Missed chance to cut your energy bill
WITH all the attention surrounding the rising cost of power bills, it may not shock you to learn that Australia is struggling when it comes to energy efficiency.
The latest data reveals Australia has gone backwards on energy efficiency, leaving it ranked the worst performing major developed country in the world.
The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) 2018 International Energy Efficiency Scorecard was released today and ranks Australia 18th among the world's 25 largest energy users, a fall from its 16th place position in the 2016 ranking.
According to the report, Australia lags behind developing nations such as India, Indonesia, and China in the category.
Luke Menzel, chief executive of Australia's Energy Efficiency Council, said the poor standing reflects a lack of broad engagement on the topic and policy inertia at the government level.
"We've actually only dropped a point or two but other economies have been doing a lot while we haven't been doing that much," he told news.com.au. "Other countries are pulling their socks up and we're getting left behind."
He would like to see "clear guidance" from the government on efficiency measures that would lead to improvements such as a greater uptake of energy efficient appliances or the introduction of fuel efficiency standards for passenger vehicles - something which has been adopted by 80 per cent of the world.
"In Australia we're very focused on the supply side of the market, the per unit cost of energy," he said. "You see a big debate about how much our energy costs are but we tend to forget that our energy bill is a function of unit cost and volume (how much you use), and that's what other countries around the world are really focusing on."
Mr Menzel believes "there's big opportunities to drive down bills" for businesses and households through cost-effective, energy-efficient measures.
"Some of it is exciting and sexy new tech like smart home automation systems or advanced manufacturing systems," he said, while there are also other emerging innovations like smart lighting systems in office buildings that reduce energy waste.
"Other things are more boring like making sure you've got double-glazed windows and properly insulated buildings," he said.
While many businesses and homes have been embracing such measures, "generally across the economy, we're just not that focused on the issue," Mr Menzel said, claiming other countries were far outspending us when it came to energy efficiency.
"But I think that's changing. With bills going up, people are getting more interested in it. We just haven't reached that tipping point yet," he said.
The strongest score for Australia was in building energy efficiency, the only area where we outperformed the median. But in industrial and transport energy efficiency, Australia ranks near the bottom.
Rising power costs have prompted industry to place extra focus on efficiency measures and households are following suit.
The good news is that minimum standards for appliances when it comes to energy efficiency "have gone up quite a bit" in recent years, Mr Menzel said. An easy way to improve your own rate of consumption is to "identify an old, clunky appliance around the house - real energy hogs like fridges, dishwashers or dryers - and replace it".
A recent study carried out by the University of Melbourne, analysed thousands of property transactions between 2011-2016 in the ACT, where it is mandatory to disclose the energy efficiency rating (EER) of a property when selling.
The study showed that home buyers and renters are willing to pay more for energy efficient housing with prices garnering premiums of around two and three per cent, and in some cases as high as nine per cent.
Mr Menzel pointed to a consumer survey his organisation recently carried out with the Property Council of Australia that showed 88 per cent of voters want governments to invest in energy efficiency, making it the most popular policy option, polling ahead of greater regulation of electricity prices (83 per cent), increasing grid reliability (45 per cent) and intervening to stop coal-fired generators from closing (42 per cent).
When it comes to the policy side of things, the ACEEE report does acknowledge Australia's National Energy Productivity Plan which aims to improve energy productivity by 40 per cent between 2015 and 2030, but says implementation of the plan has been slow.
Drafted in 2015, the government plan outlines measures including improving the national construction code, reducing overall energy use in buildings, and promoting the procurement of energy-efficient equipment. However, the report says, implementation of these strategies has been limited.
The efficiency scorecard also comes as the Turnbull Government is looking to finalise and implement its National Energy Guarantee which will bring policy certainty to energy markets and will require energy retailers and big energy users to write contracts to meet emissions reduction and reliability obligations.
In a statement issued alongside the report, lead author Shruti Vaidyanathan, senior advisor for research at ACEEE, said efficiency measure are crucial if Australia is going to adhere to the environmental commitments it has made on a global stage.
"Australia would definitely benefit from stronger energy efficiency policies that save money, create jobs, cut pollution, and reduce dependence on energy imports," she said.
"Without stronger energy efficiency measures, it will also be impossible for countries, including Australia, to meet the commitments necessary to achieving the global climate goal of capping temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius."