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AIRAH HVAC&R Emerging Trends Symposium - HVAC for the Net Zero World by Andrew Haning, Affil.AIRAH

Updated: Feb 2, 2022

It was an honor to be invited to speak amongst such respected company as Chris Bong whom spoke on the emerging trend of electrification of heating within the HVAC industry amidst the Glasgow COP26 talks.

Key points of my talk highlighted the incredible challenge and opportunity that one of Australia's peak industry bodies had ethically to do its bit to reduce carbon emissions in line with scientific guidance on achieving 1.5'C in the wake of the government only committing the country to long term targets of net zero by 2050.

Heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVAC&R) has a huge impact on Australia’s energy use and greenhouse emissions. HVAC&R uses more than 24 per cent of electricity generated in the country, and contributes about 11.5 per cent of our total emissions. This includes direct emissions – refrigerants leaking from systems – as well as indirect emissions from the energy that the systems use. It is a key sector where real actionable change can be made by implementing energy efficiency, new technology and combining it with renewable energy for 100% electric buildings.

While the world is facing a global challenge the HVAC&R industry is facing great opportunity to do its bit to reduce carbon emissions in line with scientific guidance to keep 1.5'C alive despite no new short term targets to reduce emissions nationally.

Davina Rooney, CEO of the GBCA states we need Sustainability at speed and scale. "We are on a trajectory to exceed 1.5°C warming within two decades meaning decarbonisation by 2050 will be too late. The decade of decarbonisation is now. "

Commercial Building Disclosure (CBD Act) has been a driving force in improving the energy efficiency of buildings and has been founded on the back of the NABERS scheme.

Carbon emissions from commercial buildings HVAC and heating hot water make up 63%. Pie charts visually show a breakdown of energy consumption and as you can only manage what you can measure. Energy Audit's, metering and energy management systems are all critical elements to help organisations and businesses continually improve to achieve targets set out such as Net Zero operations or more simply lower HVAC electricity use, costs and carbon emissions.

For the HVAC&R industry to decarbonise was to focus on delivering 100% electric buildings. It is critical to electrify all buildings by removing gas for heating and hot water.

Mandatory disclosure learning from the successes of the Commercial Building Disclosure (CBD) program enforced by the Building Energy Efficiency Disclosure Act 2010 (BEED Act) which requires office buildings for sale or lease greater than 1000m2 to have a NABERS Energy rating and a Tenancy Lighting Assessment (TLA).

Mandatory disclosure is one of the five ways the built environment can help Australia transition to a net zero future, specifically lowing thresholds down to 500m2 office tenancies, other building types and a mandatory disclosure program benchmarked for housing in Australia.

While some more efficient HVAC&R comes at an increased upfront CAPEX cost, the energy efficiency gains of using centralised heat pump heating hot water plant is key to increasing energy efficiency from a coefficient of performance (COP) of less than 1 to an average of 4.

For a typical house with gas heating for instance, this could equate to a significant saving.

Replacing efficient gas heating with a heat pump is estimated to save around $50,000 over 25 years for an additional upfront cost of less than $3,000 versus a gas boiler. Heap Pumps are also eligible for Federal Government rebates as a Smallscale Technology Certificate (STC). In new buildings, the cost of gas infrastructure can be done away with and for cooking, stoves can be replaced with hyper efficient and reactive conduction cooktops.

Furthermore, the benefits enable the permanent decarbonisation of buildings by powering them with renewable energy. Primarily by embedded solar generation and battery storage and then by utility scale wind power solar.

CAPEX issues for consultants, developers and project managers can be me by Power Purchase Agreements (PPA's) which can enable zero carbon utilities to be provided to both reduce upfront cost and ongoing costs.

A variety of building services can be rolled into sustainable PPA's that provide a win- win- win for all involved including the long term occupants often leading to improved services as so called 'value engineering' is not undertaken which risks compromising sustainable and healthy buildings.

We have the tools and the available technology now to create a 100% electric zero carbon built environment complete with EV's and energy efficient HVAC&R.

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