Energy Efficiency & Zero Waste

Energy Efficiency & Zero Waste

The global market for energy efficiency this year was $US164 billion and would grow to more than $US600 billion by 2020, says Paddy Manning, while next week’s Zero Waste Summit  will feature local and international speakers discussing why the development of a closed loop system in waste recovery is now vital for the future of our planet. 

Paddy Manning in Business Day/The Age (28 November 2009):

CUTTING energy waste may be the only thing we can all agree on at the fag end of a divisive debate about the best way of tackling climate change in Australia.

As it happens, that is the most productive area we could possibly focus on, environmentally and economically. One proposal that could emerge out of the carbon pollution reduction scheme (CPRS) before Parliament is the creation of a prime ministerial task group to develop a broad-based market mechanism to promote energy efficiency next year.

Ho hum, you say? No money in it? Wrong. Energy efficiency is the fastest-growing carbon abatement market, according to HSBC’s recent Climate Annual Index Review. HSBC estimated that the global market for energy efficiency this year was $US164 billion ($A178 billion) and would grow to more than $US600 billion by 2020.

Clean coal versus renewable energy versus nuclear gets all the headlines. But the International Energy Agency expects 63 per cent of the world’s emissions reductions by 2030 – needed to meet an inadequate 450 parts per million (ppm) carbon dioxide stabilisation target – will come from energy efficiency.

A 2007 Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics study estimated energy efficiency would directly account for 55 per cent of Australia’s carbon abatement by 2050. This is what energy experts call ”plucking the low-hanging fruit”.

Last year McKinsey & Co ranked carbon abatement strategies from cheapest to dearest, and showed many energy efficiency strategies have a negative cost – that is, they make you money. In the commercial property sector, for example, McKinsey says we can save $130 for each tonne of carbon dioxide pollution avoided.

This puts into perspective the debate about whether Australia meets its international emissions reduction obligations at home or by importing carbon credits – for example, paying to leave rainforests standing in developing countries – while continuing to burn coal here like there’s no tomorrow.

Energy efficiency strategies are the cheapest abatement of all. At the household level, this means ”50 ways to beat the new green tax”, as touted by one newspaper during this week’s parliamentary negotiations.

Too right. Let’s change our globes (didn’t we already?). Hang out our clothes. Wash the dishes by hand, or at least fill the dishwasher before turning it on.

Such steps seem obvious but are we really going to beat climate change by killing the standby switch? Rightly or wrongly, it feels trivial.

Technology won’t do the hard work for us. Mark Lister, from the Alliance to Save Energy, says in almost all cases the energy efficiency dividend from use of better technology over the years has been taken up as increased consumption. Demand continues to grow at about 2 per cent a year – higher than population growth.

Though we have more-efficient fridges than we did a decade ago, they are bigger and there’s a spare beer or wine fridge out the back. Add in air-conditioners and plasma TVs, McMansions and SUVs, and you get the idea.

Things have got worse, not better, in housing and transport. Meanwhile prodigious amounts of energy are wasted by business, which dwarf anything householders can come at.

Energy Efficiency Council chief executive Rob Murray-Leach says Australia is well behind Europe and the US. Historically, low energy prices have made us sloppy in our energy use – although it gets complicated when you start trying to put figures around sloppy.

At its lead and zinc smelter at Port Pirie, for example, Belgian company Nyrstar last year found annual savings worth $5.5 million after doing an assessment with the federal energy department.

Or take the Moomba gas plant in South Australia, where Murray-Leach says Santos found it could reduce energy use by a third – enough to power 100,000 homes.

In commercial buildings, energy efficiency retrofits routinely achieve energy savings of 40-50 per cent.

The profits, often measured in payback periods counted in years, are for real but are too small for most property investors to bother about.

Visiting International Energy Agency energy efficiency chief Nigel Jollands, who recently called our commercial building standards ”appalling”, hopefully gave a wake-up call to an industry that pats itself on the back every time it announces a new green star-rated office building but has been lax on maintaining and improving existing stock.

The potential savings in this sector are guaranteed. One Sydney-based company EP&T, which partners the likes of Westfield, Colonial, GPT, Macquarie and Investa, is launching a service in which it provides the money for retrofits, and reaps a return from the savings.

That’s not to say energy efficiency is easy. It’s the ultimate marathon, as constant technological improvement increases potential savings against ”business as usual” – itself a moveable feast. Plus, it is a marathon with obstacles.

Worst of all, our national energy market encourages participants to increase energy use.

Then there are cultural issues, information and skills deficits and pig-headedness – when people don’t behave optimally, in this case refusing to save money.

Another obstacle would be the CPRS itself. Currently structured, the CPRS would increase energy prices a little, shortening payback periods from efficiency improvements. But demand is stubbornly ”price-inelastic”.

Worse, according to energy expert Richard Dennis from The Australia Institute, the CPRS would create structural impediments to a fair allocation of the return from investment in energy efficiency.

What is needed (and could be introduced next year) is a complementary mechanism to the planned CPRS to create an economic incentive to pursue energy efficiency – particularly in the commercial and industrial sector, because the Carbon Trust is meant to promote voluntary energy reduction in the household sector.

Mark Lister says a full policy response to climate change – as proposed in the US under the Waxman-Markey emissions trading scheme – would have three strands, a ”white certificate” scheme to promote energy efficiency, alongside ”green” certificates under the renewable energy target regime and ”black” pollution permits as outlined under the CPRS.

That’s for next year.



Zero Waste Summit 30 November – 1 December:

The environmental, economic and social impact of the World’s depleting resources is now at crisis point. By 2050 the global population is set to increase by 40%. 

The onset of rapidly developing nations means our planet’s natural resources will be mined to the point of depletion – in some cases within 30 years. 

Increased material and energy consumption in the globe’s industrialized nations coupled with an inadequate and unsustainable resource (Waste) recovery system means Governments, Businesses, and Individuals now have to rapidly put into practice new measures to achieve a responsible, closed loop and sustainable solution in waste recycling.   

The Zero Waste Summit 2009 will feature local and international speakers to share useful, up-to-date and practical information discussing why the development of a closed loop system in waste recovery is now vital for the future of our planet.  Waste was once seen as a burden to our communities and industries.  However shifting attitudes on climate change now emphasise Waste is a valuable resource which demands a responsible solution in nurturing and management.  

 The Zero Waste Summit 2009, at Dockside, The Balcony Level, Cockle Bay Wharf, Darling Park, Sydney, will feature:

Local & International Speakers / Experts addressing key issues and challenges facing the waste and recycling industries

Educational forums / Case Studies / Panel sessions

Full exhibition area to meet and network with suppliers, industry experts and consultants

Networking opportunity to meet industry peers

With sustainability now at the forefront of importance to consumers and businesses it is now essential to be aware of changing policy and regulations, industry standards, best practices and new opportunities.  Attend the Zero Waste Summit 2009 and seek out the answers to what has changed, why it is happening and what is forecast for the future in Australia as we embark into a new era of Zero Waste management.

Topics include:

National Waste Policy update – New regulation for a new era in Waste management

Implementing a Zero Waste strategy

Mass Consumerism – A system in crisis

Advanced Waste Technology

Trends in waste management and recycling

Depletion of minable agricultural phosphate within 30 years

Organics disposal – diverting from landfill is now essential

Packaging recycling – education, policy, regulation

Sustainable Packaging design

Nutrient management NOT Waste management

Landfill gas collections – how effective is this process and at what cost?

Agricultural soil quality and it’s impact on Climate Change

New Technologies and Education enabling households to monitor eco-footprint control

Waste streams & nutrient flows

Source separation – minimising contaminant levels in organic waste

Bi-products from Waste streams

New industry = New opportunity = New jobs

Zero Waste in the workplace – How to implement a strategy in a cost efficient manner

Ethical and sustainable buying

Environmental benefits of Zero Waste for Australia / the World

Green buildings and sustainable construction

Triple bottom line in solid waste management planning

And much more…

Delegates attending the Zero Waste Summit 2009 will include:

Environmental professionals (from both public and private sectors); zero waste experts; group sustainability directors / managers; managing directors; CEO’s; COO’s; operations directors; purchasing directors; marketing directors; production directors; commercial managers; innovation managers; packaging specialists;  packaging managers; compliance and research managers; product architects; product development managers; supply chain managers; corporate responsibility managers; brand managers; communications managers; architects; real estate developers; green building contractors; federal & local government environmental staff members;  municipal environmental staff members; recycling companies; waste management companies; NGO’s; industrial manufacturers. 

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