China might be ahead of the rest of the world in terms of solar and wind farming, but it has a long way to go in terms of energy efficiency. To meet its new carbon-intensity goals – 40% reduction in CO2 per unit of GDP by 2020 – about 80% of that effort will have to come from rooting out waste and reducing energy. In Australia, property owners will be forced to have an energy efficiency rating attached to their buildings within months or risk facing hefty fines under a Federal Government.
Bradford Plumer in The Australian (7 June 2010):
IS there more to China’s low-carbon efforts than renewable power? Well, yes, of course. A lot more. Yet that’s all people here ever seem to want to talk about.
Maybe that shouldn’t come as a shock: The country gets a ton of warm, fuzzy press for its enormous new wind and solar farms, and it’s true that the scale of construction deserves an impressed whistle or two.
Out in the Gobi Desert in northwest China, the government has blocked out 3000 square kilometres for solar, and the local government has plans to install about 10 gigawatts worth of photovoltaic panels by 2025. To put that in perspective, there is about 15 gigawatts worth of solar capacity on the entire planet right now.
As a side note, one of the features of being a callous authoritarian government is that these big projects rarely get sidetracked by local ecological concerns.
Asked whether local conservation groups had raised any worries about trampling over fragile desert habitats, Dunhuang’s energy director, Zhao Tingqian, said, “Endangered species? There are no animals in the desert!”
The real hurdles are more fundamental: When you have a gigantic solar field, you also need a futuristic grid to handle all that intermittent power. And, while the Chinese government doesn’t have much trouble stringing up new high-voltage lines wherever it feels like, the country is still lagging in efforts to build a smart grid. It’s not for lack of money – the government dished out $US7.3 billion on advanced grid gadgets in its last round of stimulus spending – but hashing out the technical issues is still a serious struggle. So a lot of that wind and solar capacity could end up getting wasted, and some of it already does.
That’s why, in the near term, efficiency will have to play a much, much bigger role in China’s lower-carbon future than those fabled wind farms. If China wants to meet its new carbon-intensity goals – that is, a 40 per cent reduction in CO2 per unit of GDP by 2020 – then about 80 per cent of that effort will have to come from rooting out waste and getting more energy efficient.
There’s certainly a lot of room to improve: About two-thirds of China’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the industrial sector, which is on average about four to five times more energy-intensive than its US counterpart.
Problem is, making this country more efficient is a real struggle. Take green buildings. The central government has issued some pretty ambitious standards governing insulation and energy use in new homes and skyscrapers. Laws do tend to get followed in Beijing and Shanghai, where there are architects who know how to design buildings that are up to code and inspectors who can check the results. But out in smaller cities and towns, inspectors are in short supply and enforcement is rare.
Meanwhile, there’s nuclear power. China is currently pushing ahead with 22 new reactors and is on pace to get 6 per cent of its energy from nuclear by 2020.
For a long time, one of the big obstacles to a nuclear renaissance here was that Western countries were leery of selling the technology to China, although that seems to have changed after the just-concluded US-China Strategic Economic Dialogue and a bunch of new Westinghouse reactors are most likely on the way.
On top of that, it seems like China will now be working with the US Geological Survey to see if it can tap some of its shale reserves and develop its own domestic supplies of natural gas.
The New Republic
Adrian Watson in The West Australian (9 June 2010):
Property owners will be forced to have an energy efficiency rating attached to their buildings within months or risk facing hefty fines under a proposal by the Federal Government.
But landlords could slash waste and save thousands of dollars by having their buildings rated before the scheme becomes mandatory, according to Colliers International.
The national Building Energy Efficiency Disclosure scheme is being debated in Canberra. Apart from minor details, it has bipartisan support and is expected to start between October and December.
The scheme will make it mandatory for all commercial buildings with a net lettable area of 2000sqm or more, which are sold or leased to a potential purchaser, tenant or sub-tenant to have a registered Building Energy Efficiency Certificate.
The certificate will contain a NABERS rating from zero to five stars, based on the building’s environmental performance in terms of energy, water, waste and the indoor environment.
A landlord could be fined up to $110,000 for every day they withhold this information. Some buildings, including retail premises, will not be included in the scheme, while new, strata or special purpose buildings could apply for an exemption.
Colliers head of sustainability and national director of real estate management Simon Cox said NABERS ratings were already available and landlords could save thousands of dollars through improved efficiency by getting a rating now.
He said a NABERS rating was about $3500 plus registration costs but it would quickly pay for itself through identifying “simple measures” to reduce waste, such as light sensors and different temperature settings for air conditioning systems during summer and winter.
“Each half a star in NABERS equals a 10 per cent improvement in energy consumption,” Mr Cox said. “If you can get the 10 per cent or better shift in consumption by virtue of getting that rating, identifying some issues and shifting (the rating) up, it pays for itself.”
He said in addition to these savings, a high rating would help retain and attract A-grade tenants.
“Government represents 25 per cent of the leasing marketplace in CBDs, including Perth, (and) most governments are requiring a 3.5 star or better base building NABERS rating for them to go and lease your building,” he said.
“On top of that you’re going to have some of the bigger corporates who are also going to have similar sort of standards mandated. You might be up to 40 to 50 per cent of the existing leasing pool excluded because you’re not rating your building.”
Mr Cox said only 22 properties in Perth’s CBD, about 12 per cent, had a NABERS rating. This was far lower than Sydney, where more than 40 per cent of buildings were rated.
Despite the slow take-up, the latest addition to Perth’s skyline, Cbus Property’s $350 million development, one40william, is one of the greenest buildings in the city and was designed to receive a 4.5 star NABERS rating.