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Trigeneration can deliver cheaper and cleaner electricity in Australia says expert

Power bills for NSW households could be cut by almost $600 million per year by 2020 or $60 per household by expanding decentralised or local energy production and energy efficiency measures, the City of Sydney’s international energy expert Allan Jones has said.

The City’s plan to install a network of trigeneration energy systems across the CBD could avoid the need for unnecessary investment in new power stations and electricity network infrastructure – the main drivers of household electricity bills which are projected to rise by 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." 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.

"The City of Sydney’s plan to build trigeneration systems in the CBD offers a key opportunity to defer or eliminate a portion of the $17.4 billion being invested in wires, poles and substations over the next five years due to growth in electricity demand in NSW," said Jones.

"The increase in network charges represents $2,400 per person and an 80 per cent increase over the previous five year period which could be reduced with the implementation of the City’s trigeneration plan".

Jones, who implemented major greenhouse gas reduction programmes in London and Woking in the UK, has recently been appointed by the Federal Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Greg Combet to the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF) based at Griffith University in Queensland. This national research group is studying how Australia can adapt to the impacts of climate change such as more frequent and severe droughts, floods and sea level rise.

The trigeneration systems will initially use natural gas to produce low carbon electricity. They also capture the waste heat from the electricity generation and use it 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.

Stand alone trigeneration plants are already being used in a number of buildings in Sydney, including the Workplace 6 building in Ultimo and the offices of Stockland in the CBD. However, the City’s plan goes much further, with trigeneration networks to supply precincts or clusters of buildings similar to in Europe, the US and Asia.

Following the recent trigeneration tender the City will be commencing negotiations to build the trigeneration systems for the City’s own property portfolio as well as building the precinct-based trigeneration networks for the CBD and Green Square. An energy services company will be selected later this year.

A study by the University of Technology’s Institute of Sustainable Futures on future NSW electricity demand, found that decentralised energy and efficiency measures were cheaper and produced far less carbon emissions than either coal or gas fired power plants. They could cut total power bills by about $600 million per year by 2020 – equivalent to about $60 per household per year.

Local energy options could save $1.4 billion and up to $3.8 billion between now and 2020 and reduce emissions in the next nine years by between 2.2 and 8.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, the report said.

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