many individuals and organisations – such as CarbonetiX – are passionate about reducing carbon emissions. CarbonetiX exists to reduce carbon emissions. And we have helped our customers cut their carbon. Many individuals and organisations are similar to us. We believe that Australia and the world must make massive cuts to greenhouse gas emissions not by 2050 but NOW.

But under the Rudd government’s emissions trading scheme our passion, effort, intellect, capital, time, risk, over-time, learning, sleepless nights, stamina, ingenuity, research, education, sacrifice, persistence, investment appears as though it will come to nought. Zip. Nada. Zero.

We do a lot of work with local government. Many local governments have committed to ambitious carbon reduction targets, and some are making large investments to achieve this. There are some tremendously passionate and dedicated people in local government giving their all to this. I’m sorry to say this, but thanks to the ETS it appears as though your council’s efforts may be in vain. Given that your blood sweat and tears may make no difference how do you feel?

I’m grateful to Ian Westmore for commenting on a blog post I made earlier this week and making this clear to me.

For seven years I have slaved away under the impression that somehow my contribution was making a difference. That I, along with many others, could help Australia cut its greenhouse gas emissions significantly. Not by a paltry 5% by 2020.

Three or four years ago now I was very disappointed when the Victorian government extended the life of the Hazelwood Power Station – Australia’s most carbon inefficient major power generator, which produces between 12 to 15 million tonnes of greenhouse gas a year. That’s an awful lot of carbon. I had done quite a lot of work for the Sustainable Energy Authority Victoria (SEAV) on more efficient street lighting. It was great to be able to show how a well designed T5 fluorescent street light was viable as a substitute for a “flower pot” mercury vapour street light – yet only used one third the power. These T5s are now starting to be rolled out as mercury vapour replacements. But I remember feeling how all that effort – and in fact how the entire budget of the SEAV – was effectively futile if the same government had extended Hazelwood.

And now the ETS has come along. And in effect the way the ETS is designed its unlikely that anything more than a 5% carbon reduction on 2000 levels will be achieved. In effect any electricity voluntarily saved by anyone becomes tradeable by the nations power generators, which are part of the ETS. The electricity I help my customers save through energy efficiency and energy conservation, the electricity you might save by putting solar panels on your roof – this all translates into carbon savings at the point of generation – the power stations of the nation. The power stations – which are the nations largest carbon polluters – can then sell that carbon saved to other major industries under the carbon trading scheme, who may then chose to increase their emissions.

Ian Westmore has explained this in his comments on my blog post of 10 February, and Richard Denniss of the Australia Institute also provides an excellent explanation on the Inside Story blog. This explains it much better than I have. 

Right now I am in shock, and am still struggling to understand the immediate consequences of this to my customers, my business, my children and the last seven years of my life.

In effect the ETS is throwing down the gauntlet to anyone wanting to save the planet. Its saying “We, the government of Australia don’t believe Australia should cut its emissions by more than 5%. We dare you to try to achieve a bigger cut than this.”

Given the disincentive of the ETS, there are only two ways that I can see Australia achieving significant greenhouse gas savings. Both of them should be pursued.

  1. It becomes accepted across Australia by the vast majority of individuals that producing carbon is morally repugnant. That the stigma associated with carbon pollution is such that the major polluters voluntarily aim to achieve large cuts, and do not take advantage of the ETS. 
  2. We use our ingenuity and brains to come up with highly cost effective ways of saving energy, producing carbon-free energy, and marketing these solutions. Good looking technologies that are so cost effective that it’s a no-brainer not to install them. That its financially stupid not to use them. That are cool. A light bulb that uses half the power of a compact fluorescent light bulb, lasts twice as long, and costs as much as an incandescent. A solar system that costs $500 installed and powers your whole house. Electricity storage systems that are cheap. Electric cars, trucks and buses using all that cheap solar power that cost less to buy than petrol, diesel or LPG vehicles and much less to run. Building retrofits that take less than two years to pay off and halve power use.

There may be a third way that should also be pursued. I understand that the proposed ETS legislation has yet to go through parliament. This legislation should be amended so that it doesn’t limit our carbon savings to 5%. Lobby for this change.

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