Energy efficiency is an effective, immediate means of managing energy needs more sustainably. By utilising new technologies and making simple changes to their behaviour, Australians can reduce their power demands without compromising their lifestyle.

There are many different steps Australians are taking to reduce their electricity use and, in turn, their power bills. These range from simple actions such as turning lights off when not needed or switching off appliances at the power point, to purchasing more efficient appliances and installing energy-saving products such as solar hot water heaters or insulation.

The state of energy efficiency in Australia

Australians are taking action around the home to use less energy

Australians are taking action around the home to use less energy

The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) had identified a falling demand for power across the country over the last four years.

Factors that appear to have contributed to the decreased use of power include the high uptake of solar power systems, challenging economic conditions and investment in more energy-smart technologies, as well as several years of mild weather up until the second half of 2012.

There has also been a reduction in Australian manufacturing, which some commentators have blamed on the high Australian dollar.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) found that in 2011-12:

  • 89 per cent of Australians took steps to limit their personal electricity use
  • younger Australians between 18 and 24 years of age were less likely to act, with 79 per cent taking some kind of action compared with 92 per cent of those aged 35 to 74 years
  • approximately 7.2 million people (42 per cent) were successful in reducing their bills in 2011-12 compared with the year before.

These figures are backed up by a survey conducted by Auspoll and Choice in 2011 that found 95 per cent of consumers polled were concerned or very concerned about rising power prices, and that 89 per cent were willing to take action to use less energy.

The factors influencing Australians when purchasing appliances include price, water efficiency and energy efficiency. Energy efficiency was an important factor in buying air-conditioners (75 per cent) in particular, suggesting that the high running costs of these appliances is understood by consumers.

Energy star ratings were considered by around half of all households when purchasing or replacing refrigerators (51 per cent), separate freezers (42 per cent), dishwashers (52 per cent), washing machines (49 per cent) and clothes dryers (53 per cent).

The ABS found that 69 per cent of households had some form of insulation in 2011. The proportion of Australian households with insulation increased from 61 per cent in 2008 to 69 per cent in 2011. The states showing the largest increase were Queensland and New South Wales (15 and 10 percentage points respectively).

An increasing number of businesses are taking action as a result of rising electricity prices. A study by the Australian Industry Group (AiG) in 2012 found that three quarters of Australian businesses have now taken action or are planning actions to improve their energy efficiency (three years earlier that number was around a third).

The most popular energy efficiency activities for businesses include changing staff practices and identifying major areas of high energy use. The biggest driver for action on energy efficiency was concern about energy prices.

The future of energy efficiency in Australia

Australian energy prices are predicted to continue rising for the foreseeable future, taking electricity bills with them. The response from consumers has already started, with demand for power across the country continuing to fall.

Despite the closure of government schemes such as the Energy Efficiency Opportunities (EEO) Program, energy efficiency will remain an important factor in easing power price pain for Australian consumers over the next decade.

Sources:

  • ABS, 2012, 4604.0 Energy Account Australia and ABS, 2012, 4626.0.55.001 Environmental views and behaviour
  • Auspoll survey conducted for the Clean Energy Council in June 2011
  • AiG, 2012, Energy shock: pressure mounts for efficiency action
  • Clean Energy Australia Report 2013