Latest Buzz...


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Dental Health Scheme - Health Minister's Announcement

Labor cares about fairness and better health for all Australians, and that is the reason for a landmark dental package that I’m about to announce this morning.

We know that one in five of Australia’s lowest-income people haven’t been to a dentist in over five years, if ever.

And we know that low-income households have more than double the number of family members with untreated tooth decay compared with high-income households. It’s just not good enough.

That’s why I’m announcing a $4 billion dental package that will provide more than 3 million children and millions of adults on low incomes or in rural areas access to government subsidised dental care.

This is on top of the $515 million announced in the 2012-13 Budget, which included a blitz on public dental waiting lists, additional dental training and support for people in rural and remote areas.

Labor believes we have a responsibility to ensure Australians who are least able to afford to go the dentist, and particularly children, should be given access to government-subsidised oral health care.

I’m proud that this package will allow millions of Australians to see a dentist: people who otherwise might not have received the dental care they need.

Tanya Plibersek

Sunday, August 26, 2012

How to fix your winter heating bills

An air conditioner for heating costs just 20 percent of the cost of running an electric heater

Bad news stories of air conditioners driving up peak electricity demand during heat waves abound.

The good news is that using an air conditioner to heat your home in winter uses only 20 percent of the electrical energy of an electric heater.

So if you are using electric heaters to keep warm and are concerned about your electricity bill - there is an alternative available that will cut that heating bill by 80 percent.

These two diagrams illustrate why air-conditioners are so much cheaper to run than electric heaters.

The performance of air conditioner systems for heating is available at the Air Conditioner Energy Ratings government website.
Reverse Cycle Air Conditioner - energy flow
Reverse Cycle Air Conditioner - energy flow
(Pay for 1 kilowatt-hour, get an extra 4 kilowatt-hours free)

Electric Heating - energy flow
Electric Heating - energy flow

Interesting implications on fuel costs

The Wildcard Of Renewable Energy
By News Staff | August 13th 2012
"If you produce only heat from woodchips you have an energy efficiency of more than 80 percent"
The same can be said of burning wood pellets, natural gas, heating oil or any other fuel to heat your home. It looks like a good proposition - obtaining more than 80 percent of the energy content of the fuel as useful heat.

It is not the best that can be done however.

If the heat energy in the fuel is converted to electrical energy at 50 percent efficiency then each 2 kilowatt-hours of heat energy can produce 1 kilowatt-hour of electrical energy. If this is used in a reverse-cycle air conditioner to heat your home, you obtain 5 times 1 kilowatt-hour (that is 5 kilowatt-hours) of heat energy for each 2 kilowatt-hours of heat energy in the fuel.

Burning high-quality fuels such as natural gas for heating is an unnecessary waste of energy resources.

Team Work on Energy Costs

Beef Exports, Technology Imports and the High Australian Dollar

Australian beef growers can get better returns and their overseas customers a better deal if energy costs can be cut for a firm at the front line of beef exports.

The high Australian dollar is a two-edged sword. On one hand Australian exports are more expensive. On the other Australia gets good value for money on high-technology purchases that can be used to reduce costs and increase profits.

Finding overseas suppliers for equipment and developing ongoing business relationships has further important benefits for all parties. There is a two-fold benefit when Australia can find good sources for equipment from its trading partners. This supports the momentum in their economies. It maintains Australia's customers purchasing power for buying its exports.

It helps to counteract the slowing of economic activity in Australia's major trading partners such as China and in Europe that reduces the demand for Australian exports.

A business that is a staging area for beef exports has extensive cool-rooms and freezers with very high energy requirements. The carbon price is a significant impost as is the rapidly rising cost of electricity distribution in Australia.

The challenge and opportunity is to find cost-savings with commercially viable energy supply and automated management technology.
HACCP Food Safety Management Programmes
HACCP Food Safety Management Programmes

Systematic international food safety management in the industry in accordance with "Hazard analysis and critical control points" (HACCP) may be simplified if automated energy management technology can tackle part of the compliance costs for record-keeping. Automating alerts and responses when any cool room temperature deviates from what is required could avert product spoiling.

Energy Generation Technology to Cut Costs

VitoBloc CHP unit Module EM-401/549
VitoBloc CHP unit
Module EM-401/549
Retail energy costs in Australia are especially high by international standards as a result of massive investment in the distribution grid. The carbon price that commenced on July 1, 2012 has added to this cost.

These costs make the goal of commercially viable local generation an easier one to achieve.

Generating energy locally tends to be cheaper per kilowatt with larger systems. This means that larger systems such as the recently installed trigeneration plant at Coca-Cola Place in North Sydney are proving to be commercially viable. A generation system for a single residential household is more difficult to cost-justify.

Establishing commercial viability of generation systems suited to medium sized businesses with multiple sites is getting easier. Continually growing retail energy prices and advances in technology both make this problem easier to solve.

A business paying about $1,200 a month for carbon dioxide emissions for electricity from coal-fired power plants is using about 60,000 kilowatt-hours each month. (The carbon price for coal-fired power is nearly 2 cents per kilowatt-hours.)

In broad terms a local energy generation system can be used to produce electricity to supply about half of the energy needed for cool rooms and freezers. The "waste heat" from the generation system can be used in absorption chillers to supply the other half of energy needed for cool rooms and freezers.

Savings from the system come from four sources:

  • Fuel is used far more efficiently than in large central power stations.
  • The carbon price is not payable by any enterprise emitting less than 25,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.
  • The amount of carbon dioxide emitted is much less than that from a coal-fired power station even if any carbon price becomes payable. About 75 percent less.
  • The major cost component - the infrastructure to transmit power from large central power stations - is not avoided. It is not only the owner of the local generation system who saves money; Electricity grid investment is avoided and this bestows a benefit on every energy consumer.

Potential suppliers may be easier to find in Europe where local generation is more widespread than in Australia. One example is the German manufacture Viessmann Group that builds Vitobloc combined heat and power units. These power generation systems are manufactured in a range of outputs so matching the technology to different businesses' energy requirements is not too difficult.

Automation Technology to Cut Costs

A small number of businesses have designed and created a huge range of wireless sensors, controllers and information systems that build upon internet and smart phone technology. These new devices have enormous potential in many areas of home life, agriculture and industry.
Wireless irrigation system
Wulian Sensors and Automation Technology

Safety, health and comfort of the elderly and people with disabilities living in their own homes is just one of many areas where this technology should be applied sooner rather than later.

Another area is in monitoring and controlling the operation of business equipment such as energy generators, freezers and cool rooms. All operations can be continuously monitored and controlled according to an automated schedule. Alerts where any unusual situation arises can be immediately notified via the internet to any smart phone. People can send instructions over the internet with smart phone apps to remotely control business machines and without needing to travel to the business premises.

One of these businesses is Nanjing IOT Sensor Technology that has developed a great many different devices and software. The slow-down in major world economies is making business conditions difficult for such innovators. An Australian business could benefit by establishing an ongoing working relationship with such a supplier, providing feedback and design ideas to tailor products to best suit its needs while at the same time helping create wider awareness of the benefits this innovative technology provides.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Save the Date! 2nd Australian Summer Study on Energy Efficiency

Following on from the Australian Decentralised Energy Roadmap, launched 15 December 2011 by the Honourable Martin Ferguson, Australian Government Minister for Resources and Energy, addressing rapidly rising energy costs -



| 27 FEB - 1 MARCH, 2013| SYDNEY


Building on the success of this years' Summer Study, the Australian Alliance to Save Energy looks forward to welcoming you to an even bigger program in 2013.

The Summer Study is a three day, residential event that brings together a cross-sectoral group of influential, highly engaged individuals that are open to sharing information.

This years' results speak for themselves: 91% of attendees rated their experience ‘very good’ to 'excellent’ and 87% said they were exposed to new information. 

In 2013, the Summer Study will offer unparelleled access to global energy efficiency best practice. With four themes, 20 sessions and eight informal roundtables, the program will provide a rich environment for information sharing.

New in 2013:

• An entire track focussed on international perspectives which will include thought leaders from the U.S., Asia Pacific and Europe

• The program has a strong focus on energy users with a track dedicated to best practice, improving energy management and opportunities in industry

• The number of  informal sessions has been doubled providing lots of opportunities to participate in the program.


Wed 27 Feb - Fri 1 March, 2013

Location: Novotel Sydney Brighton Beach
Link to online map

We will be announcing a Call for Papers and sending out invitations to attend soon. In the meantime be sure to save these dates!

Download Sponsorship Prospectus

Download Program

Make an Enquiry

2012 Summer Study at a Glance:
* 275 attendees

* 18 countries
* 100+ speakers
* Senior, cross- sectoral audience

Watch 2012 presentations by:

* Steve Nadel American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy

* Dr Wanxing Wang, The China Sustainable Energy Program

* Lara Ettenson, Natural Resources Defense Counsel

Follow us on Twitter

This email was sent by The Australian Alliance to Save Energy,
Level 11, UTS Building 10, 235 Jones St, Ultimo, NSW, 2007, Ph: 02 9514 2044

Electricity price rises can't continue

From: Julia Gillard
Sent: Tuesday, August 07, 2012 4:09 PM
Subject: Electricity price rises can't continue

Today I delivered a major speech about electricity prices, to the Energy Policy Institute of Australia, in Sydney.

This has become one of the major cost of living pressures.

Indeed, power bills have become the new petrol prices - not just an essential of life that always seems to be going up, but a vital commodity. And what we consume each day, or pay every quarter, seems far beyond our control.

Prices have gone up – they’ve gone up far and fast.

Australia did not need power price increases of around fifty per cent over the last four years – and households can’t afford the same kinds of increases over the next four years.

Those price rises can’t continue.  They are a threat to the economy. They are a threat to fairness in our society.

Solving these kinds of problems for ordinary Australians is exactly the kind of thing Labor Governments are elected to do.

The plain facts are that for too long, some State Governments have been increasing their revenue at the expense of the family electricity bill.

Today I’ve said that massive prices rises have to stop.

To make that happen, I’ve written to the Premiers and Chief Ministers to say that I want solutions on the table for the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to adopt – by the end of the year.


PS. These energy price rises are well above the cost of the introduction of the carbon price and taking action on climate change. 9c of every dollar in an electricity bill is for the carbon price – and that’s fully compensated – while 51c is for the poles and wires. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

New Smart Energy Incentives

New Smart Energy Incentives
New Smart Energy Incentives
Time Of Use (TOU) electricity pricing can benefit households and businesses that are able to take advantage of reduced off-peak tariffs and have the flexibility to avoid electricity use in peak periods.

There will be other households and businesses that cannot in any practical way undertake this load shifting between peak and off-peak demand periods.

A question to consider is: Can these other households and businesses contribute in other ways to reduce peak demand so that they too benefit from electricity price incentives?

One possibility is for a number of such households and businesses to participate in a club that adjusts the timing of duty cycles of some of their appliances such as space heaters, air conditioners, refrigerators and water heaters to smooth out the electricity demand of these appliances.

Note that the aggregate energy demand will remain unchanged. The adjustment of duty cycle start-times avoids situations where a significant group appliances would otherwise turn on at about the same time and then all turn off at about the same time, resulting in "tidal" peaks and troughs in demand.

The households and businesses that can contribute to load-smoothing in this way do not need smart meters or time-of-use tariffs to trial the viability of this approach. There is low-cost technology to monitor energy use by appliances that might be managed by an energy load-smoothing club and make that information available over the internet for aggregation and analysis on behalf of the club members.

 A collection of illustrations of this technology is in the post  Smart Energy Future.

eCommerce Innovations - A Few Examples

Links overlaid on videos -

YouTube video, Beacon Hotel, Miami Beach, FL

Information video, Verizon Wireless

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Smart Energy Future

Smart Energy Future - Innovators in ICT required
Smart Energy Future
Innovators in ICT required

Extract from speech by Julia Gillard -

Electricity prices: the facts, Speech to the Energy Policy Institute of Australia

TUE 07 AUGUST 2012
Prime Minister Julia Gillard
For too long, some State Governments have been increasing their revenue at the expense of the family electricity bill – that has to stop.

Given all those facts and given the regulator itself says the present regulatory framework has led to price increases which are difficult to justify, how can we doubt Australians are paying more than they should for electricity?

So let’s act.

First, let’s give people more power over what they pay for power.

A typical suburban house today doesn’t even have smart meters to measure peak demand, much less to help people control it.

People need and deserve more choice and control.

Already, the Federal Government has taken important steps to do this.

But we want to put even more effective control in the hands of energy users, in the hands of working people, pensioners, owners of small businesses.
 And the Federal Government is directly investing in demonstrating smart electricity networks.

In time, these will allow people to have far greater control over their own household electricity use, along with far more information about their own needs.

People should be able to use what they want when they want it and cut out expensive services they don’t need.

Picture a smart phone app that means you can load the clothes dryer or a dishwasher before you leave home – and then turn it on when a low cost rate becomes available during the day.

Or consider new technology so home air conditioners can switch themselves between high and low power mode, keeping a house cool while limiting use in high-cost periods of peak demand.

Or in the same way many people use a travel agent or a mortgage broker to get the best bargains, small businesses could hire a clean energy adviser to analyse the data about their business’s energy consumption and find a better deal.

Extract of article by Combined Pensioners & Superannuants of NSW Inc -

‘Smart’ Meters add to pensioner electricity costs

Monday, 23 January 2012

PENSIONERS may be forced to do their household chores overnight if they wish to save on electricity bills.

The cost of running appliances and cooling your home could double under a new proposal put forward to the Gillard Government – unless you’re willing (and able) to restrict your electricity consumption to the hours between 10pm and 7am.

Under the plan put forward, so-called smart meters would be rolled out across NSW, with the potential to hit pensioners and self-funded retirees at the hip pocket.

What are smart meters?

A smart meter is an electronic meter that records how much electricity is used by a household, with different tariffs for different times throughout the day. They are capable of remote communication which allows the meter owner or electricity supplier to send or collect information directly from the meter.
While Energy Australia has stated that 70 per cent of households would be better off with smart meters, research by St Vincent de Paul has shown that smart meters impose significant increases for those on pensions.
Now, under their new name, Ausgrid, they are conducting trials in Newcastle, Scone, Ku-ring-gai and the Sydney CBD hoping to make a case for more smart meter deployments.

CPSA cannot see justification in extending the roll-out of a flawed system.

Surely the Government and energy providers can recognise that pensioners have been hit with enough rises in electricity costs and that they should not punish those that spend more time in the home.

For an approach that may create an incentive for energy consumers such as  pensioners and self-funded retirees, see the related post New Smart Energy Incentives.

Low-cost technology for consumer-controlled smart energy

Smart Phone application to monitor and control appliances
Smart Phone application to monitor
and control appliances over internet

Router that connects home to internet
Router that connects home to internet

Tablet Computer that connects to home appliances (by ZigBee) and to Router (by WiFi)
Tablet Computer that connects to home appliances (by ZigBee)
and to Router (by WiFi)

USB-to-ZigBee Controller -  Connects Tablet to home appliances
USB-to-ZigBee Controller -
Connects Computer Tablet
by ZigBee wireless mesh to home appliances

ZigBee Power Outlet monitored and controlled by Smart Phone
ZigBee Power Outlet monitored and
controlled by Smart Phone

ZigBee Temperature Sensor monitored by Smart Phone
ZigBee Temperature Sensor monitored by Smart Phone