Power Breakthrough

Reporter: Helen Wellings

On July 1st, electricity prices are set to rise up to another 18%, but the good news is, a brand new device, developed in Australia by the CSIRO, is predicted to radically change the way we power our homes. No, it's not solar or wind, it's all done by little ceramic cells. Amazingly, it will mean you don't need to pay for electricity for lights, cooking or hot water so you're saving $1,000s a year. Helen Wellings with this exclusive story on how Australian families at the forefront are saying goodbye to electricity bills

"This could save you about half your energy costs, say about $1,000 a year." Says Clare

"This is a fuel cell, it's a new way of generating power in your home. This truly is revolutionary Helen." Says Andrew Neilson

It's a ground-breaking Australian invention developed by the CSIRO. A mini power station .. situated ... in the home. No more electricity bills.

"So that provides for lighting, cooking and hot water, that's right." Says Helen

Instead of relying on big electricity companies and paying through the nose, double the price in 5 years time, it's now possible to do-it-yourself for a fraction of the cost. This amazing new device called BlueGEN powers your house, all your appliances, by turning natural gas into electricity and heat.

It just goes by itself, runs 24/7, it's much cheaper than electricity that we get from the grid." Says Andrew Bridge Vic Housing tenant

These families trialing them are already saving heaps of money in energy bills. With the BlueGEN you pay only for the gas that goes in, half the price of electricity.

"If you had a normal sized house with energy efficient appliances, you're looking at saving around about $1000 a year and putting 8.5 tonnes of CO2 less into the environment - so win win." Says Michael Adams at Smart House

"The BlueGen for our house means we have no electricity bills at all for the entire year." Says Clare Joyce

"It's not much bigger than a dishwasher, the fuel cells are inside the BlueGEN and so we take natural gas, goes into the unit, the fuel cells turn that gas into power and heat the power goes into the house and back to the power grid and the heat goes into the tank to give the house hot water." Says Andrew Neilson

Andrew Neilson, General Manager of Ceramic Fuel Cells Limited which manufactures and markets the award-winning BlueGens says they're such a breakthrough that Governments and utilities through Europe, UK, Japan, USA and Australia are snapping them up.

"We stack these up and it turns natural gas into power and heat." Says Andrew

Natural gas and air go into the fuel cells at a high temperature chemical reaction converts them into electricity and heat, enough to produce 200 litres of Hot water a day

In Australia, they're already being used in some public housing, tertiary colleges and local councils .... state governments are buying the units with a view to dodging future power rises. And as one BlueGen generates excess power for the average family's daily needs, the surplus can be sent back to the grid ... or could be shared with neighbours.

"Blue Gen can be installed in lots of buildings. Apartment buildings, small commercial buildings, small hotels, council buildings. Really, anywhere that uses power and needs hot water." Says Andrew Neilson, General Manager of Ceramic Fuels Limited

"It's a massive saving having the BlueGen." Andrew continues

The Victorian Government's Housing Office has bought 30 BlueGENS to trial in public housing - tenant Andrew Bridge has made incredible savings in the 8 months he's had it.

It's probably a quarter of the price of electricity normally. Yeh." Says Andrew

"The Blue Gen unit we have powers this entire house and still puts 200 kilowatts back into the grid. I mean that's not a claim that many solar solutions can claim." Says Michael Adams in Smarthouse

Clare Joyce and Michael Adams live in this Smart House, set up by Ausgrid, formally Energy Australia. They've been trialling BlueGEN for almost a year.

"The Blue Gen's powering everything in that house. The lights, the appliances, we have an electric car that charges and the excess heat that's generated actually goes to generate our hot water. So it powers everything." Says Michael

Clare and Michael keep daily tabs on their energy useage. Their results ... BlueGEN generates around 30 kWh of electricity a day, compared with their solar panels, 3 kWh. They use just 10 kWh a day in the home, so that's 20 kWh MORE than they need, back into the grid.

"The Blue Gen units now are still relatively expensive cos we're making them in low volume." Says Andrew

But as with any new technology, like the early laptops and plasmas, once sales increase, the price will plummet

"As we get into volume production and the price of Blue Gen comes down, people will really start to save on their energy bills." Says Andrew Neilson of BlueGEN

These can run at night during peak demand, that can actually make the electricity grid more efficient and reduce our costs. We've just completed the 12 mth trial of the BlueGen at the Smarthouse home the next step for us is the trial of 25 of these in an area of Newcastle." Says Paul Myors Energy Efficiency Expert, Ausgrid



Ceramic Fuel Cells Ltd

170 Noble Park Rd, Victoria

03 9554 2300



570 George Street,