ALLAN JONES CLEAN VISION FOR THE HARBOUR CITY
For once, business and bureaucrats seem to be on the same page. Local government and major business groups want to see more efficient energy systems in Australia. In fact, the City of Sydney has created a blueprint to be adopted by 2030 that creates a green, global and connected landscape. To achieve this vision the city is implementing climate change initiatives including:
• Energy efficiency retrofits, LED street and park lighting and rolling out Australia’s largest building mounted solar panel project on the City’s own buildings and operations
• Better Buildings Partnership and Environmental Upgrade Agreements to help business to reduce energy bills and emissions
• Green Infrastructure Plan – Trigeneration, Renewable Energy, Advanced Waste Treatment and Decentralised Water Master Plans to detail the infrastructure needed to deliver Sustainable Sydney 2030. The City of Sydney recently urged members of the NSW Parliament to reform outdated electricity regulations preventing the installation of low-carbon trigeneration electricity precincts.
At a hearing of the NSW Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee into trigeneration, the City of Sydney’s Chief Development Officer Energy and Climate Change, Allan Jones, said major businesses groups that want to bring more efficient energy systems to Australia echoed the City’s views.
“Trigeneration is a proven way to produce electricity locally and to recycle the waste heat that would otherwise be thrown away at remote power stations and not only slash carbon emissions but reduce energy costs at the same time,” Allan says.
“While the current regulations allow installation of a trigeneration plant in a single building, they make it very difficult to install bigger, more efficient plants which could supply electricity, heating and cooling to a cluster of neighbouring buildings because of the prohibitive cost of transporting electricity short distances.”
The way the regulations work now, the network charges to move electricity across the road is the same as bringing electricity on the network all the way down from the Hunter Valley.
“In many other countries regulations that make these plants more economically viable have led to the installation of thousands of megawatts of trigeneration power and significantly slashed carbon emissions.
“Trigeneration networks in the US, UK, Russia, China, Germany, India and Japan offer a cheaper and cleaner alternative to coal-fired power, proving this is a safe and reliable way to produce local electricity, heating and cooling. There are currently more than 330 gigawatts of electricity produced worldwide using trigeneration. With the rest of the world moving in this direction, it’s time for Australia to join the 21st century on this critical issue.”
Allan was brought into the Sydney project in late 2008 due to his vast experience in meeting a city’s energy requirements. He says the difference in the UK, where he had extraordinary results, to Australia was regulation.
“In Woking we had a better regulatory regime. We were able to form joint ventures with the private sector. By the time I left Woking I’d implemented more than 80 private decentralised energy systems.
“Over here local government is not recognised in your constitution, so anything that we try to do in this area is subject to ministerial approval and that’s just too big a risk for the private sector to want to participate with the public sector.”
The public and private sectors working together is necessary to deliver Sustainable Sydney 2030 so this was one of the first things that Allan had to address through such initiatives as the Better Buildings Partnership and Environmental Upgrade Agreements.
Without too many barriers, certainly at the government level in Woking,
Allan helped reduce CO2 emissions by 77.5% from 1990 levels to 2004, improved the energy efficiency of the existing housing stock within its area by 30% from 1996 to 2004 and undertook groundbreaking work on energy and water efficiency, private wire CHP cogeneration and trigeneration decentralised energy systems, environmentally friendly waste recycling/recovery and energy from waste technologies, alternative fuels for transport, renewable energy and fuel cells. Woking installed 81 private wire decentralised energy systems, nearly 10% of the UK’s total installed solar energy photovoltaics and the first fuel cell CHP in the UK. Woking was able to able to implement private wire networks under the UK’s exempt licensing regime.
He repeated these achievements in 2004, when the then Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone recruited Jones to head up his new climate change agency for London as chief executive officer (2004 to 2008) of the London Climate Change Agency Ltd.
Allan is credited with the removal of the regulatory barriers to decentralised energy in the UK with the high level advocacy and lobbying that led to the creation of a separate electricity supply licence for decentralised energy or distributed generation to supply electricity over the local distribution network, otherwise known as the ‘virtual private wire’ over public wires principle.
Allan has thus had to approach things differently in Australia.
We want the same outcome for Syd- ney, so we need to press for electricity regulatory reform for decentralised energy. The City is doing all that it can, so for trigeneration for example, it is looking at enabling thermal energy networks between buildings so that surplus thermal energy can be supplied to other buildings in the precinct.
Some schemes are moving ahead via environmental upgrade agreements
and the better buildings partnership, a partnership between the City and 15 of the city’s major landlords who own more than 50% of the commercial real estate in the city. So things are happening despite the regulatory barriers.
The City of Sydney already has approximately 15 trigeneration systems in place but Allan wants to see those move away from building only systems to supply other buildings very high levels of efficiency and a much greater reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
A part of Allan’s role when he moved to Australia just under four years ago was to upskill staff. Neither he nor the City wanted someone to fly in and fly out after making changes, but have nobody understand what was done. This would make it impossible to continue the work.
“There’s been quite a significant upskilling of people inside this organisation; whether it’s design or operation maintenance or the actual delivery of the projects that I helped develop like building energy efficiency have been allocated to different departments for them to manage the contracts going forward because I really didn’t need to be a contract manager as well.”
It is a long process to get everybody on board, including staff and outside elements, but Allan believes that the best way to convince someone of the efficacy of a program is to take them on the journey with you.
“When we developed the trigeneration masterplan, one of the first things I did was to involve Ausgrid, the electricity network operator and Jemena, the gas network operator into the project team. The technical detail of how energy is consumed in the city and at what point can you inject surplus electricity into the local electricity network at particular capacities was provided by like South Korea, India, Japan, and even China are doing this, however I find that a lot of people involved in this project area are totally unaware of that. So just providing them with the information and making them aware that this is already being done elsewhere makes it much easier for them to get on with the project rather than thinking that they’re working at some kind of leading edge level that they feel uncomfortable with.”
“I guess a lot of what I’ve done to unlock the potential in Australia is the sort of dissemination of information and knowledge that makes people aware of how you go about designing, building and operating these systems.”
Other countries and world cities may be ahead individually with trigeneration, solar, wind, renewable gas from waste, decentralised water and so on but not, as yet, as an integrated solution for sustainability, climate change mitigation and adaptation.’
Where the City of Sydney has actually become a world leader is not, as yet, in the delivery of sustainable energy, water or waste of the scale that has already been delivered in other world cities, but in joining up the dots and showing how a world city can become 100% sustainable and self-sufficient through the application of its green infrastructure and other plans that both mitigates and is resilient to climate change.
“How you go about decarbonising the cities in a matter of a couple of decades is of key interest to the rest of the world. We’re actually getting a lot of enquiries from overseas cities. We make all that technical documentation available to people on the ‘Powering Sydney’ website; it can be freely downloaded, and so we’re working with other world cities around to copy what we’re doing in terms of the masterplanning process – of how you actually go about decarbonising the city to a 100% renewable energy city, a sustainable water supply and so on.”
For decades now, Allan has been involved in best practice renewable energy solutions. Though Australia has been behind in knowledge and implementation, it is hoped that the City of Sydney project will have nationwide impact. All it takes is simple things like converting waste into renewable gases for injection into the gas grid to supply the planned trigeneration network and using LED lights in the city streets. Allan is now four years into the project, but already he feels that the 2030 target will be achieved beforehand. Ausgrid. ‘ The trigeneration masterplan is a detailed technical document that can be used by anyone who wants to develop a trigeneration network.’
Similarly we’ve done the same thing with the renewable energy and the decentralised water masterplans. The private sector on its own would have never have done that, they need a business case, so you involve them in the process and they understand they should get a return on investment.”
Another problem Allan has had to overcome is a lack of knowledge in this area.
Australia is behind Europe, America and Asia in the adoption of decentralised energy and advanced renewable energy programmes. For example, new ‘power to gas’ technologies converting surplus wind and solar into renewable gas used in Europe could unlock Australia’s vast renewable energy mining and export potential. Australia’s solar energy resource alone is 10,000 times Australia’s total annual energy consumption and less than 1% of this resource would equal Australia’s current black coal and natural gas exports at an economic value of $31 billion. No holes would have to be drilled or dug, the resource would never run out and Australia could be reducing global emissions rather than increasing them if it adopted these technologies.
“One of the benefits of me being here is that I can show people that this isn’t rocket science. Germany’s doing it, Denmark’s doing it, California’s doing it, the UK is doing it. Countries