Energy saving schemes for a brighter future
In addition to the need to act against climate change, we can probably agree that reducing our energy usage is beneficial: for individual users and businesses, lower energy use equates directly to less expenditure; for the government, actions to mitigate energy consumption help Australia meet internationally agreed emissions targets; and on a global scale, more efficient use of energy will mean that we can stretch out our remaining natural resources for a little bit longer.
While Australia does not enjoy a federal energy saving scheme, there are three interesting state initiatives in place: New South Wales has the NSW Energy Saving Scheme (NSW ESS); Victoria has the Victorian Energy Efficiency Target (VEET) Scheme; and South Australia has the Retailer Energy Efficiency Scheme (REES). To date, there are no equivalent energy saving initiatives for Western Australia, Queensland, Tasmania or in Australia’s various territories.
While the NSW ESS, VEET and REES have been established by different organisations and are accordingly managed by different bodies, they are loosely similar in their intent and in the way they operate. For simplicity, we will focus on the NSW ESS to understand the general mechanics of these schemes.
Often referred to as ‘IPART’—after the name of the scheme administrator, the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) of NSW—the NSW ESS has the straightforward objective of reducing electricity consumption (and hence carbon dioxide emissions) in NSW. It achieves this through financial incentives to encourage organisations to invest in energy-saving technologies as an integral part of their refurbishment projects. The number of Energy Saving Certificates (ESCs) awarded is based on the number of kilowatt-hours that will be saved over a 10-year period for each project. For example, the total energy saving for a lighting renovation is calculated as the product of the number of lights upgraded, the reduction in kilowatt rating for each light, and the expected runtime of the lights over a 10-year period.
Administrator and gatekeepers
Once a project has been completed, the ESCs will be awarded and the participating organisation can choose to sell these immediately to directly offset the cost of the upgrade, or elect to retain them to sell at a later date. Rather like shares, ESCs have a variable price based on market conditions.
The responsibilities of the scheme administrator, IPART, include assessing applications, accrediting applicants to become Accredited Certificate Providers (ACPs), managing compliance of existing ACPs and scheme participants, amending accreditation conditions, and managing the website and registry. The ACPs are essentially the gatekeepers to the scheme, with several key roles: incorporating registered supplier products on the IPART database; registering projects onto the scheme; providing rebate estimates; managing the process with IPART to obtain ESCs; auditing project installations to ensure IPART compliance; and paying the rebate.
In practice, the ACPs operate as independent consultants to advise businesses how to optimise energy savings. As most ACPs understand the three schemes—NSW ESS, VEET and REES—they can also provide invaluable advice for companies operating interstate.
The NSW ESS has been running since 2009, and so far a high proportion of participating projects have entailed lighting upgrades—specifically those in which conventional lights are being replaced by LED alternatives—as this sector offers the most attractive energy savings. Legrand’s Vortex LED Highbay is already registered on the IPART product database and several additional lighting products are in the registration pipeline.
The Vortex LED Highbay has been designed to replace conventional metal halide lights in factories and warehouses. It provides an ideal solution for companies looking to benefit from the NSW ESS scheme, while improving the quality and reliability of their warehouse/factory lighting and reducing lighting energy use. The Vortex LED Highbay uses 58 percent less power than traditional metal halide highbay lights for a similar lumen output; each luminaire uses just 180W per fitting, compared with 440W per fitting for a conventional highbay light.
To show the savings that can be achieved through upgrading to the Vortex LED Highbay—and to demonstrate the value of the NSW ESS—Legrand has completed a real-size proof of concept: the upgrade of 315 conventional metal halide highbays in its own factory in Preston NSW. This will reduce the energy consumption from 139kW down to 57kW and deliver a significant reduction in CO2 emissions. However, the advantages do not end with the energy savings and CO2 reductions. With a life of 50,000 hours, the Vortex LED Highbay lasts over three times longer than metal halides, which typically run for just 16,000 hours.
The greater life and predictability of these LEDs reduces maintenance costs, minimises disruption to the building, and simplifies planned relamping schedules. As they are far less likely to fail prematurely or catastrophically than metal halides, Legrand Vortex LED Highbays also improve the quality of light; seeing failed lights dotted round the ceilings of factories and warehouse will soon be a distant memory. Moreover, the Legrand Vortex LED Highbay has been designed as a ‘one-for-one’ replacement of metal halide luminaires to simplify installation and enable existing wiring infrastructures to be retained.
While it would be simpler for Australia to have adopted a unified federal energy saving scheme to be implemented across all states and territories, the NSW ESS, REES and VEET do have a certain level of commonality with regards to mutual recognition of products certified under each scheme. The role of the ACPs further acts to streamline the process across state lines for both product suppliers and scheme participants.
NSW ESS, REES and VEET have effectively put in place a mechanism where everyone is a winner: end users will have financial incentives to upgrade lighting and services with more reliable energy-efficient alternatives, enabling them to reduce costs in the medium to long term; manufacturers have an increased incentive to drive development towards ever-more environmentally friendly products and solutions; and the Government has another tool in place to help reduce Australia’s carbon footprint.