Global umpire hands Australia a red card for energy efficiency

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It’s Australia’s ranking near the bottom of a global league table on energy efficiency that should be keeping us awake at night.

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Australia got two pieces of bad news last month. It was the Socceroo’s flame out in the World Cup that crushed the nation, but it is news of Australia’s ranking near the bottom of a global league table on energy efficiency that should be keeping us awake at night.

Within hours of the Soceroos capitulation to Peru, the Washington DC-based American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) released the 2018 International Energy Efficiency Scorecard.

The report finds that Australia is falling behind our international competitors, and missing a huge opportunity to drive down energy bills while cutting carbon emissions.

ACEEE found our energy efficiency policies and performance are the worst in the developed world. They placed us at 18th among the world’s 25 largest energy users, a fall from our 16th-place position in 2016.

While our efforts in the building sector received decent scores – in the top half of the nations surveyed – in transport and industry, we ranked 20th and 22nd respectively.

These results are, unfortunately, not surprising. Rather, they are yet another wake-up call that we need to do more to address energy demand.

In the last year both CSIROand the International Energy Agencyhave noted that ramping up our ambition and effort on energy efficiency will make it easier and cheaper for Australia to transition to a low carbon, twenty-first century energy system.

Australia has a huge opportunity to quickly cut energy bills and carbon, while making our homes more comfortable and our businesses more productive.

But to do this, we need strong government leadership, smart, ambitious energy efficiency policies, and businesses and households that are connected to the right information and experts so that they can act.

Easy to say. But how do we make that happen?

In 2016, Australia’s energy ministers recognised that there was a huge backlog of issues in our electricity market and established an independent review, led by Australia’s Chief Scientist Alan Finkel, to get to the bottom of them.

After a comprehensive process with support from across the community, the Finkel Review made 50 recommendations, 49 of which are now being implemented.

While not every issue is resolved – and the National Energy Guarantee and the ambition of carbon reduction targets chief among them – we have made significant progress in dealing with multiple issues in our electricity sector.

In the wake of this abysmal result on energy efficiency, we need a circuit breaker. It is time for a Finkel Review-like process focused on the demand side of Australia’s energy equation.

We need a review, led by a panel of eminent, independent experts, to get to the bottom of how exactly Australia has found itself the worst performing developed country on energy efficiency.

The panel should also develop a set of comprehensive recommendations for every part of the Australian economy focused on ensuring we quickly catch up to our international competitors.

Some will say that the energy policy agenda is already pretty full, and the last thing we need right now is another review. However, the results from the independent umpire, the ACEEE, are dire, and every month of delay is another month that saddles Australian businesses and households with higher energy bills than necessary.

Australia is more than capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time. We absolutely need to finish the job of putting in place a durable and bipartisan energy policy for our electricity generation sector, but we also need to start doing the hard work of turning around our parlous performance on energy efficiency.

Energy efficiency is one of the most important levers we have to keep energy affordable as we transition to a low carbon, twenty-first century energy system. We need to get on with it. We can’t afford not to.

Luke Menzel is CEO of the Energy Efficiency Council.

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13 Comments
  1. Gyrogordini 3 months ago

    Ain’t that the truth? With a world-leading geographic bounty of wind and solar resources, we work so hard at coming last in the OECD. Then add a building industry, general population and transport infrastructure, all locked into the mid 20 th century, and voila! A huge mess, with no light at the end of the tunnel, I fear.

    • MaxG 3 months ago

      Advance Australia fair :))

    • john 3 months ago

      20th century no mate 19th century.

      • Gyrogordini 3 months ago

        I did actually think about writing 19th, but in fact I think mid 1950s suits many folk! We wouldn’t want to be accused of overstating the problem, would we?

  2. Robert Westinghouse 3 months ago

    With Private (for profit) Big Power here it will never happen. With the current government policies of selling everything to profit mongers, it will never happen. The people are getting the raw end of the pineapple and the government are facilitating this and allowing BIG Business to profit from us….As Gran says: “I will be dead, and my grand kids will suffer. That is the saddest thing.”

  3. Aluap 3 months ago

    I wonder what lies the government will mke up to muddy the waters on this?

  4. RobertO 3 months ago

    Hi All, Stop being pessimist all. I live in the land of hope that we can still change and that it is not too late. If we vote the COALition out and we overshoot the Labour’s target of 50% (before the election in 2022, whenever it is) by about 70% we have a hope.

    • john 3 months ago

      Good luck with that old mate.
      Just about total ownership of papers is Murdock and the right wing total lies they peddle every week works. Why do we have such a dysfunctional situation where total idiots are elected?
      We see people elected to the senate for instance and they would not win a debate with a 10 year old but are voted in because of the peddling of FUD each and every day.
      A society goes down the drain when its pass for intellectual capacity is driven by fear uncertainty and disinformation .
      Poor fellow my country some one said.

  5. Ben Rose 3 months ago

    in the early 2000,s the Howard government introduced the Mandatory Energy Efficiency Program, in which large industrial operations had to report their energy use and greenhouse emissions. This was further successfully developed under the Rudd- Gillard government into the Energy Efficiency Opportunities program where it was compulsory to report emissions, identify mitigation opportunities and implement those projects with a short payback period. The results were large reductions from big industrial and mine sites. While consulting in energy and emissions I audited two mines and identified thousands on tonnes of emissions reduction actions with payback time less than two years

    I hope Labor will re-introduce this – it would be the logical thing to do as it was (at least initially) bipartisan until the Coalition lurched to the right and Abbott abolished it. Giles, can I suggest an interview with Mark Butler asking where they stand on this?

    • john 3 months ago

      I do not think a reelected LNP will change the present.

  6. Ian 3 months ago

    So many opportunities….
    But judging by the lack of ability of our current crop in govt, I can’t imagine the backroom report readers and advisors are too bright either…perhaps RWNJs as well – just there to filter out logical advice and maintain the nonsense.

  7. Ray Miller 2 months ago

    The lack of efficiency effort in the built environment, be commercial or residential is adding significant risk to our population and economy.
    The especially risky time is when heat waves strike, our buildings are so leaky (letting in so much heat) by way of design and construction that the energy infrastructure and heat pumps are not optional, but forming essential services to prevent high morbidity.

    The problem of the do nothing strategy lies with the laws of thermodynamics, all the equipment in the supply chain providing the “essential” life saving services are subjected to reduced performance at high ambient temperatures. Thus requiring larger more expensive generators, transformers, wires, compressors, fans…. very much a death spiral in many ways.

    Fortunately as the article is pointing out taking some simple steps to plug the holes is a far safer way to protect our communities health and economy, but one we seem to be avoiding.

  8. Brunel 2 months ago

    Build cycleways and high speed rail to cut transport emissions and also cut obesity!

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