State air­con plan ‘like a scene from Utopia’

Daily Mercury - - NEWS - DARYL PASSMORE news@dai­ly­mer­cury.com.au

TURN­ING air­con­di­tion­ing up to 26C will worsen work­place heat stress, which al­ready costs com­pa­nies hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars a year, say an­gry busi­ness bosses.

The State Gov­ern­ment’s “Sum­mer Prepard­ness Plan” to cope with peak power de­mand has been slammed by Cham­ber of Com­merce and In­dus­try Queens­land as sim­i­lar to a plot from the satir­i­cal TV show Utopia.

The plan, re­vealed by The Courier-Mail this week, in­cludes ask­ing res­i­dents and busi­nesses to set their air­con­di­tion­ers to 26C or higher dur­ing heat­waves and turn off ad­ver­tis­ing and non-es­sen­tial light­ing and elec­tri­cal equip­ment.

“On its face, those seem to be not sig­nif­i­cantly ar­du­ous re­quests. How­ever, small busi­nesses have deep con­cerns for their pro­duc­tiv­ity and the im­pact to the econ­omy at large,” CCIQ gen­eral man­ager ad­vo­cacy Kate Whit­tle said.

Re­search shows the op­ti­mum of­fice tem­per­a­ture for pro­duc­tiv­ity is 21-23C with 20-60 per cent hu­mid­ity.

“As the tem­per­a­ture in the of­fice rises, pro­duc­tiv­ity falls,” she said. Lost pro­duc­tiv­ity due to heat stress cost the na­tion $6.9 bil­lion a year, about $245 mil­lion of it in Queens­land.

“It is like a scene from Utopia. Over the last decade, busi­nesses have been slugged with charge af­ter charge and price in­crease af­ter price in­crease to build a gold-plated net­work and now we are be­ing told not to use elec­tric­ity.

“Busi­nesses won’t know whether to laugh or cry,” Ms Whit­tle said.

The Gov­ern­ment would reap $6.3 bil­lion in profit over the next four years from state-owned cor­po­ra­tions and “they still can’t keep the lights on if we have a hot sum­mer”.

“The Queens­land Gov­ern­ment owns the as­set, they own the prob­lem.”

The Sum­mer Prepard­ness Plan has been de­vel­oped to max­imise power gen­er­a­tion and man­age use to avoid load-shed­ding and black­outs dur­ing the hottest months.

Na­tional Re­tail As­so­ci­a­tion chief ex­ec­u­tive Do­minique Lamb said the vol­un­tary en­ergy-sav­ing mea­sures pro­posed for busi­nesses were “overkill’’.

“I won’t be en­cour­ag­ing re­tail­ers to turn up the air­con in hot weather. It’s a re­ally good time to cap­i­talise on the fact that peo­ple want to go to the shops and be in the air­con­di­tion­ing and it in­creases foot traf­fic for traders.”

Switch­ing off ad­ver­tis­ing lights would also dam­age busi­ness, Ms Lamb warned.

“Peo­ple are shop­ping on their phones and on­line more now and the rea­son is that they spend so much time driv­ing to and from work. Things like bill­boards and il­lu­mi­nated shore ad­ver­tis­ing signs are in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant to gen­er­at­ing busi­ness.”

Real Es­tate In­sti­tute of Queens­land CEO An­to­nia Mer­corella said: “It shouldn’t be up to busi­ness and pri­vate in­di­vid­u­als to make these kinds of sac­ri­fices due to the Gov­ern­ment’s poor elec­tric­ity grid man­age­ment and poor plan­ning.”

PHOTO: HWA GOH

PIC­TURED: Rob Sitch, front cen­tre, with the cast of ABC-TV com­edy Utopia.

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