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The new energy debate: Energy Efficiency or Renewable Energy?

The debate between which to prioritise; Energy Efficiency or Renewable Energy is heating up thanks to the long awaited carbon tax into Australia.

There is plenty of research supporting that energy efficiency is the single-largest untapped source for energy management. On a relative cost basis, energy efficiency blows renewable energy out of the water. Some predict solar energy could reach cost parity with the expected electric retail rates within five years, but this is primarily due to the rapid increase in energy costs expected over this period coupled with a softening of the cost of solar technologies.

However, a slew of new technologies related to both efficiency and renewables are emerging to fill companies' energy management arsenal. Machines and systems have evolved to have second power sources, such as hybrid vehicles and plastic injection molding machines which use both hydraulics and electrical systems.

The focus on energy efficiency is likely to double over coming years, and it is going to become increasingly common for systems, whether they're small as hand-held tools and devices, or as large as buildings and campuses, to have not just two, but three or even more power sources, and increasingly including one or more storage devices.

The existence of renewables make multiple power sources even more likely because they commonly deliver inconsistent supply. One of the biggest developments in energy efficiency is likely key technologies to be power management and optimization, systems that know how to get the most out of different sources, and know when to store and when to save over complex applications and complex duty cycles.

But how do companies evaluate which energy solution to use? Again, it's complicated. Even when evaluating renewable energy projects against one another, competing attributes can muddy the water, such as rival payback periods, carbon reductions or the upfront capital. Then, of course, things can get more complicated when examined through the lens of sustainability.

Ultimately, it's important to step away from the view of on-site renewable power and energy efficiency projects being individual components of a broader strategy, as opposed to being discrete investments.

The Clean Energy Centre specialises in the design and installation of both Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency technologies for the commercial and residential sector. Fully trained and highly experienced clean energy consultants can help companies determine the most feasible and effective path to take in terms of energy efficiency and/or clean energy technologies to reduce energy costs.


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