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Energy uncertainty to impact aquatic centre operations?

Energy uncertainty to impact aquatic centre operations?
June 17, 2022

Rising energy costs and, in particular, the recent surge in the price of gas, has the potential to dramatically increase the cost of aquatic centre operations, highlighting the need for facilities to consider switching to electric appliances and increase their use of renewables.

With Australian aquatic facilities traditionally being highly energy inefficient, Derek Harbison, Director at Negawatt Projects, suggests that aquatic facilities consume up to 15 times more energy per floor area compared to an average commercial office building.

Harbison advises “aquatic centres in Australia currently use too much energy and these next price rises are going to push that over the top for some centres. 

“After the last price rise for gas in Victoria the aquatic centre industry had a wakeup call and now they are looking down the barrel of severe financial pressure if no action is taken.”

For many operators and businesses the immediate short-term impacts of surging gas or electricity prices may be tempered by longer-term 12-to-24-month power purchasing agreements.

However, that gain my only be short term.

Paolo Bevilacqua, General Manager at Frasers Property Australia’s wholly-owned behind-the meter energy retailing business Real Utilities, told The Fifth Estate “if you locked into an energy contract 12 or 24 months ago and you’re about to come out of that, let’s say over this winter, you’re potentially going to see a 50% cost increase.”

Last week, a broad coalition of 29 peak business and community groups - including the National Farmers’ Federation, the Property Council of Australia, the Green Building Council of Australia and the Clean Energy Council - called on governments to boost energy efficiency, transition to clean energy and support the vulnerable in response to the gas crisis.

In the UK, reports indicate that some swimming pools are threatened with threat of closure because it has become too expensive to heat the water.

GM Active, a collective of 12 leisure operators in the Greater Manchester region whose organisations manage most of the publicly-owned leisure services in the city-region, is aware of this with a spokesperson advising media “while acknowledging the steep increase in energy prices, and their potential impact on publicly owned swimming pools across Greater Manchester, it is the intent of all our members to keep our pools open and operating business as usual.

“That means no reduction in water temperatures, no changes to services and programs and no increase in prices.

“However, while striving to maintain business as usual, we can’t rule out any future changes and that is why we fully support the coalition of leading bodies in the physical activity sector that has written to the government calling for urgent support to save leisure facilities from going under in the face of rising energy costs of up to 150% on last year.”

Harbison urges the Australian aquatic industry to look at best practice in energy use intensity (EUI - energy consumption per square metre per year), a measure that shows many facilities performing poorly.

He also urges aquatic facility owners, designers and operators to consider measures to reduce energy costs including looking for insulation opportunities for walls, ceiling and glazing; moving to electricity for air and water heating; recovering heat wherever possible and using thermal and electrical storage where possible. 

Lower image: EUI comparison, courtesy of Negawatt Projects. The table shows the Fit2Swim facility in Maroubra, NSW a best practice example of energy efficiency. A profile of Fit2Swim will feature in Australasian Leisure Management issue 151.

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22nd February 2022 - Swim school enrolments return to 95% of pre-COVID levels

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31st January 2020 - Gas bill shock triggers revolution in energy-efficient aquatic centre design

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