Whether swapping to LED lighting or installing voltage power optimisation units (VPOs) in buildings, local councils are at the vanguard of Australia’s energy efficiency revolution.
With their limited resources councils have a good reason to take an innovative approach.
Brad Hawkins is the Energy and Engineering Manager of Forum Enviro, a division of Sydney company which deals with business efficiency in print, IT, fleet and energy.
Mr Hawkins explains that energy efficiency is a major concern for local councils, especially when they have energy guzzlers like swimming pools and leisure centres under their auspices.
“With so many buildings in their portfolios a lot of local councils have a pretty big energy spend. We’re starting to do more and more councils.”
Adelaide Council saved more than $30,000 and reduced its energy use by 158,268kwh when it installed VPO units in Adelaide Town Hall. City of Sydney has at least 14 VPO units in buildings including Customs House and the town hall to help meet its target to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 70 per cent by 2030.
VPOs take a layer of voltage that isn’t required by the equipment in a building while ensuring the equipment – such as air conditioning, lighting or heating – can still function.
This cuts power bills and means equipment runs more efficiently. Extra voltage can mean more vibration and stress on motors so VPOs can also prolong equipment lifespan and reduce noise. Early and enthusiastic adopters have included supermarkets, pubs and clubs which have long hours of operation each week.
Other cutting edge initiatives include the WasteMaster, Japanese technology which uses a rotating drum, an aggressive oxidisation process and drying technology to speeds up the decomposition of food waste.
Energy efficient street lighting has become a cause celebre for local councils. In April 2015
It’s an important area to address with street lighting typically accounting for 30 to 60 percent of local government’s greenhouse emissions.
The Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia (IPWEA) estimates that switching to LED street lighting is expected to save Australia’s local councils up to $87 million and prevent 720,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions from entering the atmosphere each year.
Councils are leading the way installing LED lighting, probably because it provides better direct illumination, lasts 20 years, has a low glare and uses less than one-third of the energy that traditional street lighting uses.
This has a combination of positive outcomes for local councils: lower energy and maintenance costs, fewer greenhouse emissions and better safety for drivers and pedestrians.
Not only will LEDs spark a dramatic reduction in greenhouse gases as well as energy and maintenance costs, they are also expected to play a role in improving safety outcomes for drivers and pedestrians.
Expotrade, which is holding a conference on smart lighting in Melbourne in September, says that more than 60 Australian councils including Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Hobart have rolled out or are in the process of completing bulk lighting changeovers.
Victoria is proving to be a beacon to smart lighting, where 16 local government bodies across North, West and Central Victoria are collaborating in the Lighting the Regions Project: which Expotrade says is “the largest street lighting partnership project” in Australia.
“Through education and engagement with regional people, this project aims to create more energy efficient and sustainable communities and is expected to pull together the expertise, resourcing and financial resources required to take energy efficiency to the next level,” says an Expotrade spokesperson.
The project aims to replace approximately 23,000 street lights across an area covering almost 45 per cent of Victoria.
Similar projects are happening in other states, such as the Southern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils’ (SSROC) Street Lighting Improvement Program in NSW, the Ipswich Street Lighting Retrofit Project in QLD, the Hobart and Glenorchy Street Lighting Replacement Project in Tasmania.