SA air con law changes more about money than the environment

By Patrick Avenell

ADELAIDE, SA & SYDNEY, NSW: Concerns about the high cost of electricity usage and high levels of consumption, rather than any direct environment or green concerns, were the driving forces behind the South Australian Government’s decision to implement the nation’s toughest energy standards on air conditioners.

In an interview with Current.com.au, Kim Gerbois, who is the director of retail and demand management with the South Australian Department of Transport, Energy and Infrastructure, said that the state’s unique electricity consumption patterns, which involve ultra high levels of consumption across multiple short periods of time, necessitated changes to the laws to restrict certain air conditioners.

“One of the issues we’ve had in South Australia for quite a while now is our very peaky supply, and work that was done a while ago by our electricity sector planning industry council indicated that we not only had the peakiest load in Australia, but the peakiest they could find anywhere in the world,” said Gerbois.

Gerbois explained that this ‘peaky’ consumption meant that South Australia’s electricity load could surge from 2,800 megawatts to 3,400 megawatts over short periods, placing tremendous strain on the generators and lines to cope with the demand. In addition, Gerbois said these peaks were particularly expensive, and that all South Australians were being forced to pay for the costs, regardless of their consumption.

After research was conducted, the Department isolated residential air conditioners as a key contributor to these phenomena.

“[It’s] a problem that has been accentuated in the last decade by the use of residential air conditioners, with their uptake and the increase in their size.

“Our planning council has done work on that, and looked at what’s been the cause of this quite significant increase in our peak load, and the major force of that has been residential air conditioners.”

When asked if the Department had any sympathy for suppliers or retailers affected by this change in legislation, Gerbois was non-committal. He said the legislation “has been in place for quite a while now”, and with the six months grace period, which ends 30 June 2010, suppliers and retailers do have time to either clear their stock or transport it to regions where they are still saleable.

Current.com.au has contacted AREMA, the air conditioner suppliers’ lobby group, for comment on this story. Any response will be published in a forthcoming article.

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