Which Energy Source will lead Australia to Sustainability?

Australia is a major supplier of energy to the world markets, exporting over three-quarters of its energy output, worth nearly $80 billion. Our country’s resource and energy exports accounts for over 60% of total export earnings. With this being the case and sustainability being the target, it leaves our state of affairs highly questionable.

Let’s start with coal. Australia is the world’s largest exporter of coal. Among the many advantages of coal is that it provides significant employment opportunities for Australians, a big tick for our economy. It is plentiful (currently), easy to access and convert to energy and once mined it can be stored with no hazard risk. Unfortunately, the worst type of pollution is from the burning of coal as it not only releases high levels of carbon dioxide, but emits radiation, with the waste contributing more radiation to the environment than nuclear power stations. These emissions are linked to major health concerns, including respiratory illnesses and lung disease.

Is climate change and the growing rate of cancer and other illnesses a direct consequence of the high level of burning coal?


  • Australia has the best quality coal worldwide
  • Coal equates to 20% of Australia’s export
  • Coal operates at 59% efficiency
  • The burning of brown coal equates to over 57% of electricity production in Australia alone
  • Brown coal is a far greater pollutant than black coal (Australia burns brown coal)
  • The toxins released from the burning of coal has been proven to be a contributor of heart and lung alignments, as well as neurological problems
  • Based on the current export rate, coal resources in Australia will be completely depleted by the year 2120

Burning coal produces about 15 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.


Natural gas is the most used energy source; it’s highly combustible and is the cleanest fossil fuel energy source available. Natural gas can be used in the form of compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).

Natural gas produces nearly a third less carbon dioxide than coal and almost half less than oil when burned.

  • Australia is currently the biggest exporter of gas
  • Gas equates to 19% of Australia’s electricity production
  • Gas equates to 50% efficiency
  • The combustion of gas omits less than 60% of CO2 emissions than coal


Uranium used in nuclear power plants for electricity generation is in fact the most efficient and environmentally friendly energy source. Australia has one third of the world’s total uranium. Nuclear energy originates from the splitting of uranium atoms, which generates heat to produce steam and then used by a turbine generator to generate electricity.

Nuclear is able to operate at 98.9% efficiency.

Uranium is an extremely ‘clean’ source of electricity generation because nuclear power plants don’t burn fuel; they don’t produce greenhouse gas emissions. However, only around 10% of the world’s electricity is generated via this method, because if it’s not stored, maintained or disposed of correctly, radioactive material can leak. Therefore, nuclear power plants must be maintained and if they are maintained correctly (complete shutdown required), they are extremely safe.

If you look at the statistics over 18,500 cumulative reactor-years of commercial operation in 36 countries there have only been three major accidents to nuclear power plants: Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima.


Renewable Energy

Renewable energy makes up 22% of Australia’s electricity production, with Hydro (Hydroelectricity) being the largest renewable energy contributor.


Hydro (flowing water) produces low greenhouse gas emissions and low operating costs. On the downside, interruptions of natural water flow can have a negative impact on river ecosystems and it involves high upfront capital costs.


Wind operates at 32% efficiency and Australia has the best wind sources globally. However, wind fluctuates and therefore wind energy isn’t constant. Wind turbines are very expensive and cause noise pollution.



Solar panels produce no greenhouse gas emissions and are virtually maintenance free, once installed. However, they are made up of ruthenium, indium, tellurium, lead and lithium and when disposed of these toxic materials can leach out as they break down; landfill also creates new environmental hazards.


Geothermal energy (heat from the Earth) can be extracted without burning a fossil fuel such as coal, gas, or oil. Geothermal fields produce only about one-sixth of the carbon dioxide that a relatively clean natural-gas-fuelled power plant produces. However, it has a high investment cost along with leak, water contamination and corrosion concerns.

Sugar Cane

Sugarcane is a well-known biofuel source. Ethanol from sugarcane yields 25% more energy than the amount used during the production process, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 12% compared to fossil fuels. Growing sugar cane requires a warm, rainy climate, which limits its potential as a global fuel source.

Wave Energy

Wave energy (or wave power) captures energy by ocean surface waves. Water and waves are abundant and widely available with a variety of ways in which to harness. There is no damage to the land and huge amounts of energy can be produced. The biggest disadvantage is location (getting your energy from the waves), along with the disruption to marine life.

The biggest area of growth is renewable energy (mostly hydro) and is now a cheaper energy source for electricity generation than coal. An important factor to remember is that the oceans are nearly the largest source of energy. The energy production is definitely constant and viable. Not only is that, despite the costs, the ocean is also a source of absolutely clean and renewable sources of energy.


Sustainable Energy Goals

If global renewable targets from each country are met, by 2070 the entire planet will have ‘net zero emissions;’ an overall balance between greenhouse gas emissions produced and greenhouse gas emissions taken out of the atmosphere.

Are global renewable targets realistic?

Australia is rich in fossil fuels and is dependent on export and the Australian Federal Government has not committed to meeting their own energy targets. In other parts of the world, renewable energy production is the fastest growing source of jobs. The pathway to a renewable future in our fossil fuel rich country is a political one, which indicates why Australia’s commitment to renewable energy production is quite low.

Australia’s electricity grid is not suitable for renewable energy, so this poses other difficulties. To upgrade Australia’s grid it would be estimated to take in excess of 20 years. However, Australia’s electricity grid is suitable for nuclear. In conjunction with nuclear, coal power could be used to provide an alternative source of electricity during scheduled nuclear power plant maintenance.

The environmentally damaging production and recycling of some renewables makes nuclear energy a far cleaner and environmentally friendly choice, even if coal was to be used as an alternate energy supply during plant maintenance. All this poses many questions about the current decisions being made by the Australian Federal Government. By reading between the lines, it’s not hard to understand which energy source is better for Australia’s economy and which are better for the environment.

Victorian Energy Upgrades Program achieving great results for Property Owners

The Victorian Energy Upgrades (VEU) Program, implemented by the Victorian Government continues to achieve great results for Property Owners.

The program was implemented by the Victorian Government in order to:

  • contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gases
  • make energy efficiency improvements more affordable
  • encourage investment, employment and innovation in industries that supply energy efficiency goods and services

Under the program, Facility Managers have had access to applying for and achieving sustainable solutions for the commercial and industrial buildings they manage, with the installation or ‘change-over’ of new LED lighting. These upgrades have provided huge energy-savings, whilst greatly improving energy efficiency.


What’s ahead for Property Owners under the VEU Program?

Recent framework suggests that the building sector could potentially deliver a 23% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030, with projected reductions reaching up to 55% by 2050.

Property Owners and Facility Managers are key to unlocking energy efficiency potential in the mid-tier sector. Being responsible for leases and capital expenditure, it’s important for both to be well-informed in all main aspects of energy efficiency and to understand how energy efficiency affects tenant satisfaction and retention, asset value and rental returns.

‘Long term asset planning, that incorporates comprehensive energy performance, can contribute to significant operational savings over the lifetime of the system.’

Whilst Facility Managers and Building Owners work at the core of energy efficiency in buildings, it’s important to incorporate tenant’s needs, whilst integrating with new technology. Facility Managers need to understand and drive building performance in terms of energy efficiency, both during general operation and during maintenance works.

Proactive asset management in energy efficiency, along with a strong capacity of building knowledge is highly influential in achieving performance goals in the mid-tier sector. Facility Managers and service providers need to understand building performance whilst advocating on energy efficiency to owners, contractors and other service providers.

Feedback received from Facility Managers following LED lighting upgrades has reported their jobs to have been made easier, due to:

  • Reduced energy bills
  • Reduced tenant complaints
  • Reduced maintenance costs, including fewer site visits to rectify problems
  • A reduction in response times for detecting and fixing issues
  • Reduced manual interventions; within the control process and system
  • An increased understanding of ways to both manage and improve energy performance across building systems


Looking to achieve sustainable solutions? Prolux provide accredited LED lighting upgrades and power solutions for all commercial and industrial buildings. Call Prolux today for a building appraisal 1800 800 880.

Commercial offices achieving near ‘perfect’ power

Case Study: Power Factor Correction


Commercial Office Building: 9,243m2
Location: 187 Todd Road, Port Melbourne VIC
Project Value: $30k
Return on Investment: 6-7 months
Project Summary: Installation of 300kVAR Power Factor Correction Unit to manage their peak kVA demand, improve electrical efficiency and drive down overall electricity costs.


The asset is a three story commercial office building with a net lettable area of 9,243m2.

As with many commercial and industrial properties there was an opportunity to improve energy efficiency, reduce costs and work towards greater overall sustainability. One especially important aspect of achieving this was ensuring that the quality of the power supply was at its best. Improving the quality of the power supply can be attained by improving the Power Factor.

‘Power Factor Correction is a way of raising Power Factor that is less than 1, the closer it gets to 1, the more efficiently it runs.



Prolux assessed the quality of the power supply at 187 Todd Rd to determine the site’s Power Factor. It was identified from the assessment that the client would benefit from installing a 300kVAR Power Factor Correction Unit.


Prolux supplied and installed the Power Factor Correction Unit adjacent to the Main Switchboard. The installation required full site power isolation. Works were completed in one day.




Less power consumed, for the exact same amount of power required.

As you can see in the diagram below, the Power Factor Correction Unit was installed on April 4th and the results of the correction were immediate.

The right-side vertical axis shows the Power Factor range from 0 at the bottom to a perfect 1 at the top (1 being the highest quality Power Factor possible). The green line represents the Power Factor, identifying that it rose from 0.85 to closer to 1.

The left side vertical axis shows the power being used. The orange, blue and red lines represent the power consumption. The overall power consumption (using the same amount of power) decreased immediately after the Power Factor Correction Unit was installed.


‘As the quality of Power Factor is increased, the amount of power required decreases.’


  • Savings on electricity costs
  • Greater electrical capacity for other equipment
  • Feasible reduction in carbon footprint
  • Possible improvement of  NABERS energy rating


With the landlord taking ownership of their energy use, they are now reaping the rewards with a reduced power bill, increased supply availability for other equipment and savings of over $4,500 per month.

At this rate, the PFC unit will pay for itself in less than 7 months.’


Prolux offer complimentary Power Quality Assessments. Call 1800 800 880 today to see how Power Factor Correction can benefit your sites.

Victoria’s e-waste landfill ban now in effect

July 1st, 2019 marked the date set by the Victorian Government placing a state wide ban on e-waste (electronic waste) from going into landfill. This means no more such waste will be accepted in tips or kerbside rubbish bins and must be taken to a designated collection site.

What is e-waste?

E-waste refers to any unwanted product with a plug, cord or battery, like whitegoods, phones, TVs, computers, laptops, printers, cameras, radios and battery operated toys. As technology advances, so does our hunger to upgrade to the latest and greatest; unfortunately this has led to creating an abundance of e-waste. It’s estimated that television and computer waste alone will reach over 85,000 tonnes by 2024.

What can be done to reduce e-waste?

Electronic goods all contain valuable resources – like copper, silver and gold – and recycled properly, these non-renewable materials can be repurposed for something new. Just to put this in perspective, Australian’s discard more than one million mobile phones each year and one million mobile phones contain an estimated 15.5 tonnes of copper, 345 kilograms of silver and 29 kilograms of gold. By reusing what’s already been mined, we’re reducing greenhouse emissions and the costs associated with processing and transporting these raw materials.

A staggering 44 million metric tonnes of e-waste was generated worldwide in 2016. We can do more for sustainability by disposing of those items in an environmentally-friendly way and with just 20% of the world’s e-waste being recycled in 2016, there’s the proof.

What are the effects of e-waste in landfill?

Due to increased technology, the reduction in product lifespan and consumer demand for the latest trend, e-waste is growing three times faster than general waste in Australia; not to mention the hazardous materials harboured in e-waste, which can become harmful to the environment and our health. Keeping these materials out of the ground is important.

Mercury found in batteries is a potent neurotoxin that can affect the brain, liver and kidneys and cause development disorders in children. Once buried the dangerous chemicals can seep out of landfill, into the soil and bioconcentrate, working its way up the food chain.

E-waste contains hazardous materials, which can be harmful to both the environment and our health.

Where do we take e-waste?

Instead of dumping e-waste at a tip or in a kerbside bin Victorian’s are now required to take their unwanted items to one of the 1000 collection points around the state.

There are over 120 designated council drop-off areas, with many hosting regular e-waste collection events and offering free disposal days, with no need to book.

Other collection drop-off sites include: Officeworks, Mobile Muster (mobile phones), Aldi (batteries), Cartridges 4 Planet Ark (printer cartridges), TechCollect (TVs and computer accessories).

To find your nearest e-waste drop-off go to Recycling Near You or Business Recycling Near You.

Just remember, if it has a plug, cord or battery, then it’s e-waste.