Let’s use less energy

From Rob Murray-Leach, chief executive officer of the Energy Efficiency Council –

1 Feburary 2010 – The Energy Efficiency Council has released guidelines to help evaluate the Opposition’s climate change polices due this week and the Prime Minister’s taskforce on energy efficiency which will report by June.

A climate change strategy that doesn’t drive energy efficiency will be ineffective and expensive. Energy efficiency is the largest and most cost effective source of abatement. We can deliver energy efficiency today to cut emissions and grow the economy.

Energy efficiency is the biggest opportunity for cutting global emissions by 2020. The International Energy Agency, the top global expert in energy, estimates that 65 per cent of global carbon cuts in the energy sector to 2020 will come from energy efficiency. In contrast, renewables, nuclear and clean coal will contribute less than 35 per cent of cuts to 2020.

Energy efficiency is by far the most cost-effective way to cut carbon pollution. The Centre for International Economics estimates that energy efficiency in the building sector alone would save the Australian economy $38 billion per annum by 2050.

Australia has an enormous opportunity to improve its efficiency. Between 1973 and 1998 Australia’s energy efficiency improved by just 0.7 per cent a year. This is less than half the average rate of improvement of the other countries that are members of the International Energy Agency.
We need new dedicated energy efficiency policies. Most European countries have had an emissions trading scheme since 2005, and they also have strong energy efficiency policies.

We need policies that are ambitious, smart and well-funded; we can’t afford greenwash.

Good energy efficiency policies must be:

  • Ambitious. An aggressive strategy could cut Australia’s stationary energy use by 20 per cent below business as usual by 2020. This could reduce carbon emissions by 50 megatonnes by 2020.
  • Smart. Tackle the real barriers to energy efficiency. This could include: a scheme to invest in energy efficiency that will save energy consumers from having to spend billions of dollars on unnecessary electricity grid infrastructure; incentives and goals to improve industrial energy efficiency; incentives to build awareness to retrofit commercial buildings;  hopitals, schools and governments becoming leaders in energy efficiency
  • Well-funded. Energy efficiency will deliver major savings to households and businesses. To achieve this, we need serious upfront investment in energy efficiency. The Energy Efficiency Council recommends investing an additional $800 million each year in energy efficiency.

The government released some ambitious policies in 2009, like the home insulation program. However, other programs haven’t been delivered yet, and we still have a lot of work to do to really boost energy efficiency in the business sector.

The biggest opportunities for energy efficiency are in commercial buildings and industry. Just 225 companies use 45 per cent of the energy in Australia.

The Energy Efficiency Council will release a set of essential recommendations on energy efficiency in late February.