Cutting energy costs, cutting carbon emissions

Everybody’s heard about high cost energy costs. And we all know about climate change and the need to reduce carbon emissions. Matt McDonald looks at one way to deal with these twin problems.

Whether you ‘believe’ in climate change or not, cutting energy is a smart move. Doesn’t matter if you’re an environmentalist or a climate change sceptic – cutting energy use will save you money.

And one way of cutting energy use is investing in voltage optimisation technology.

Manufacturers’ Monthly caught up with Dr Alex Mardapittas, Managing Director of EMSc (UK) which makes the Powerstar voltage optimisation system.

A world authority on the technology, Mardapittas (pictured) explained that voltage optimisation is a way to bring the voltage supplied by the grid in line with what is actually required to run electrical equipment and machinery.

How does it work?

By installing a device in series with the mains electricity supply it is possible to provide an optimum supply of voltage to equipment.

The statutory electricity supply range for Australia is 230V +10% to -6%. This means electricity suppliers must provide a voltage level between 253V and 216V.

Suppliers actually distribute electricity at 253V. Over distances the voltage decreases, so on average, it is received from the grid at 247V.

However, most electrical equipment used in Australia works best with 220V to 230V. In other words, the grid provides more voltage than is needed.

This is where voltage optimisation can be brought into play. It can be used to bring incoming mains supply into line with what equipment needs to run most effectively.

Who should use it?

“In theory, anybody who uses electricity. In practice, the payback increases with the more [electricity] consumed,” said Mardapittas.

He recommends the technology for those who use more than $50,000 worth of electricity a year. Organisations using that much can expect a payback period of two and a half years. And those using more will have a shorter payback period.

“Manufacturing is ideal for the product. The reason is that manufacturers use a lot of inductive motors. We save significantly more energy on inductive loads,” added Mardapittas.

He also pointed out that, because in Australia we have higher voltage than in the UK (where the Powerstar technology was created), average savings in this country are higher. On average, UK users can expect savings of 12%, while there Aussie counterparts can get about 15%.

Those figures also refer to carbon emission cuts. If you are saving 15% in energy kilowatt hours, you are cutting carbon emissions by 15%.

EMSc established its Australian office two years ago. Asked if he was pleased with Powerstar’s introduction to the local market, Mardapittas was positive.

“In every territory… where awareness is low we have to educate the people first. But in Australia we found it easier to educate the people than, for example, in the USA,” he said.

“In Australia we are very happy to have 66 systems installed in two years and I’m sure it is going to increase dramatically as time passes.

“We have 6,500 systems installed around the world so we don’t see any reason why Australia shouldn’t be 100-200 units a year.”

When the local office opened, the plan was to establish partnerships with energy consultants and third party distributors to help promote and sell Powerstar.

Today, there are four Australian distributors representing Powerstar in various states (and in New Zealand) – Liberty Saver in SA; Ecocentric Energy in WA; Maser in Vic, NSW and NZ; and Corospark in Vic.

However, not as many energy consultants have come on board.

“They are our ideal partners, but we need to educate them in the same way we educate the manufacturers and the commercial organisations,” Mardapittas explained.

At this time, he said, energy consultants tend to concentrate on simple solutions – “low hanging fruit”. For example, they are more likely to suggest that businesses switch to LED lights than employ voltage optimisation.

The politics

Some say Australia has dropped the ball on climate change. The Government did its best to avoid the issue at the G20 Summit and the jury is still out on what effect (if any) its Direct Action policy will have on emissions.

Mardapittas declined to be drawn on the issue.

“We sell a solution that saves energy. Regardless of the political aspects of any country, we don’t see any negative aspects,” he said.

“We save money for people. We save energy. We save tons of CO2.”

“Some of our clients don’t care about the tons of CO2. They only care about the money. But others care about the tons of CO2 more than the money.”

Complaining about energy prices has become a bit of a national past time. Mardapittas signed off with a point that many Australians may not be aware of.

“To put everything in perspective, you pay less than half the cost of energy that we pay in Europe,” he pointed out.

“To have a payback of 2.5 years on average on half the cost of energy, things can only get better for the future of our system in terms of payback…because everywhere on the planet energy prices are expected to rise.

“So the quicker people install our product the better for their pockets.” And the better for the environment.

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