22 February 2023
Fernando Paraguassu, Manager Emerging Technologies at Zenith Energy
Australia frequently showcases amazing smart technologies and state of the art energy efficient construction. However, we only see that mostly applied to landmark commercial buildings and high-end homes. There is plenty of studies and evidence the extra costs associated with improving the efficiency quality of average construction systems results in several-fold savings across the lifecycle running cost of efficient homes.
While everybody’s home colling system (ceiling fans, evaporative or reverse-cycle air conditioning) is already electric, a system as simple as ceiling fans could be made more efficient with improved construction standards. Even a fully compliant home to the latest building code still presents very poor thermal efficiency, air tightness and has no requirement to utilize our reliable sunlight. Countries with much lower quality solar still take advantage of rooftop PV, Australia’s benefit potential is so large I am sure society is growing more aware of the benefits, including financial.
With the cost of electricity and gas so high, the benefits for transformation are immediate. While cooling of homes is already electrified, the low hanging-fruit is taking advantage of rooftop solar PV, for electrifying heating of homes with heat pumps and cooking with electricity instead of gas. I am not even going to mention access to medium-class, reasonably affordable electric vehicles instead of luxury, high-end offerings only.
Without policies and effective subsidies supporting the transition, my biggest concern is the segment of the population that can take advantage of these highly efficient technologies is exactly the higher social-economic, where the high cost of energy does not impact as much. The lower economic segment of the population needs subsidies to lower energy costs by joining the advantage of renewable and efficient Australian homes.
Likewise, new communities would greatly benefit from a requirement for communal batteries harnessing rooftop solar and keep downward pressure on electrical costs while supporting grid stability. This should not be dictated by the economic strata of a community.
Reaching that utopia where there’s renewable electricity everywhere, all the time for all electrified sectors will require many concurrent revolutions.
The key technologies, from transforming the grid to localised generation (I’m looking at you, affordable PV) and electrical storage (I’m looking at you, all forms of batteries – short and long duration) are developed to a level of sophistication we could transform our country very quickly. We need to keep advocating for legislation, trading and network pricing to be revamped, so deployment of these technologies can be accelerated.
• Tell us about your own home energy use? What tech do you have, what behaviours do you consciously take? Do you have any guilty pleasures?
Since installing our rooftop PV, we changed our habits to take advantage of cheap daylight power (laundry, dishwasher) and the savings have been staggering.
Guilty pleasure? I am a metal head like many fellow Australians. Many birthdays ago, my wife gifted my dream guitar amplifier, way too loud… while we upgraded most windows to double-glazing for its thermal qualities, my neighbour sure noticed the improved noise reduction