Many SMEs, consumers and large organisations are trying to reduce their environmental impacts through the products they sell and purchase.
Government assistance for this is available for businesses and consumers in many forms but the opportunities do not always turn out as promised.
A recent example is the NSW Solar PV situation. With the federal government solar credits scheme and the NSW Gross Feed In Tariff (which ended recently), a lot of small businesses and residential consumers have been duped into buying poor quality systems through misleading promises of potential income and savings.
Complaints are rolling in at an increasing rate and many solar suppliers are going out of business.
Another example is the light bulb “swap for free” scheme in NSW and Victoria.
Many people signed over carbon reduction credits in return for some free energy saving light bulbs. These compact fluorescent lamps turned out to contain mercury and many of them were of poor quality leading to insufficient lighting and/or lamp failure within months.
The NSW government has started a similar scheme and the light bulb merchants are coming out again with “free energy-saving lamps” in return for assignation of the carbon credits, this time called Energy Saving Certificates or ESC’s under the Energy Saving Scheme.
While this scheme is more robust than previous schemes and requires eligible products to be approved, installed and various records kept, the potential to mislead consumers and businesses for an attractive profit exists.
Things to consider for small businesses are:
- How long will the lamps last? What is the warranty? Will they provide enough light for my application?
- What do replacement lamps cost?
- Can I replace them myself or do I need an electrician?
- Are there any hazardous substances in the lamps?
I don’t necessarily think government assistance schemes are the best way to achieve energy efficiency.
I believe energy efficiency measures need to be able to stand up commercially on their own. Government assistance schemes, unless they are so rigorous to almost be unworkable, always attract a lot of dodgy operators who just want to make a quick buck.
There are plenty of solutions that will save you money and pay for themselves in two years or less while continuing to provide savings without significant additional expenditure.
One of these is LED lighting but, once again, be on your guard as there are a lot of poor quality cheap products on the market that will not last for the 50,000 hours they promise.
LED lamps should cost around $5 – $20 per watt, depending on the type, and up to about an 80% reduction in energy consumption is typical.
For example, if you have a 400W High Bay lamp (which also has 100W of control gear to run the lamp) you will need a minimum of a 100W LED replacement.
A lot of LED manufacturers oversell the ability of their products so beware of this and make sure you test out the available options.
Make sure you do the sums before agreeing to purchase or even receive for free any subsidised energy efficiency measures.
Look at replacement and maintenance costs, look at equipment life and warranty and look at the return on investment including a factor for increasing energy prices.
Have a look at cost abatement curves, which compare the benefit/cost of EE technologies in relation to a price on carbon. Like anything, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.