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Standby Power Controllers – excerpt

Standby Power Controllers aim to reduce standby energy use. An analysis of their impact when deployed at large scale in Victoria, Australia, however shows that their likely impact has been much lower than had been estimated.

Click here to read the Measurement and Verification – Standby Power Controller Example

Standby Power Controller

This is an excerpt from Carbon Policy – How Robust Measurement and Verification can improve Policy Effectiveness.

No Energy Efficiency in the Emissions Reduction Fund.

Australia’s $2.5 billion emissions reduction fund aims to achieve carbon abatement through a reverse auction process. The first auction was held last week. At an average price of just under $14 a tonne the majority of projects successful in the auction were either for land-based carbon sequestration (for example tree plantings) or for methane capture from municipal tips.

With energy efficiency commonly portrayed as “the low hanging fruit” one could have expected that a range of energy efficiency projects would have been successful in the auction. However, no energy efficiency projects were listed in the list of successful projects.

Only those projects which were successful in the auction process are known, so it’s not possible to know how many energy efficiency projects, if any, were submitted.

Under the now closed Energy Efficiency Opportunities scheme many of Australia’s largest businesses would have developed energy efficiency projects that for relatively little effort potentially could have been submitted for the auction process. Were these companies playing a wait-and-see game to see what the price would be? Or did some of them they try to get in on the first auction and were simply unsuccessful? Or did they anticipate a relatively low price, and figure it would be a waste of time participating?

Many in the energy efficiency industry have endeavoured to influence the design of the emissions reduction fund, principally by engaging in the public consultation around scheme design. But they may be feeling that their effort has been wasted.

Energy efficiency, contrary to popular belief, actually doesn’t usually provide no cost returns. Instead it provides a reasonably good return on investment. By if the first auction is any indication, clearly not good enough to deliver abatement at $14 a tonne. Which actually isn’t rocket science to figure out.

Consider for example, a lighting upgrade – a pretty typical EE measure. For argument’s sake let’s say that we are replacing twin 36 W fluorescent fittings in an office with LED light fittings each consuming 40 Watts. Allowing for ballast energy consumption associated with the fluorescent tubes the saving per fitting is 40 Watts. If we assume that the lights operate for 50 hours a week, or around 2500 hours a year, annual energy savings per fitting are 100 kW. Assuming that this is a commercial office where the peak tariff is say $0.20/kWh, annual savings are $20. If the cost of the new fitting, installed, along with the cost of disposing of the old fitting, was $100 then the simple payback would be five years. The carbon savings would be roughly 100 kg per year. At a carbon price of $14 a tonne, this would yield $1.40 year. As can be seen this is a relatively small amount, and essentially only improves the economics of the lighting upgrade by around about 7%. So why would anyone bother aggregating a whole lot of savings from various light upgrades and go to the effort of annual verification and reporting?

With respect to energy efficiency, the emissions reduction fund makes sense if you have a project ready to go, that you are going to do anyway so you only need to put in a low bid, and where the cost of annual reporting is less than a benefit gained from the fund. Did you mention the word additionality? If any EE projects are successful in future auctions it’s going to be hard to prove that the emissions reduction fund has actually generated more savings from energy efficiency than would have been the case without the fund.

Australian electricity demand and consumption, 2004 to 2014 (NSW and Vic)

Declining electricity consumption is evidence of energy efficiency and renewable energy policies working.

In Australia consumption in the two most populous states of NSW and Victoria continued to decrease in 2014, as shown in the graphs below.

NSW electricity generation 2004 to 2014

Victoria electricity consumption 2004 to 2014

Consumption in NSW is down 12% vs 2008. In Victoria consumption is down 11% compared with 2008.

In Victoria the drop in consumption has been greatest in Autumn (September to November), down 16%. Winter consumption is down 12%, spring consumption down 10% and summer consumption down 9%. January has had the smallest drop in consumption – down 4%, and November the greatest – down 17% – compared with the maximums, as shown in the graph below.


November is a great solar month, not far away from the longest day in December, yet the weather is mild so not much air conditioning is used. With over 10% of households with solar PV systems solar is clearly impacting on state wide electricity usage in November. January is also a good solar month, but it is hot, January average temperatures have been increasing, and air conditioning ownership has been rising. In Melbourne January 2014 had the highest average monthly temperature for the period 2005 to 2014, at 28.5 degrees, vs the 2005 to 2013 average of 27.6 degrees. (based on Bureau of Meteorology data).

Whilst consumption is reducing, peak demand is more variable, as graphed below.

NSW annual peak demand 2004-2014


In NSW the overall trend appears to be one of declining demand. In Victoria however demand is now increasing. The summer of 2014 in Victoria was notable for having more heat waves (days where the maximum was above 40 degrees) than usual.

In Victoria the ratio of demand to consumption is going up. Demand has risen in the last 2 years, consumption has dropped. This reflects hotter summer weather pushing up demand, and that solar PV (pushing down consumption) has a pretty low demand to production ratio at the time of peak demand (late afternoon).

From a policy perspective the implication is that investment to reduce peak demand at the time of peak demand, will provide the greatest benefit in avoiding the need to invest in additional peaking generation and poles and wires. Such policy could be focussed on load shifting, as is being done well in King Island, where both grid level storage and demand response (switching off electric hot water heaters) have been implemented. This is not a new argument, but the data as shown above from Victoria very clearly shows the importance of this.

Related posts

Declining electricity use – will this continue?
Policies that have lowered Australia’s electricity consumption – part 1
Policies that have lowered Australia’s electricity consumption – part 2
Policies that have lowered Australia’s electricity consumption – part 3

Policies that have lowered Australia’s electricity consumption – part 2

Bruce Rowse

Standards for the energy efficiency of both equipment and buildings have contributed to a reduction in electricity consumption. This posts attempts to quantify the contribution to reduced electricity consumption these policies have made, with a focus on the state of Victoria, Australia

Equipment energy efficiency standards

Many countries have equipment energy efficiency standards, encompassing labelling and minimum efficiency performance standards (MEPS). For computer users perhaps the most famous of these is the voluntary U.S. Energy Star Label.

In the USA the Building Technologies Office regulates minimum standards for over 50 categories of appliances and equipment. By 2030 its estimated that this program would have cumulatively saved 6.5 billion tonnes of GHG and $1.7 trillion.

Equipment energy efficiency labels have existed in Australia since 1986 and MEPS since the 1990s with national legislation enacted in 2012 pulling together state standards. Australian minimum efficiency performance standards now cover the following:

  • Domestic fridges and freezers
  • Air  conditioners
  • Electric storage hot water heaters
  • Gas hot water heaters
  • Flouresent lamps
  • Incandescent lamps
  • Power supplies for halogen lighting
  • Televisions
  • Set top boxes
  • External Power supplies
  • Computers
  • Computer monitors
  • Electricity distribution transformers
  • Three phase motors
  • Refrigerated display cabinets

The estimated impact of the Australian equipment energy efficiency program by 2020 is the saving of 32,000,000 MWh annually below a business as usual scenario, roughly equivalent to 32 MT of GHG. Roughly 80% of these savings are expected to come from MEPS, with the remainder from the labelling programs, or labelling combined with MEPS.

Validating these savings claims is beyond the scope of this posting. Taking the estimated savings of the equipment energy efficiency program at face value, and with a focus on Victoria, this program has saved over 4,000,000 MWh in 2013, with 2020 savings of around 7,000,000 MWh expected (compared with BAU from a 1990 baseline). Compared with 2008, where annual savings were slightly over 1,500,000 MWh, the additional annual savings over and above 2008 levels in 2013 were around 2,500,000 MWh. This is roughly equal to the savings achieved in Victoria by the combined effect of the national Renewable Energy Target and the energy efficiency white certificate (VEET) scheme.

Building Standards

Building energy efficiency standards are also widespread. In Australia these regulations are embedded in the National Construction Code, which encompasses the Building Code of Australia (BCA).

These codes apply to the construction of new buildings.Each year approximately 2% of Australian building are new.

In Victoria the residential energy efficiency building provisions began in 2003,and have been progressively tightened since then. They have had a focus on improving the thermal performance of buildings. Only one study has been undertaken to measure the impact of national energy efficiency standards for new homes, undertaken by CSIRO and published in December 2013. The study had a focus on measuring and comparing the energy use of 5 star homes building from 2005 on with 3.5 and 4 star homes built from 2003. For the 116 homes in Melbourne that were examined it found that the 5 star provisions were effective in reducing winter gas consumption (the vast majority of Victorian new homes are heated by gas) by around 100 MJ/m2, but there was no discernible impact on reducing electricity consumption in summer.

On this basis, comparing 2012/13 with 2008, residential thermal energy efficiency provisions are assumed to have had little discernible impact on reducing Victorian electricity consumption.

From 2010 the BCA has also included energy efficiency provisions for residential lighting. Up until 2010 most new homes made extensive use of inefficient halogen downlights. Whilst no study has been done yet to estimate the savings arising from these lighting provisions, assuming on average a halving in lighting power use, and approximately 25% of home electricity use (before the BCA 2010) being in lighting, the 2013 savings in Victorian homes would equate to roughly 100 to 150 MWh compared with 2008, growing at roughly 50 MWh/year.

For commercial buildings a report commissioned by the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, published in March 2013, estimated that the commercial energy efficiency provisions first introduced in the Building Code of Australia in 2006 and tightened in 2010, had reduced electricity consumption in Australian commercial buildings by 3.1 PJ (860,000 MWh) in 2012 compared with 2008.

Taking this estimate at face value, on a per capital basis this would correspond to a saving of a little more than 200,000 MWh in Victoria in 2012 compared with 2008.

In summary, equipment energy efficiency standards appear to have contributed substantially to reduced electricity consumption, with building standards making a small contribution to date.