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It’s not carbon taxes but peak demand that has caused electricity tariffs to increase.
Politically, the electrical transmission and distribution sector was accused of ‘gold plating’ – without recognition that without the ‘gold plating’ power quality would deteriorate. And now you’re paying for it; however, a power quality check-up can materially reduce your electricity bill.
Saving on energy we all understand – limit the kilowatt-hours and lower the electricity cost. The means for reducing consumption have been well documented.
No rocket science is involved – LED lighting, people movement detectors, building management systems (BMS), reducing stand-by power and engineering examples like make-up air in HVAC (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning), preventive maintenance on compressors, condensers and more all help.
So let’s assume all the above measures have been undertaken or are in the process of being actioned. What more can be done?
The answer is plenty – and not necessarily immediately involving capital expenditure (CAPEX). Next, we’ll get to the interesting relationship between power quality, energy and the cost of electricity.
Irrespective of the percentage of cost or profit margin electricity represents in a business, any future proofing strategy you may pursue must take the facts shown in this graph into account.
The graph shows demand in gigawatts for Australia in summer (orange) and winter (blue) for the past 17 years. The fact is that the gigawatt-hours have been close to flat lining because of the closure of industries, as well energy saving measures, and the influence, albeit modest, of solar and wind power.
Demand, the instantaneous stuff as shown in the graph, has peaked but even though lower since 2008/2009, it is still a big headache for poles and wires folk. That is because they need to spend big CAPEX dollars to maintain reasonable power quality (in the first place think of voltage) in the face of peak demand – and peak demand has continued to grow.
Note that the graph shows average values over winter and summer periods and not what happens when, for instance, within minutes extra HVAC switches in. Again, it’s not carbon taxes but peak demand that has caused tariffs to increase.
The cause may have been politically ascribed as ‘gold plating’ by the transmission and distribution industry, but that was without recognition that with no ‘gold plating’ power quality would deteriorate.
What does energy in kilowatt-hours have to do with peak demand and power quality?
So your electricity meters are racking up demand charges that are not necessarily yours. Therefore, we will short circuit the electrical engineering and head for the meter room. You will note that the meters are electronic – no more revolving discs. These meters not only measure your kilowatt-hours, but also your demand in 15-minute blocks in kilovolt-amps (kVA) and this appears on your bill as a separate monthly charge.
The kVA tariff is there to help the poles and wires company amortise its ‘gold plating’ investment. If you can get your kVA down to equal the kilowatts, the chances are you will not cop an additional charge. In practice, however, that is not possible – on the other hand, reduction of demand is entirely possible.
Next is your power quality, which I have already mentioned as having constant voltage. Again avoiding lots of technical babble, back in the 1950s and earlier there was a thing called ‘voltage distortion’, which was close to a meaningless term – not so these days.
Also, back then, the days of bar heaters under desks, the current drawn by a typical consumer, was also without much distortion, if any. Distortion, or harmonics, increases the kVA demand, and it is a critically important factor of power quality. Modern meters do a good job on the task.
Today, though, the current drawn by your building can have significant distortion.
Power quality is affected by useless ‘froth’
This can cost your organisation even though you are not the cause. You can think of distortion, which is caused by just about anything that is plugged in, as useless froth on your drink, but you pay for it nevertheless. That is to say, you pay for it as a result of the meters being able to measure it.
This was not the case 30 years ago. The only kVA demand measured then was basically the additional kVA that had to be catered for because of loads like electric motors.
But there’s more. Your neighbours – and even the poles and wire people themselves depending on where you are located – are preventing you from getting voltage without much distortion.
The result is that the meters in your premises increase the demand kVA, not only by the distortion ‘froth’ your installation creates, but also the stuff that you are not able to do anything about because it is being supplied to you.
What to do?
The short answer is that if you have significant power bills, spend a few dollars to have a proper, extensive power and power quality analysis done. It’s a necessary condition for saving more on power than you are already doing.
It is the only way to have a meaningful chat with your electricity supplier and to get relief on tariffs, but – and it’s a big but – you need hard facts. The power and power quality analysis will also reveal where investment in hardware with good pay-offs in terms of reduction in energy bills can be made – no guesswork but a solid base for future-proofing investments for your business.
The University of Melbourne has installed a 1150-kVA (kilo volt ampere) voltage optimisation unit for the mechanical services supply of its Law Building.
The decision was taken after the university conducted 100 hours of research into voltage optimisation (VO). The expected savings from VO arise from the fact that voltage levels can vary by as much as 30 volts a day, which results in excessive energy consumption and higher than necessary electricity bills.
Harry Troedel, sustainability manager Implementation, Property and Campus Services at the University of Melbourne, says the electricity savings gained could be more than 12 percent per annum.
“The energy efficiency of VO systems means that because we are consuming less energy, we are reducing our carbon footprint and carbon dioxide emissions, which is good news for the planet,” he says.
The system installed would supply voltage at a constant level regardless of input instability.
“So even if voltage to the site fluctuates dramatically, which could lead to equipment failure, it will ensure the electricity supply remains at a stable and secure level plus or minus 1.5 volts,” he says.
“This minimises the risk of equipment failures, a benefit not offered by simple VO systems. Also the voltage can be adjusted at any time if required.”
The VO system also provides exceptional stability to protect against spikes and surges, which also eliminates harmonic distortions and thus provides added protection and improved power quality.
This can result in an improved life expectancy of site equipment and reduced maintenance costs.
Energy efficiency, once dismissed as “Jimmy Carter trying to persuade [Americans] to wear an extra sweater and turn down the thermostat,” is now a booming high-tech industry, according to a report last week in the L.A. Times.
American electricity providers have tripled their spending on energy efficiency programs since 2006, the piece reports, and spending on efficiency technologies and programs reached $250 billion worldwide last year. According to the International Energy Agency, which compiles the numbers, spending could hit $500 billion by 2035. The flurry of activity not only involves new technology and efficiency upgrades, but an enormous growth in the use of data by power providers and other firms to profile customers’ energy use to recommend savings and improvements.
Google Inc. dropped $3.2 billion this year to purchase Nest, a company which designs high-tech thermostats that predict their owners needs — for example, precooking a home before the owners return from work. That allows utilities like Southern California Edison to smooth out load on the grid, moderating they big spikes in electricity demand that usually occur in the evenings. Meanwhile, data-mining companies like FirstFuel can pull thousands of data points from a home-or-business owners’ smart meter, check that against other information like weather history, and provide the customer with an extensive energy-use profile that comes with all sorts of suggestions for improving efficiency — all without an auditor ever setting foot on the property.
Then there’s Retroficiency’s Building Genome Project, which went through publicly available data on 30,000 buildings in New York City to show how enormous amounts of energy good saved with slight modifications.
“Millions and millions of dollars have been spent trying to figure out which buildings are inefficient,” said Retroficiency’s chief executive, Bennett Fisher. “Doing it manually has created a bottleneck. We want to blow open that bottleneck.”
Energy efficiency is one area where, by all accounts, there is a massive amount of low-hanging fruit to be had in terms of both energy use reduction and cutting greenhouse gas emissions. A study at the end of 2013, for example, showed how the average building in the nation’s own capital of Washington, DC wastes a great deal of energy — and how the savings from an efficiency upgrade would far outweigh the costs of the retrofit.
And the push is already underway: the last two updates to the International Energy Conservation Code — a building efficiency standard widely employed by state and municipal governments — resulted in combined efficiency gains of 30 percent. Nationally, energy consumption has increasingly diverged from economic production since the 1970s, with the former slowing while the latter continues apace — suggesting the American economy is getting better and better at doing more with less energy.
The International Energy Agency has shown that a collection of countries — including the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Australia, Japan, Italy, and several Nordic nations — avoiding burning the equivalent of 1,500 million metric tons of oil in 2010 thanks to efficiency improvements. And that number has been steadily increasing since the 1970s as well.
In America, those improvements have been helped along by a number of state-level energy efficiency targets that have helped lay the groundwork and the market incentives for the current boom in energy efficiency firms. And while energy efficiency programs at the national level have been harder to come by, the Obama Administration’s new rules for reducing carbon emissions from the nation’s power plants include efficiency programs as one of the options, aiming for an overall increase of business and residential energy efficiency of 1.5 percent per year.
Admittedly, all this mining of energy-use data has raised concerns among privacy advocates. The LA Times noted at least one instance last year where immigration authorities, drug enforcement agents, and state tax officials issued more than 1,110 subpoenas for records of energy use from customers in the San Diego area as frequently as every 15 minutes. A big part of the problem is that the energy efficiency market sector is still fairly new. So laws, best practices, and utility methodologies are still being developed, all of which will be the focus of a fall conference sponsored by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.
“This is a big deal,” said Neal Elliott, the associate director of the conference. “But it is not a big deal unique to energy.”
Germany has set a new record, with solar power providing 50.6% of its electricity in the middle of the day on Monday June 9th. Solar production peaked that day at 23.1GW. Three days earlier it was 24.2GW between 1 and 2pm, but on the 9th demand was down for a public holiday, allowing the breaking of the psychological 50% barrier.
Reporting of the achievement has been quite inaccurate in some cases. Coverage has often confused electricity demand with total energy consumption, which properly includes heating and industrial uses of natural gas, although these would have been low on a warm public holiday. Headlines have often implied that the 50% threshold was exceeded for over a fortnight, rather than a single hour.
Nevertheless, the scale of the achievement is considerable. Germany is not a sunny place. Indeed more than 90% of the world’s population lives in countries with substantially more sunlight.
Consequently, it is wind, rather than solar, that has been the backbone of Germany’s Energiewende, the transition to renewable, non-polluting sources of power.
The shift to solar energy in Germany has not come cheap, with €16 billion of subsidies in 2013. However, by creating a level of demand that spurred mass manufacturing, Germany has played a large part in bringing the cost of solar panels down by 80% in five years, allowing other countries to follow in its footsteps for a fraction of the price, particularly those with more sunlight.
Moreover, where the initial stages of the move to wind were driven by government subsidies, solar power in Germany can now compete with fossil fuels on price alone, and continues to expand, albeit at a slower rate than a few years ago.
German solar production is up 34% compared to the same time last year as a result of both better weather and increased installations. While the first is unpredictable, increasing quantities of panels ensure that the 50% record will be breached again, probably this year.
Read more at http://www.iflscience.com/technology/germany-now-produces-half-its-energy-using-solar#3klRyxkgwpbj4swc.99
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Rooftop solar powers past new milestone
More than 3 gigawatts of solar power has now been installed on Australian rooftops, which will produce enough energy over the next year to run Melbourne’s entire train network for more than a decade, Clean Energy Council Chief Executive David Green said in an address to the Energy Efficiency Council’s national conference today.
Mr Green said official Clean Energy Regulator figures this week showed more than 3 gigawatts of solar power had been installed across the country, with almost a third of this coming from Queensland alone.
“Household solar power gives consumers more control of their power bills by letting them generate their own electricity from the sun. And it helps to reduce the cost of our entire energy system on hot days when people everywhere have turned on their air-conditioners,” he said.
“It has started to change the way we look at energy.”
Analysis released by specialist solar consultancy Sunwiz today shows that more than 1.15 million Australian households have installed rooftop solar, with Queensland the national leader. Approximately 360,000 Queensland homes now have solar power, with NSW the next best on 252,000.
According to figures from the Clean Energy Regulator, the 3 gigawatts of solar power installed will produce more than 4000 gigawatt-hours over the next 12 months. This is the equivalent of:
• Powering the Sydney Opera House for the next 230 years
• Running Canberra’s Parliament House for more than 160 years
• Lighting up the MCG continuously for almost 520 years
• Producing more than 1050 toasted sandwiches for every Australian using a standard sandwich press.
Media Release, 20 October 2017
An innovative voltage stabilisation system to improve power security and efficiency at a major Australian winery has delivered winning honours to SCE Energy Solutions in the coveted national 2017 Wine Industry IMPACT Awards
SCE Energy solutions partnered in the project with Alkoomi Wines at the Frankland River, 300km south of Perth in the most isolated wine growing region of Western Australia.
The successful outcome was recognised with SCE Energy Solutions and Alkoomi Wines winning the engineering category in the Wine Industry IMPACT Awards presented before more than 400 special guests at the Adelaide Town Hall on Thursday 10 October.
The annual awards, presented by Wine Industry Suppliers Australia (WISA), showcase excellence in improving the competitiveness and capability of the nation’s grape and wine industry.
Industry experts judges this year’s winners from 15 finalists in categories including grape growing, winemaking, engineering, packaging, distribution and logistics, marketing and communications and tourism.
SCE Energy Solutions Directors, Jon De Martin and Phillip Lawrence, and Alkoomi Wines owner, Rod Hallet, said they were thrilled with the Wine Industry IMPACT award.
“Power stabilisation cost and securing are increasingly important issues for Australian Wineries, particularly where operators are distant from major centres of centralised energy production” Mr De Martin said.
Alkoomi Wines commissioned SCE Energy Solutions to address continual interruptions to electrical supply that resulted in significant inefficiencies with equipment in the winery.
“We carried out detailed analysis of the incoming electrical supply to the winery and energy consumption in the plant along with data provided by the company’s energy supplier. We also analysed previous energy accounts for Alkoomi Wines allowing us to plot the energy draw over a 12-month period”
“Overall, the analysis revealed problems with winery equipment turning on and off resultin gin costly energy reverberations. Harmonisation of the power supply was also measured with a particular focus on peak energy draw and the performance of equipment in relation to supply”
“We also investigated the impact of an on-site solar power system particularly during periods when that region of Western Australia reduced ins energy draw”
SCE Energy Solutions determined the solution for Alkoomi Wines included independent voltage stabilisation technology and harmonisation between grid supply voltage and the solar power voltage created on-site.
“the objective was a reduction in total harmonic distortion and improved balance between voltage and current.” Mr Lawrence explained.
“The result for Alkoomi Wines has been improved business efficiency and reliability of equipment through quality energy supply, it has also delivered very significant energy savings.”
“The wider impact of this case study is very clear because the wine industry is often at the mercy of extended energy grid supply that can result in voltage spikes, surges, sags and temporary transient events of many types”
The case study presented by SCE Energy Solutions and Alkoomi Wines won high praise from the 2017 Wine Industry IMPACT Awards judges, who said: “Power quality is becoming an increasingly important factor in electricity consumption and equipment reliability.
The joint project between SCE Energy Solutions and Alkoomi Wines can be adopted by every winery to change consumption and improve the carbon footprint while addressing greenhouse gas reduction and ultimately improving the business bottom line.
This is a timely and well-engineered approach to an industry issue with broad industry impact.”
Alkoomi Wines owner Rod Hallet said “Our aim is to produce the highest quality wines while also endeavouring to achieve maximum energy efficiency and minimum waste, SCE Energy Solutions is incredibly reliable and constructive in identifying key issues regarding ongoing energy efficiency that will continue on well into the future.”
WISE Executive Office, Matthew Moate, said the nation Wine Industry IMPACT Awards were highly regarded by peers in the wine and grape growing sectors with a 70% increase in entries this year.
“All entrants presented outstanding qualification for the award with the judges having a challenging task to short list finalists and select the ultimate winners that making such a positive impact in the industry” he said.