By Angela MacDonald-Smith
Angela Macdonald-Smith writes on energy specialising in gas, oil, electricity. Based in AFR Sydney newsroom, Angela is chief of staff for resources and energy.
More efficient power use would cut bills. Mark Piovesan
Australia has gone into reverse on energy efficiency and now ranks behind India, Indonesia and China in what is a huge, largely untapped opportunity to cut energy bills and carbon emissions.
In a 2018 international ranking on energy efficiency, released overnight, Australia ranks 18th among the world’s 25 largest energy users, down from 16th in 2016 and at the bottom of the list of major developed economies.
Italy and Germany tied for top place, scoring almost double Australia’s points, while Saudi Arabia was last.
Without stronger measures to improve, it will be “impossible” for Australia to meet the carbon reduction goals necessary to cap global temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius, said report author Shruti Vaidyanathan at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.
It will also be more expensive, said Australian Energy Efficiency council chief Luke Menzel, pointing to CSIRO research last year that found ambitious improvements in energy productivity would cut household energy bills and reduce wholesale power prices.
“We are a way behind our international competitors in terms of the energy efficiency and productivity of our economy but that means there are a lot of fairly straightforward options and opportunities that we have to bring down energy bills pretty quickly by pursuing those demand-side savings,” Mr Menzel said.
“It’s a bit of a wake-up call and hopefully a timely reminder that the NEG [National Energy Guarantee] is not the only game in town. There’s a whole other conversation we need to have about what’s happening behind the meter.”
The strongest score for Australia was in building energy efficiency, the only area where it outperformed the median thanks to building codes, its commercial building labelling program and appliance labelling.
But in industrial and transport energy efficiency, Australia ranks near the bottom. In industrial energy efficiency it was particularly poor, putting it 22nd out of 25, with the report highlighting the absence of accords with the manufacturing sector on efficiency or requirements for regular energy audits at sites.
In transportation Australia also lags behind, being the only developed economy without fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles and a low use of public transit. Australia invests only about 26¢ in rail transport for every dollar on road construction, it noted.
Australia has a national energy productivity plan which aims to lift productivity by 40 per cent between 2015 and 2030, but implementation of the goals are seen as “slow”.
“Our global competitors are saving energy and money with smart energy-efficiency policy and investments, while Australia lags at the back of the pack,” Mr Menzel said.
Press link for more: AFR.COM