Ray Wills

11 June 2012  – The Sustainable Energy Association of Australia has hit back at media reports in Western Australia that  falling energy consumption is a result of rising electricity prices, as more evidence emerges that appliances are becoming far more efficient.

SEA chief adviser, Ray Wills, believes that electricity consumption is falling all around the world due largely to improving energy efficiency of appliances and this shouldn’t come as a surprise.

“The decline in electricity consumption is primarily attributable to increasing energy efficiency in appliances, with the latest Energy Star appliances using much less energy than their predecessors,” Professor Wills said.

“Combine this with people being more conscious of their power consumption, and supported by more and more households adding solar panels to offset their power bills, and the fall in electricity consumption by households is logical and will continue.”

Furthermore, consumer watchdog CHOICE recently reported that buying a more energy-efficient TV, fridge, dishwasher and washing machine could save over $4000 in electricity and water costs over the 10-year life span of the appliance.

As reported in The Fifth Estate earlier this year, developers including Stockland are increasingly taking steps to ensure they install the latest energy efficient appliances  – advertising savings of up to $2000 a year for homeowners.

Leading Australian energy expert Alan Pears said that in general the energy costs of running a comfortable suburban house have fallen dramatically if the house is fitted with the latest efficient appliances ­– even a 100 cm flat screen television.

Professor Pears, adjunct professor at RMIT and director of Sustainable Solutions Pty Ltd said savings could be “pretty impressive”.

For example, “the best 420-litre family fridge is now rated 318 kWh compared with about 1200-1400 kWh in the mid-late 1980s,” Professor Pears said.

“Efficient lighting is giving 80 per cent savings. A good solar hot water service is cutting hot water bills by 70 per cent plus. The latest Samsung 100cm TV uses 30 watts – older flat screen TVs that size use 200-450 watts.

“Even a large old CRT TV (say 76 cm) uses around 130 watts. Also the best aircons [air-conditioning units] are twice as efficient as 1980s technology. So if you put everything together, it all adds up.”

Meanwhile, electricity consumption in other states of Australia, especially Victoria and New South Wales, has fallen earlier and more quickly than in Western Ausralia as a consequence of long-running programs to assist householders reduce electricity consumption.

However, SEA is concerned that the rate of change in the electricity market around Australia and now witnessed in Western Australia is not informing plans for large infrastructure spend.

Professor Wills added: “Future planning and investment decisions by governments must prepare Australia for the transformative arrival of renewable energy generation – one that requires a different electricity grid, a smarter electricity network.”

According to the Australian PV Association, a total of 837 MW of PV were installed in Australia in 2011, more than twice the capacity added in 2010; total installed capacity in Australia is now 1.4 GW.

His comments come ahead of prices rises for Central Sydney on 1 July, estimated at 19.2 per cent, or $338, to an average of $2101 a year. There will be a rise of $439 to $2729 for small businesses, according to the draft report by the NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART).

The price rises have stimulated the City of Sydney to offer tips on saving energy.

The city’s manager of sustainability programs, Tom Belsham, said: “Simple actions like turning off appliances at the power point, rather than using the remote control which leaves them on standby, can reduce your electricity use by up to 10 per cent and save you over $200 a year.

“If you’re heating your house, setting the thermostat lower will save a lot of energy. Each 1-degree increase will add to your heating costs by about 10 per cent. And installing a water-efficient showerhead could save you around $50 to $100 in water and energy costs every year.”

Mr Belsham added that when it comes to heating water, a solar hot water system can reduce water heating bills by well over 50 per cent.