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Energy efficiency needs to be a ‘first fuel’ priority

Reducing greenhouse gases emissions produced from the burning of fossil fuels must remain a top priority, for all groups working to protect nature.  Munibung Hill Conservation Society (MHCS) while advocating for the protection and regeneration of this important landmass includes climate protection as one of the key aspects of conserving endangered ecological communities and wildlife habitat.

In The ‘Australian Way’ energy wasting plan (Renew, Issue 158, Jan-Mar 2022), Alan Pears updates readers on the federal government’s emission reduction plan and discusses the link between water and energy use.

The point that is side stepped over and over again is energy efficiency often involving avoiding energy use well before considering adding extra supply.  So this ‘first fuel’ becomes a high priority and the well-known heat pump that’s been around for years also gets attention.  Alan Pears writes: 

The governments Long Term Emissions Reduction Plan and Low Emissions Technology Statement 2021 offers an unusual planning framework with two elements. First, there is an uncritical summary of existing climate policies and programs.  Second, a hand picked cluster of technologies and associated development strategies is described.  Some of these are actually part of our climate problem, while others will take years to develop and may not be viable.

There is little focus on emission reduction in buildings where many Australians live in sub-standard conditions, or the services and light industry sectors – where the vast majority of employment and economic activity occurs (as manufacturing, mining and agriculture generate only around a quarter of economic output).  These sectors pay high prices for energy.

Energy efficiency, the International Energy Agency’s ‘first fuel’, that also delivers multiple benefits beyond emission reduction, is mentioned on eight of 128 pages.

On page 71, progress on building energy regulation is discussed, with the comment that ‘by 2050, around 7 million homes and a third of commercial buildings will not be subject to improved energy efficiency measures in the National Construction Code’.  The proposed response is that ‘government may need to consider additional measures..‘. Now there’s a plan.

Drying clothes

A washer load of wet clothes can contain several litres of water, which must be removed.  A clothes washer with high spin speeds removes more water.  There are a few drying options, indoor drying on a clothes rack, an outdoor clothesline, a traditional electric clothes dryer, or a heat pump clothes dryer.  How do they compare? 

Drying clothes other than outdoors on a clothesline means that the increased condensation on windows and walls, increases the risk of mould and health problems.  Heating costs may increase as evaporation requires heat energy.  As homes become ‘tighter’ the issue of condensation and the need to deal with it becomes more important and more costly.  One very good option, that is not often considered is heat pump clothes dryers.

A heat pump clothes dryer is a ‘closed loop’ system.  It heats air to evaporate the water from the clothes, then cools that air, condensing the water vapour in it and recovering the energy used to evaporate the water.  Instead of dumping hot, humid air into the laundry, it simply reheats the air using this recovered energy to evaporate more water from the clothes.  That’s why the best heat pump clothes dryers have 8 to 10 star ratings, compared with 2 to 3 stars for traditional clothes dryers.  They use as little as a quarter as much energy.