15 April 2011 – It’s been fascinating to try to work out what is going on in the world of trigeneration after the City of Sydney last week dramatically dropped its tender for the first cluster of trigen buildings around its Town Hall precinct. The grand plan is to eventually supply the entire city with the low-emissions, gas-fired energy.

Energy is the currency of our future, yet it’s so complex and tough to understand for ordinary folk. After all, it’s an arcane industry that has forever been dominated by a handful of oligopolies that few outsiders could – or could be bothered – to penetrate.

These days, there seems to be any number of groups with competing interests and, sometimes, conflicting information and views, and very few people with a grasp on the whole picture.

One school of thought for instance,  is that trigen may have lower emissions but it still has emissions, so why invest in something that is not ideal?

The trigen industry says, why not?  Trigen is one third the emissions of coal and it can be a valuable transition technology until we can source all energy with zero emissions, which could take 20-30 years. Trigen’s lifespan happens to be exactly that – 20-30 years.

Today (Friday) the City of Sydney’s  energy expert Allan Jones said power bills for NSW households could be cut by almost $600 million a year by 2020 or $60 per household by using trigen.

Jones said the City’s trigen plans could avoid the need for unnecessary investment in new power stations and electricity network infrastructure, which is the main reason for the project big hike of at least 17 per cent this year.

“Electricity prices are currently expected to rise by an average of 83 per cent over the five years to 2013-14, reflecting higher ‘network charges,’” he said. ” The cost of transporting electricity from regional areas like the Hunter Valley to Sydney,are set to rise from 40 to 60 per cent of the average electricity bill.”

Carbon tax
The good news is that John Howard and Tony Abbott both support an emissions trading scheme. Well they did, before the mining industry held a gun to their heads.

Here’s what John Howard said in 2007, on the launch of his policy for an emissions trading scheme:

“Australia brings formidable assets to this challenge … we have mobilised these assets before and will do so again to help build a new global climate change framework and to facilitate Australia’s transition to lower carbon emissions. No great challenge has ever yielded to fear or guilt. Nor will this one. Human ingenuity, directed towards clean technology and wise institutional design, remains our best weapon.”

In 2008 Tony Abbott said: “A carbon tax is the easiest, simplest and best way of reducing emissions.”’

Actually when you run an army of lobbyists in Canberra that outnumbers any other lobby group 40:1 (so we’re told) you probably don’t need a gun at all, just a soft voice.

Poor Coalition. If your constituency is split between those who want to preserve our way of life and those who want to destroy it for quick easy profits, it must be hard to sleep at night. And it must be harder to realise that the mining sector creates so few jobs and sends most of its profits overseas.

But the mining sector’s influence is never enough. One of the giants, Gina Rinehart, now owns a big slab of Fairfax, just to let Australia’s leading media company know who’s boss, in case there was any doubt.

Farewell, Tristram Carfrae
It’s pretty horrible when good green revolutions start spinning backwards. Those who say that financial sustainability has to be part of the mix are right.

In this  issue we bid a fond farewell to Tristram Carfrae, who rocked this country and many others with his stunning structural designs, all with a strong eye on the sustainable, green and innovative.

In his global leadership role for Arup, Carfrae has been called back to the UK to shore up spirits after devastating cuts of more than 600 staff – about 15 per cent of Arup’s UK workforce.

Sad to say it’s a common story in the green property business in the UK, with several other global consulting companies that do good environmental work also taking hits.

In the solar industry, the UK government has cut feed-in tariffs and the industry says that’s 90,000 jobs that will not be created.

“A buoyant solar power sector would have stimulated at least 90,000 jobs by the time Government spending cuts really start to bite later this year if FITs had remained where they were,” said mO3 Power chief executive, Ken Moss, in a report on Edie

That’s what happens when the government decides that the best way to deal with the global financial crisis is to lay the boot in. We will shortly post review of Carfrae’s work which explains what he did and how on many projects.

What about Oz?
Australia is a world away, it seems. Recruiters say the mood is up. Joe Fitzpatrick, who does quiet, off-market deals and is surprised we even found him, says that the legacy of the GFC where sustainability staff were pushed off is now petering out companies are hiring again.

Lisa Tarry at Turning Green agrees and points to a new industry-wide survey, which probably signals the industry is coming of age. Tarry is joining with the Green Building Council of Australia and others for the survey, which you can join  from our site under Job News. Go on, tell them how much they pay you!

China: good and bad news
In good news, China says its wind power generation is outperforming expectation and is now the world leader.

In bad news, its energy use skyrocketed 13.4 per cent in March, according to the China Daily.


Call to the new NSW Government to audit its own
The Green Building Council called for the new O’Farrell Government in NSW to audit every building the NSW Government owns or occupies as a way to save money, improve the performance of its building stock and demonstrate environmental leadership.

“The Green Building Council of Australia welcomes the O’Farrell Government’s timely approach to tackling many of the challenges facing NSW, but notes that an environmental audit of every building the NSW Government owns or occupies is missing from the 100 Day Action Plan,” says the GBCA’s chief executive Romilly Madew.

“We encourage the new NSW Government to undertake a full, holistic environmental audit of all the buildings it owns or leases, using the eight categories of the Green Star environmental rating system as a guide.

“By assessing such environmental impacts as energy and water use, waste management and indoor environment quality, the Liberal Government will gain a complete picture of the current levels of building efficiency and identify potential cost savings and opportunities for improvement.”

That sounds awfully like a performance tool. Which is currently underway, we hear.

tperinotto@thefifthestate.com.au