Energy efficiency ‘cheaper than renewables’

Sapoty Brook, Transition Byron Shire


All fired up, l to r:  local energy expert Colin George from Cool Planet,  Qld GM of Beyond Zero Emissions Emma Bosworth, lead researcher and presenter Trent Hawkins and Transition Byron Shire's Sapoty Brooke at last night's event.

All fired up, l to r: local energy expert Colin George from Cool Planet, Qld GM of Beyond Zero Emissions Emma Bosworth, lead researcher and presenter Trent Hawkins and Transition Byron Shire’s Sapoty Brooke at last night’s event.


Energy efficiency is a cheaper and easier way than renewables to get reductions in carbon emissions, a new report has found.

And reverse-cycle air-conditioning should replace gas heaters because it uses eight per cent less energy.

Heat pumps also are better than solar hot water in winter in cooler climates, according to Trent Hawkins, project coordinator for the Zero Carbon Australia Buildings Plan.

These were some of the controversial findings of the report, sponsored by Beyond Zero Emissions, which Mr Hawkins presented to a full house at the Byron Sport and Cultural Complex last night.

He said lax building regulations resulting from a cheap-energy economy are putting Australia behind in the global drive for energy efficiency in buildings.

The report was created by collaboration of more than 100 volunteers, each of them experts in their field.

Key recommendations are to replace gas with the more efficient electrical energy, retrofit houses for energy efficiency, and install rooftop solar extensively.

The International Energy Agency predicts power generation from renewable sources will exceed natural gas by 2016. By investing in gas, Australians are at risk of rising prices. Whereas investing in efficiency and renewables provides freedom from the three main energy companies. According to the report the national cost of gas over 30 years equals the national buildings efficiency retrofit cost.

Recommended cost-effective government programs include:

  • LED lighting conversions should be rolled out now. Installing LED lighting now provides an 80 per cent saving over halogen, for example.
  • The federal government program to fully insulate houses should be completed.
  • Actions should be taken to drive the double-glazing industry in order to halve heat loss through windows.
  • Solar incentives should be continued to achieve the goals of 28GW of residential rooftop solar and 3GW on commercial buildings. Network upgrades required to accommodate this expansion of solar amount to only a relatively small $17 billion.

Other recommendations include awnings and shading of windows, conversion to induction cooktop stoves, and installation of energy-management systems.

Energy-management systems providing better feedback have resulted in a 40 per cent reduction in some commercial buildings. Smart meters in homes typically provide a 15 per cent reduction.

The report concludes that overall reductions in energy use of 53 per cent in residential and of 43 per cent in commercial buildings can be achieved over a 10-year time-frame. Economic expenditure is the same as business-as-usual over 30 years, but zero emissions can be achieved when combined with conversion to a renewable-energy grid.

Last year the International Energy Agency warned that growth in the use of coal in developing countries could lead to as much as six degrees rise in average global temperature by 2100. A media report mistakenly quoted the date as 2050, and this created disagreement during discussion after the presentation.


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