Australia maps out smart energy plans


Climate solutions think-tank Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) and the University of Melbourne are launching a joint project that hopes to help developers build smarter buildings: eco-friendly and energy-efficient.

The Zero Carbon Australia Buildings Plan, to be unveiled Thursday, will showcase a blueprint aimed at helping existing buildings cut their energy usage by half. Residential and commercial buildings can achieve maximum energy efficiency in 10 years.

BZE Research Director and Lead Author Trent Hawkins notes Australian buildings are not up to the challenges of the time. They are generally “too hot in summer, too cold in winter, and use a phenomenal amount of energy to run basic services,” he explained. The plan also scraps gas-operated appliances to be replaced by more efficient and healthy technology. “This plan shows how Australia can transform our existing buildings to reduce energy bills, increase comfort and health, and generate renewable energy,” he said.

The plan projects residential building sector to cut 53 per cent of energy use, with some typical home categories seeing over 70 per cent reduction, and commercial buildings can reduce energy use by 44 per cent.

Going gas-free is a key element of moving towards zero emissions. The plan, if implemented, has multiple benefits: households get a new level of control over their energy bills, it could remove the need for the polluting and unpopular coal-seam gas industry, and it would stimulate employment in trades and services for the buildings sector by tens of thousands of jobs, BZE said.

Australian households spend $15 billion per year on electricity and gas bills. The modelling shows that this plan could save up to $40 billion over the next 30 years, compared to business as usual,” Mr Hawkins explained.

BZE introduced the idea of a 100 per cent renewable electricity grid to Australia’s political and public discussion with the 2010 Stationary Energy Plan.

Mr Hawkins concludes his group wants to start the conversation on how Australia can fix its buildings. “By taking action now, we can start to curb the environmental impact of our energy-hungry buildings – and improve life for us as occupants,” he said.

BZE is one of the grassroots’ movements that support Australia’s drive towards a cleaner and more sustainable energy source.

Solar Power

By 2020, Australia aims to generate 20 per cent of its energy needs from renewables. The Climate Commission earlier released a modelling of Australia’s future energy usage that consistently indicates increased reliance on solar energy. By 2050, solar photovoltaics are projected to provide 29 per cent of Australia’s power needs.

Last year, the Climate Commission released a report– The Critical Decade: Generating a renewable Australia– which projects the unlimited potential of renewables, particularly solar.

The report underscores a major shift in global energy policy moving towards renewables and Australia has an advantage given the enormous potential for solar generation as the world’s sunniest continent.

The report also highlights major developments in Australia such as the cost of solar photovoltaic systems which have significantly dropped over the years enabling more consumers to shift to such technology.

In 2012, over one million rooftop solar photovoltaic systems were installed, up from about 8,000 in 2007. About 2.6 million people, 11 per cent of our population, now use the sun for their electricity needs, the report said.

The Commission also admitted that while Australia generated $60 billion from the export of coal and gas, 80 per cent of global fossil fuel resources need to stay in the ground to limit global temperature increase to a relatively safe 2C.

Largest solar panels in the Southern Hemisphere

Last week, Australia reached another milestone with the announcement of large-scale solar power stations to be built in New South Wales costing a combined total of $450 million.

The Australia Renewable Energy Agency approved the fund of $166.7 million while the NSW Government committed $64.9 million to support the project.

The power stations will be built in two separate locations: Broken Hill (NSW) and Nyngan (NSW) which will generate a capacity of up to 155 megawatts (MW) (AC) of electricity. Construction in Nyngan is due on January 2014 and Broken Hill, July 2014 to be completed in 2015.

AGL Energy Pty Ltd was named to build the project and has contracted First Solar to do the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) of the project. First Solar will build the power stations using its thin film PV technology and will maintain the facilities for an initial five year period following construction.

The Federal Government says these will be the largest solar power stations in the Southern Hemisphere.

Mark Butler MP, Minister for Climate Change, said the project will cover a combined area four times the size of the Sydney CBD.

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent

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