Trigeneration key to emission reductions

Article image - Trigeneration key to emission reductions

Electricity could be cheaper and cleaner if regulations blocking local, efficient energy systems in Australia were removed, according to a City of Sydney submission to the Prime Minister’s Task Group on Energy Efficiency.

City of Sydney’s Energy Expert, Allan Jones, said decentralised networks of ‘trigeneration’ plants could solve the peak power demand problems more cheaply and efficiently than upgrading electricity networks and building new, remote, coal or gas fired power stations.

“At a time when consumers are bracing themselves for the first part of the New South Wales Government’s 40 per cent electricity price rises – people must be asking if there’s an alternative,” he said. “More than $5 billion is proposed to be spent in the next five years upgrading the network of cables, wires and transformers to meet primarily increased peak electricity demand, such as mid summer when air conditioning use is at its highest. These costs could be significantly reduced or delayed if cities and other urban areas were supplied from a local network of trigeneration plants.”

Trigeneration plants burn natural, renewable or other low carbon gases to produce electricity. The waste heat is captured and used for heating and, through heat fired absorption chillers, cooling of buildings. They are nearly three times more energy efficient than a coal fired power station.

However, according to Allan Jones, trigeneration is currently restricted to small scale individual buildings as proponents avoid exporting electricity into the grid due to regulatory barriers.

Allan Jones took the English city of Woking off the grid and implemented London Council’s greenhouse gas reduction strategy. He said a far greater scale of energy generation and emissions reductions could be achieved by citywide trigeneration systems, maximising the local exportation of electricity.

The City of Sydney is about to seek tenders for the installation of a network of large scale trigeneration systems that will supply electricity, heating and cooling to its buildings with the potential to connect other nearby premises.

The first phase will see the installation of trigeneration plants in at least seven sites in central Sydney. These systems are expected to have a capacity of up to 25 megawatts by 2015, increasing to at least 330 megawatts by 2030. This will supply 70 per cent of Council’s needs, with the remainder coming from renewable sources and energy efficiency measures.

Council is currently working with Energy Australia to obtain exemption to transfer surplus power to other Council buildings across the electricity network.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said Australia’s other capital cities could halve their greenhouse gas emissions over the next 20 years if they implemented a similar plan.

“This was the finding of a study by the Centre for International Economics Australia, which said national emissions could be slashed by a cumulative 540 million tonnes between 2010 and 2030 – roughly equivalent to the total of Australia’s 2008 emissions,” she said.

The Prime Minister’s Task Group on Energy Efficiency is examining the most economically, environmentally effective and socially inclusive energy efficiency mechanisms to deliver ‘step change improvement’ in Australia’s energy efficiency by 2020. This would place Australia at the forefront of OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) energy efficiency improvement. The group is considering submissions and is expected to report options to the Federal Government this month.

For further information visit and follow the links to Allan Jones’ feature pages.