Australia & NZ

Australia Launches ‘iHub’ to Spur Development of HVAC&R Technology Using Renewables

The government of Australia has launched the Innovation Hub for Affordable Heating and Cooling (iHub) to facilitate the HVAC&R industry’s transition to a low-emissions future, stimulate jobs growth, and showcase HVAC&R innovation.

Through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, the government is providing AUD$6.5 million (US$4.4 million) in funding to the three-year AUD$18 million (US$12.2 million) iHub project, according to a press release from the Australian Government’s Department of Environment and Energy.

Industry and academia are invited to submit iHub-funded proposals for the development of HVAC&R systems

“The government is taking real and meaningful action to reduce global emissions and this project supports our commitment to deliver a healthy environment for future generations while keeping our economy strong,” said Angus Taylor, Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction.

The iHub will be led by the Australian Institute of Refrigeration Air Conditioning and Heating (AIRAH) in conjunction with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), Queensland University of Technology, the University of Melbourne and the University of Wollongong. AIRAH will distribute funding to support a series of projects to demonstrate how renewable energy technology can be optimally integrated with HVAC&R equipment.

The objective of iHub is to support the broader HVAC&R industry with knowledge dissemination, skills-development and capacity-building, according to the iHub website. “By facilitating a collaborative approach to innovation, iHub brings together leading universities, researchers, consultants, building owners and equipment manufacturers to create a connected research and development community in Australia.”

With rising electricity costs putting further pressure on consumers and businesses, the iHub vision is to help make a positive impact by supporting Australian innovation that delivers superior comfort, better energy efficiency (and therefore fewer running costs) and minimize peak demand, says iHub.

According to iHub, the Australian HVAC&R industry is large, consisting of approximately 173,000 people, employed in more than 20,000 Australian businesses, which contribute 1.7% of GDP. To create an industry step-change, iHub brings together leading businesses and institutions to develop an integrated approach to solving these issues.

“Together with new regulations aiming for zero-energy buildings globally, the smart energy market for energy-efficient products and services is forecast to grow and Australia is well-positioned to become a world leader in this market,” according to the iHub site. 

“The government is taking real and meaningful action to reduce global emissions and this project supports our commitment to deliver a healthy environment for future generations while keeping our economy strong.”

Angus Taylor, Australian Government 

Submitting proposals

Applicants will be able to submit proposals for consideration under three activity streams including Living Laboratories, Integrated Design Studios and a Buildings to Grid Data Clearing House, according to the government website.

The Living Laboratories program aims to test different HVAC technologies in real-life building applications. Four test sites, including aged-care living, hospitals and schools, will test energy efficiency, energy productivity and integration of renewable-energy technologies.

The Integrated Design Studios program will develop a standardized design methodology with industry, academia and students working collaboratively on project case studies. The program aims to engage industry in large-scale innovation, improve the integration of HVAC and refrigeration with renewable-energy technology and increase the use of technologies in architectural design. In collaboration with the University of Melbourne the methodology will be tested across data centers, schools, hospitals, shopping centers and hotels.

The Buildings to Grid Data Clearing House will facilitate an open-data platform for the operation of HVAC and refrigeration and renewable energy equipment. The program will reduce demand on local networks and support on-site solar generation by providing third- party supervisory control of building’s HVAC and refrigeration equipment to improve energy performance and demand response in buildings. Fifty buildings are expected to be involved in this program to provide an estimated 100MW of demand response.