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The Victorian Labor government has announced Victorians will be able to save up to $890 per year on their power bills under the new Solar Homes program, if re-elected. 

Under this $1.24 billion program, 650,000 homes will see half-priced solar panels installed over 10 years. It’s expected to save the typical household up to $2225 off the installation of an average 4kW solar system. From July next year, there will be no upfront cost and Victorians will be able to pay off the rest of the interest-free loan over four years. 

Premier Daniel Andrews announced the government will immediately invest $68 million into the launch of the program.   

“We know the cost of living is going up and it’s getting harder to make ends meet. That’s why Labor is helping families with their energy bills. Only Labor will help put solar panels on your roof to cut your electricity bills by around $900 a year,” he said.

This investment is expected to bring the number of homes in Victoria with solar panels to one million within the next decade. Once the project is complete, the government said Victorians will collectively save approximately $500 million per year on electricity. 

The program is also expected to lead to the reduction of almost four million tonnes of carbon emissions and generate 12.5 per cent of the state’s 40 per cent target for renewable energy by 2025. 

The rebate is available to all Victorians with a household income of up to $180,000 who live in their own home, which is valued at up to $3 million. This means nine out of 10 Victorians who own their own home will be eligible. 

What is IECEx?

IECEx is a voluntary system which provides an internationally accepted means of proving compliance with IEC standards. IEC standards are used in many national approval schemes and as such, IECEx certification can be used to support national compliance, negating the need in most cases for additional testing.

The Benefits of IECEx

The fact that many countries operate under different standards means that Ex equipment often needs to be re-tested and re-certified to the appropriate standards of that country, adding to the cost of the equipment. The IECEx scheme significantly reduces the need for re-testing and certification by conforming to international IEC standards, and therefore makes international trade easier, quicker and more cost effective.

The objective of the IECEx System is to facilitate international trade in equipment and services for use in explosive atmospheres, while maintaining the required level of safety:

  • reduced testing and certification costs to manufacturer

  • reduced time to market

  • international confidence in the product assessment process

  • one international database listing

  • maintaining International Confidence in equipment and services covered by IECEx Certification

What is an Ex area?

Ex areas can be known by different names such as “Hazardous Locations”, “Hazardous Areas” “Explosive Atmospheres”, and the like and relate to areas where flammable liquids, vapours, gases or combustible dusts are likely to occur in quantities sufficient to cause a fire or explosion.

The modern day automation of industry has meant an increased need to use equipment in Ex areas. Such equipment is termed “Ex equipment”

The clean energy industry is on the verge of a major breakthrough, with 16 renewable projects being completed in 2017, adding 700 MW of new generation. Seven times that amount are currently under construction or have secured financial support. This equates to approximately an $11 billion investment and the creation of almost 6000 new jobs. 

The Clean Energy Council (CEC) has recently released their 2018 report, which shows Australia has enough projects running at a sufficiently advanced stage to meet the 2020 Renewable Energy Target (RET).  However, the percentage of renewable energy fell from 17.3 per cent in 2016 to 17 per cent in 2017. The CEC attribute this to a decline in hydro generation caused by reduced rainfall in catchment areas. 

Despite this, it was still a record year for the renewable energy sector, according to CEC chief executive Kane Thornton. Large-scale wind and solar project activity has increased investment by 150 per cent in Australia. Four large-scale solar projects were completed in 2017, with the total capacity of installed solar reaching 450 MW. This is remarkable considering only 34 MW were installed at the end of 2014. 

In the small-scale market, almost 1.1 GW of solar PV was installed — a record for the rooftop solar industry. Twelve per cent of the 172,000 solar systems installed in 2017 included a battery, which is a 7 per cent increase from 2016. Over 40 per cent of national storage installations occurred in New South Wales. In the medium-scale sector, 131 projects added 53 MW of new capacity. This means there’s now 167 MW of cumulative capacity, demonstrating an increase of over 500 per cent in the past five years. 

Batteries are one of today’s most bought and sold products, the amount we use is astonishing, but of course, this is because these days we have a lot more electronics at our disposal. In Australia, this is causing a massive issue as we only have one site able to recycle flat batteries. To make matters worse, China (who had been taking a lot of Australia’s waste) has placed a ban on waste imports, meaning that now all the batteries are either heading to the landfill or this small facility.

The facility lies in New Gisborne in Victoria and has 200 plastic lined drums that are full of 160 tonnes worth of batteries. Now, this may not sound like a much, but remember most consumer batteries are pretty small compared to most other items when it comes to waste. The Company called Envirostream (the owners of the facility) has pleaded to manufactures and the government to help keep the batteries out of landfills.

Research done by the Australian Department of the Environment and Energy found that the waste could estimate 18,000 tonnes in 2018 along with possibly hitting 154,000 tonnes by 2034. This, of course, isn’t including the possibility of a surge in battery-powered cars along with batteries for houses, which has not become popular in Australia just yet. It means that, with the Chinese ban still in place, there needs to be a step up in efforts to properly manage battery waste.

One company has already responded to the call saying that they will transport batteries back to their US headquarters to be recycled there. It is a good start and to be honest no one expected anything less of Tesla, as they have shown in the past their commitment to environmental issues. The question is; will other companies follow suit?

Did you know that coal dust can lead to mine explosions? Dust is present in numerous industries with flour, sawdust and sugar potentially as explosive as coal dust. Vapours, mists and gases are also factors that may trigger explosions when exposed to spark ignition. 

Oil and gas installations, petrochemical, chemical plants, grain storage, coal handling and refuelling areas often create hazardous areas resulting from flammable gases, vapours, mists and dusts which can produce explosive mixtures with air. The electrical, mechanical and instrumentation equipment installed in these potentially hazardous areas must be designed to provide protection against the possibility of gas or dust ignition. Solutions to these problems can be certified flameproof and intrinsically safe equipment.

Dusts are solid airborne particles, often created by operations such as grinding, crushing, milling and sanding. The size of the dust particles is important as there is a difference between inhalable and respirable dusts and the nature of the hazards they present.

Gases are formless fluids usually produced by chemical processes involving combustion or by the interaction of chemical substance. A gas will normally seek to fill the space completely into which it is liberated, for example, nitrogen gas widely used in vessels due to its chemically inert properties.

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