PRISM Podcast series
LISTEN TO THE PODCAST
Interviewer: Anthony Holt
I'm with Natasha Sinclair, a Principal Consultant with Advisian, who will be sharing some of her thoughts on energy efficiency.
Natasha, thanks for joining us.
Thanks very much, Anthony.
So why is energy efficiency so important?
Energy efficiency is important because it helps us to reduce our overall usage of energy. There are three reasons why this is important.
The first one is cost. So in this age where we have rising electricity and gas prices, our energy costs are rising. So if a consumer can reduce their usage, this will help them to keep costs down.
The second reason is the infrastructure. As energy demand at peak times is increasing, we need to build more infrastructure to deliver it to homes and businesses. This applies to the poles and wires for the electricity network, and pipelines and equipment in the gas industry, plus other equipment for industrial users. The cost for this extra infrastructure will get passed onto consumers, so if we can slow down the growth in demand or even reduce our usage through efficiency measures, we can avoid adding costs due to infrastructure.
The third reason that energy efficiency is important is greenhouse emissions. The majority of energy that we use in Australia still comes from hydrocarbon-based sources which have various degrees of associated greenhouse emissions.
And how are we currently doing with energy efficiency in Australian industry?
Historically there hasn’t been a strong focus on energy efficiency in industry because we’ve been lucky enough to have low energy prices for many decades.
In more recent times, there have been government programs such as the Energy Efficiency Opportunities Scheme, which have required industry to examine their energy use a bit more closely. This has had a positive impact across the large industrial users because it has forced them to document their usage and report on potential options to improve their energy efficiency.
Unfortunately these programs are no longer operating, and without a price on carbon emissions, there’s been less incentive for carbon companies to invest in improvements.
On a positive note, at the end of 2015 the Australian government set a target to improve energy productivity by 40% by 2030 and back then the COAG Energy Council signed a new national energy productivity plan to achieve this goal. Programs such as the Energy Exchange website have been set up to help businesses to improve their energy usage through development of strategies and knowledge sharing.
What sort of things can industry do to improve its energy efficiency?
There are many opportunities across our Australian industry to improve our energy efficiency. For instance, often in large processing plants we use gas to drive large turbines for power generation or to run compressors. This process has an efficiency of only about 36%, which means that over 60% of the energy content from the fuel is wasted. Usually it is just released to the atmosphere as heat, so it is possible to capture a fair portion of this waste energy and reuse it for heating in other parts of the plant.
With the gas prices that we’re seeing, it has gone from about $3 kJ to almost $20 kJ today. If these prices are sustained in the longer term, there will be a lot more incentive to conserve energy.
I’d like to remind listeners that conserving energy through energy efficiency improvements is a central pillar in managing our path through the energy market disruption that is happening today.
When we get to 2030, wouldn’t it be great to see Australia acknowledged as a world leader in energy management?
Natasha, thank you for your time.
Thank you very much, Anthony.