Carbon Conservation & Energy Efficiency


Bruce Rowse & Team

Forecast energy use in Australia to 2030 indicates that greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels will continue to increase.

April 27th, 2010

Last month ABARE, the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics released its Australian energy projections to 2029-30.

The blow dried picture of a wind turbine on the front page is unfortunately very misleading.

The projections take into account the likely effects of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (if it ever comes in), the Renewable Energy Target, and other measures designed to reduce Australia’s carbon footprint.

ABARE predicts that the amount of electricity generated in Australia will increase by nearly 50% on 2007-08 values, or a growth rate of 1.8 percent per year. That’s only just below our projected population growth rate of 2.1%.

Total energy consumption is projected to grow 35% (1.4% a year). Its expected that in 2029-30 coal and oil will still be supplying the bulk of Australia’s energy needs. Renewable energy is expected to supply just 8% of total energy in 2029-30.

Assuming that the emissions factors for coal, oil and natural gas are similar to what they are today (for example that 1 GJ of black coal still produces around 88.43 kg of GHG when combusted), a quick calculation shows that Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions from the use of fossil fuels are likely to be 21% higher in 2029-30 than they were in 2007-08.

The table below shows the maths, using the data in the ABARE report and emissions factors from the Department of Climate Change website.

Fossil fuel 2007-08 Consumption (PJ) 2029-30 Consumption (PJ) Emissions factor (kg CO2-e/GJ) 2007-08 GHG (Mt CO2-e) 2029-30 GHG (Mt CO2-e)












Oil (assumed to be crude oil)






Gas (assumed to be unprocessed natural gas)






TOTAL       398 483

I find this data deeply disturbing – it appears as though emissions from fossil fuels will increase from 398 million tonnes to 483 million tonnes. Climate change scientists say we need to reduce emissions. Yet Australia’s emissions from the use of fossil fuels appear to be set to increase, with measures such as the CPRS appearing tokenistic.

Which begs the questions, if the CPRS is supposed to reduce emissions by 5% by 2020, how come my calculations show that our emissions from the use of fossil fuels will be higher in 2030? Or is it expected that the emissions factors will lower for coal (for example via “clean coal” technologies)? Or will the emissions reduction come from international carbon trading? As a developed country with one of the highest per capita emissions in the world is this really the best we can do?

Energy conservation (choosing to waste less energy) and energy efficiency (using less energy to achieve the same outcome) have the potential to decrease our energy use if widely uptaken. The climate change science demands a step change in our ability to save energy if we are to avoid ABARE’s disturbing projections.

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City Switch program launches the City Switch Workbook – showing tenants easy ways to save energy

April 20th, 2010

This morning the City of Melbourne, City of Port Philip and Sustainability Victoria launched the City Switch Workbook. This workbook shows tenants 9 easy steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

delamping demonstration

delamping demonstration

Brett Muncton (City of Melbourne) and Jake Hallas (Sustainability Victoria) gave a entertaining demonstration of how the workbook can be used. The photos above and below show them demonstrating delamping (step two in the workbook) and setting up power saving settings on a PC (step six).

setting computer power management settings

setting computer power management settings

Written by CarbonetiX, the workbook is based on our successful Greenhouse Gossip program, which was launched in 2008. City Switch signatories in the City of Melbourne and City of Port Philip will also be offered a structured mentoring process, aka the Greenhouse Gossip program.

Presentations by Gadens Lawyers, Telstra and Toyota at the launch showed how its possible to achieve significant energy savings in tenancies. In the case of Gadens Lawyers, a 22% saving was achieved over 12 months at no cost. This was achieved by improving switch off practices, step one of the City Switch Workbook.

city switch work book

city switch work book

Details of the City Switch program can be found here. If you aren’t a tenant in one of the City Switch cities and want to participate in a structured mentored program to achieve guaranteed energy savings please inquire about our Greenhouse Gossip program. Its also suited to those who own their own office building in addition to tenants.

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The importance of correct commissioning in Buildings

April 19th, 2010

Commissioning is a quality-assurance process designed to increase the likelihood that a newly constructed building will meet client expectations. Commissioning stretches over the entire design and construction process. It should ideally begin at the design phase, with selection of a commissioning provider who helps ensure that the building owners and designers’ intent is written into the project documentation.

The design and construction of ‘green’ buildings pose problems similar to those found in conventional building design. This compromises the intent of the design to achieve a high level of energy efficiency in its function. A good sustainable design will include systems that are “right-sized” (rather than the typically oversized mechanical systems) for the building. Over sizing equipment has become a standard design practice, because—due to design, installation, and/or operation errors, systems rarely function at their intended capacity. These errors occur because of the fragmentation between design, construction and operation, resulting from a general lack of a systems approach in the building process. Commissioning can facilitate improved integration and communication between these phases and can also ensure that right-sized systems function as intended and as specified.

If a building is not properly commissioned, it will not perform according to its design intent and will therefore have a poor energy rating. A common reason for inadequate commissioning is the tendency for projects to go over time and budget and for the contractors to drastically pull back on resources to get started on new projects. For this reason, it is widely recognised that engagement in independent commissioning is best practice, as it is carried out objectively without any conflict of interest.

The cutting of costs and resources at the initial commissioning stage will end up costing the facility more money in the long run, as extensive maintenance issues will ensue. Also, the cost of retrofitting is always more financially intensive than implementation as part of the original build.

In conclusion, it is recommended to allow sufficient investment capital to employ independent commissioning at the construction stage, as it will save countless amounts of energy, money and time overall.

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Halve the energy use of your LCD monitor

April 15th, 2010

Computing equipment continues to get more efficient, and with LED monitors now available at good prices, there is even more opportunity to save energy.

Good power saving settings should be a given for any computer installation. However as you upgrade your computers there are now many ways to save energy. You can switch to laptops or thin client computers. And a new way is to make sure that your next monitor is backlit with LED lighting.

LCD monitors usually have two cold-cathode fluorescent lights in them, one either side of the screen. These are behind the LCD display, and “back light” the screen to make what is on the screen visible. However monitors are now starting to be readily available on the market that use LEDs for backlighting. As LED lighting is very thin, this can enable more effective positioning of the back lighting – for example a grid of LED lights behind the screen.  The higher lamp efficiency of LED lighting as compared to cold-cathode, combined with more effective positioning equals energy savings.

LCD monitor power use - CCD vs LED

LCD monitor power use - CCD vs LED

For energy efficiency reasons we only run laptops in our office. However we also operate a second screen on each laptop, to improve productivity. We recently purchased a 24” monitor with LED backlighting, and compared with our other 24” monitors this one uses much less – 21 watts vs 39 watts – almost half the energy use.

A monitor with LED backlighting only costs slightly more than a conventional LCD monitor. In our case we paid only around $30 more, and will be saving around $7 a year in energy costs. If we were buying black power, we would also be saving around 46 kg of greenhouse gas annually, equivalent to 900 black balloons.

The payback on the extra money spent on a LED monitor whilst not bad isn’t good either, however for the sake of only $30 I reckon its worth it for the greenhouse savings. And the cost differential will keep on lowering. Additional advantages are a screen with sharper contrast, a slimmer screen, and a product that is easier to recycle as it doesn’t contain cold cathode tubes that contain mercury.

Also LED backlit monitors are not hard to find. Its likely that your computer supplier has one anyway. We purchase all our computers from a shop in down town Frankston, less than one kilometer from our office, and that’s where we got our LED monitor from.

In an earlier blog post I discussed the technical innovation that should make it possible to have a net zero energy building by 2020. This is one of the many innovations that are making that possible.

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Research on Behaviour, Ethics and Climate Change

April 7th, 2010

This is an article “We Cannot Fight Climate With Consumerism” by George Monbiot from his ZSpace Page, Monday, November 09, 2009

It outlines and gives examples of the ‘licensing effect’: Researchers have found that buying green can establish the moral credentials that license subsequent bad behaviour.

“How many times have you heard the argument that small green actions lead to bigger ones?”

“I’ve heard it hundreds of times: habits that might scarcely register in their own right are still useful because they encourage people to think of themselves as green, and therefore to move on to tougher actions.”

“A green energy expert once tried to convince me that even though rooftop micro wind turbines are useless or worse than useless in most situations, they’re still worth promoting because they encourage people to think about their emissions. It’s a bit like the argument used by anti-drugs campaigners: the soft stuff leads to the hard stuff.”

“I’ve never been convinced by this argument. In my experience, people use the soft stuff to justify their failure to engage with the hard stuff. Challenge someone about taking holiday flights six times a year and there’s a pretty good chance that they’ll say something along these lines:
I recycle everything and I re-use my plastic bags, so I’m really quite green.”

“A couple of years ago a friend showed me a cutting from a local newspaper: it reported that a couple had earned so many vouchers from recycling at Tesco that they were able to fly to the Caribbean for a holiday.”

“The greenhouse gases caused by these flights outweigh any likely savings from recycling hundreds or thousands of times over, but the small actions allow people to overlook the big ones and still believe that they are environmentally responsible.”

“Being a cynical old git, I have always been deeply suspicious of the grand claims made for consumer democracy: that we can change the world by changing our buying habits. There are several problems with this approach:

• In a consumer democracy, some people have more votes than others, and those with the most votes are the least inclined to change a system that has served them so well.

• A change in consumption habits is seldom effective unless it is backed up by government action. You can give up your car for a bicycle – and fair play to you – but unless the government is simultaneously reducing the available road space, the place you’ve vacated will just be taken by someone who drives a less efficient car than you would have driven (traffic expands to fill the available road-space). Our power comes from acting as citizens – demanding political change – not acting as consumers.

• We are very good at deceiving ourselves about our impacts. We remember the good things we do and forget the bad ones.”

“I’m not saying that you shouldn’t always try to purchase the product with the smallest impact: you should. Nor am I suggesting that all ethical consumption is useless. Fairtrade products make a real difference to the lives of the producers who sell them; properly verified goods – like wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council or fish approved by the Marine Stewardship Council – are likely to cause much less damage than the alternatives. But these small decisions allow us to believe that our overall performance is better than it really is.”

“So I wasn’t surprised to see a report in Nature this week suggesting that buying green products can make you behave more selfishly than you would otherwise have done. Psychologists at the University of Toronto subjected students to a series of cunning experiments (pdf). First they were asked to buy a basket of products; selecting either green or conventional ones. Then they played a game in which they were asked to allocate money between themselves and someone else. The students who had bought green products shared less money than those who had bought only conventional goods.”

“The researchers call this the “licensing effect”. Buying green can establish the moral credentials that license subsequent bad behaviour: the rosier your view of yourself, the more likely you are to hoard your money and do down other people.”

“Then they took another bunch of students, gave them the same purchasing choices, then introduced them to a game in which they made money by describing a pattern of dots on a computer screen. If there were more dots on the right than the left they made more money. Afterwards they were asked to count the money they had earned out of an envelope.”

“The researchers found that buying green had such a strong licensing effect that people were likely to lie, cheat and steal: they had established such strong moral credentials in their own minds that these appeared to exonerate them from what they did next. Nature uses the term “moral offset”, which I think is a useful one.”

“So perhaps guilt is good after all. Campaigners are constantly told that guilt-tripping people is counterproductive: we have to make people feel better about themselves instead. These results suggest that this isn’t very likely to be true. They also offer some fascinating insights into the human condition. Maybe the cruel old Christian notion of original sin wasn’t such a bad idea after all.”

I disagree with the last sentence, and I feel that the research suggests striving for continual balance of “telling it like it is” in appropriate doses that won’t overwhelm and cause inaction, with giving hope when these new realistic actions are done.

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