The Science of Energy Management – Strata Buildings and Energy Efficiency

From July 2021, Strata Management Companies and Councils of Owners, can begin to reach the new Federal Government renewable energy target of 43% CO2 savings against 2005 levels by 2030. Changes to Legislation mean only 51% of the Strata vote is required to approve sustainable infrastructure upgrades. In addition, new Western Power distribution board requirements and safety standards took effect in December 2021 which will lead to more infrastructure upgrades.

Any Strata building with more than 10 lots which have a sum insured over $5 Million, will now require a mandatory 10-Year maintenance plan. Element47 recommend considering energy efficiency and renewable energy when replacing or upgrading your building services infrastructure.

What Are Our Options?

By using smart, embedded networks, connected, private electrical and communications infrastructure which may be owned by a third party (Direct Power Purchase Agreement below), the Strata Owners can now access:

  • Solar, Batteries, Microgrids
  • Heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC)
  • Domestic hot water (DHW) and;
  • The benefits of community internet and renewable electricity

Investment may be made by raising a levy, although this can be a lengthy process and not all communities would have access to enough spare capital to meet those requirements.

How Can This be Achieved?

The three most common methodologies to advance these solutions are:

  1. Outright purchase (upfront Reserve Fund) typically raised by a special Levy at say an AGM or EGM, and/or the Strata Company may have sufficient funds in the bank.
  2. Strata Finance Loan (Benefits Finance is unsecured, although at 6% to 9% interest)
  3. Direct Power Purchase Agreement (Third party buy and own the infrastructure for a term of 10 to 30 years, generally 20 years, a $/kWh, in general 10% is a reasonable saving, although it can be up to 30%)

60% of residential energy consumption comes from the combination of 40%, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) and 20% from heating hot water (HHW), according to Australian Institute of Refrigeration, Airconditioning and Heating (AIRAH). Consider reducing your consumption by upgrading to more energy efficient HVAC and domestic hot water.

Is a Hybrid System Worth Considering?

For HVAC, moving to a hybrid solar passive/passive house with integrated mechanical services means that year round heating and cooling is possible. Particularly in the SW of WA, we still have extreme heatwaves and cold snaps which generally require mechanical HVAC to keep you comfortable. These systems may be centralised (community scale HVAC) or decentralised (split system AC’s in each apartment/room).

Solar passive uses no electricity to heat and cool, although it generally requires human interaction to say open windows and doors for the Fremantle doctor. While passive houses require minimal human interaction and use minimal electricity to heat and cool the residence.

Both solar passive and passive house focus on energy efficiency in the built form, building orientation, shading, insulation and natural ventilation from windows, doors, exhausts. Passive house addresses air leakage (usually 25 times the volume an hour in Australia) by creating an air tight home and providing 100% fresh air through a filtered heat recovery ventilation system to automatically keep the home at a stable air temperature of between 21 and 23 degrees Celsius.

Hybrid systems with mechanical heating and cooling will provide guaranteed year-round comfort and save between 30% and 40% off an annual residence’s electricity bill.

For heating hot water, many apartments use either gas instantaneous, or electric storage or instantaneous hot water systems. These are simply energy inefficient – heat pump hot water systems are on average four times more energy efficient than the aforementioned traditional heating hot water systems. The choice here is between a low upfront cost and higher ongoing bills or a higher upfront cost with only a quarter of the bills.

What About Solar?

Solar electricity can reduce daytime demand in a building.  An oversized system which exports electricity to the grid often does not generate any income as solar feed in tariffs per kWh of renewable energy range between $0.00 (Synergy) to $0.04 for contestable customers.

Various regulations and codes provide additional protection to electricity customers who are considered to have little or no market power. These customers are referred to as “small use customers” and are generally comprised of residential and small business customers.

Customers who consume 50MWh or more of electricity per year (or approximately 4,166 units per month) at each exit point (the point where your property or business is connected to the electricity network) may choose their own retailer. These customers are referred to as “contestable customers”.

Aggregating customers together enables a more cost effective rollout of solar and battery storage to reduce a community’s electricity costs and increase renewable energy up to 100%. Those living in strata arrangements may not have the ability to add solar on the roof and to their own home, now these benefits can be provided at the community level. The simple rule is solar only covers around 30% of your bill, but without an embedded network, most strata buildings are limited to covering only the common area electricity.

Are Embedded Networks Worth Considering?

An embedded network gives two significant benefits to apartments:

  1. The aggregation and bulk purchase of power on behalf of the community (it is recommended to engage an energy procurement specialist that does not work on commission or hidden commission). Savings are typically in the range of 10% to 30% on electricity costs when benchmarked against the WA residential A1 tariff.
  2. Additionally, renewable energy can be installed to offset the grid purchased electricity and directly reduce carbon emissions.

New technology such as Powerledger’s Peer to Peer trading platform can be used to track the near realtime trading and equitable distribution of solar and grid electricity and their associated carbon emissions for NABERS compliance on a 5-minute interval basis.

5-minute intervals are the game changer; we all know that renewable energy is variable – when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow – generation reduces or stops – when a cloud comes over – generation reduces instantaneously.

Load is also variable – a kettle is only on for 1 minute – a microwave 2 to 5 minutes.

As energy systems transitions to 100% renewable energy between 2030 and 2040, our choice of embedded network metering is critical to the success of a building’s energy management and billing system into the future. We like to use SATEC NMI approved meters as they have embedded data logs and comply with the national electricity market Power of Choice regulations.

What About Electric Vehicle Charging?

And that brings us to electric vehicle charging.  Globally, the challenge of addressing the scientific evidence that we need to meet our 1.5 degree warming target means there is a rapid transition – including for transport. More than 3 billion people now live in countries that have mandated 100% electric vehicle sales between 2024 and 2060. And all major car companies have committed billions to the effort to transition. Mercedes recently committed $47 billion to provide an equivalent full EV for every model by 2025 and an 100% electric fleet of cars, vans and trucks by 2030.

The finance industry is now moving with Bank Australia recently stating that it will no longer offer personal loans for new internal combustion vehicles – including hybrids (HEVs) and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) – as of 2025, citing its company-wide push to be carbon neutral by 2035.

Most car bays will require EV charging of some description, likely that is smart and controllable. At the moment, AC chargers are cheap and enable slow charging of between 7kW and 20kW on average and range from $2,000 to $15,000.

Article provided by Guest Contribut0r

Andrew Haning, Element47