Many people would agree that Australia’s shutting down of coal-fired power generation is a positive step forward for the country as it steps-up the effort to meet the emission reduction targets it agreed to as a signatory of the Paris Agreement. The Agreement “brings all nations into a common cause to combat climate change and adapt to its effects” (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – UNFCC).
At ControlCo Automation, we are a Schneider Electric BMS EcoXpert™ Master Partner, and share their values in helping other companies treat the planet well. With expertise in building automation and in implementing EcoStruxure™ architecture, we’re implementing low CO2 solutions which enable businesses to reduce their exposure to volatile energy markets.
But as reported in the UK national newspaper, the Guardian, countries like New Zealand and Australia will have to continue to close coal fuelled power stations at a rate of one a year if it is to achieve its climate goals by 2030. Consequently, there are concerns as the country’s overall grid capacity becomes reduced and unable to not only power the current demands of consumers and commerce, but also the future requirements for driving economic growth.
These concerns were dramatically brought to life when South Australia suffered a state-wide blackout after wild storms. A combination of high winds, heavy rainfall, and thunder and lightning brought road and rail networks to a standstill, at the same time trapping many in workplaces and retail establishments in an extreme weather event thought to be the worst seen in 50 years.
As New Zealand and Australia face the challenge of doing more with less and filling the gap left while capacity from renewables comes on stream, both the government and some energy retailers are turning to demand response and increased energy efficiency measures to ensure that power is available to meet peak needs in everything from domestic to mission-critical applications.
If you’re not familiar with the term demand response, the Australian Renewable Energy Authority has published this useful infographic (see below) showing how it works.
In simple terms, it’s a voluntary arrangement in which anyone can contract to use reduced energy consumption at peak times, releasing capacity into the grid for other users. In addition to the savings made from reduced electricity use, volunteers are also paid a premium for the energy they don’t use as they create a “negawatt.”
While demand response is still in its infancy, the Australian government has made the scheme easy for home consumers to join and to benefit from. For larger energy users, things are slightly more complex. This is not just because of the volume of consumption, but rather due to the contrasting objectives between the plant room and the board room: The finance department usually wants to cut costs, while those in building management and facilities are typically paid to keep things running.
Recently, one of our partners in Australia - Airmaster, has been working alongside one of Australia’s largest energy retailers to help industrial and commercial end users participate in demand response. We started by addressing their most energy intensive systems. In commercial buildings, HVAC systems often account for up to half of all energy consumed, so they not only present the largest opportunity to make the greatest gains in efficiency, but also to reduce a building’s energy profile.
Airmaster is helping to optimize these HVAC systems and bring ongoing OPEX reductions of nearly 30 percent at 100 Queen Street, an iconic building in the heart of Melbourne’s financial district – find out more here. The negawatts earned through these reductions will add even greater savings.
Using vendor agnostic hardware and software, users are provided with real-time analytics, diagnostics, reporting, measurement, and verification to continually adjust chiller plant for optimal performance. With full understanding of the status and capacity of the system, the chiller can be safely shut down by the energy retailer as a demand response; and re-started again before the loss of cool air becomes an issue.