Australia is 10th out of the top 16 economies on energy efficiency.

21 July 2014 — Australia lags most developed economies on energy efficiency, a new report by the not-for-profit American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy has revealed, with transport and commercial building energy intensity a particular weak spot.

The 2014 International Energy Efficiency Scorecard showed there is significant room for Australia to move, with the country ranking 10th out of the world’s 16 largest economies, outpaced by Europe, China, Japan and Canada. Australia has in fact gone backwards since last year’s report, thanks to the winding back of federal energy efficiency programs.

The top performer, unsurprisingly, was Germany, with a score of 65 out of 100 possible points covering 31 categories across four groups: buildings, industry, transportation and cross-cutting aspects of energy use at the national level.

“Germany is a prime example of a nation that has made energy efficiency a top priority,” ACEEE executive director Steven Nadel said.

Dr Philipp Ackermann, Minister and Deputy Chief of Mission, Chargé d’Affaires, Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, said the results vindicated Germany’s energy efficiency focus.

“We see this as a validation that Germany’s measures are bearing fruit in its ongoing efforts to transition towards a low-carbon and energy-efficient economy,” Dr Ackermann said. “At the same time, we will continue to strive for further improvements. Energy efficiency is the second pillar of Germany’s transformation of its energy system alongside the expansion of renewable energies. Every kilowatt hour of electricity that is not consumed saves on fossil fuels and the construction of power plants and grids.”

China tops buildings sector

In the buildings sector, China came out on top, receiving 19 out of a possible 25 points.

Categories in the buildings sector comprised energy intensity in residential buildings; energy intensity in commercial buildings; residential building codes; commercial building codes; building labelling; appliance and equipment standards; appliance and equipment labelling; and building retrofit policies.

Australia, ranked fifth on building efficiency, lagged behind China on residential and commercial building energy intensity, and appliance and equipment standards, though was stronger on building codes, building labelling and building retrofit policy.

Australia was nominated as having one of the highest energy intensities in the commercial sector at 553.1 kilojoules per square metre, only underperformed by Italy. The result is surprising given the drive to higher performing buildings in the commercial office sector through schemes such as the Commercial Building Disclosure program and NABERS, though perhaps points to Australia’s glut of old, low-performing office buildings and the lack of progress and drivers in other commercial sectors such as retail and hotels.

The report found that Chinese federal policy on building efficiency was a key driver of China’s success.

“China has a rapidly growing building stock, including rapid urban development and demolition of older buildings,” the report stated. “As a result, new building energy codes are highly effective at reducing energy consumption. China’s energy efficiency policy is driven at the federal level and carried out by provinces and municipalities. China’s building energy efficiency standards require new buildings to be up to 65 per cent more efficient than buildings from the early 1980s. China also has enforcement mechanisms that include incentives and penalties for non-compliance.

“Several building labelling efforts are underway led by China’s Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, which developed an official Chinese green building design label also known as ‘Three Star’ to certify and rate buildings.

“Labelling in China is mandatory for many commercial buildings including large office buildings, those undergoing publicly funded retrofits, and green-labelled buildings. China also has mandatory appliance and equipment standards and a labelling program that covers a significant number of products.”

Australia fails on transport

Australia ranked last on transport efficiency, with a score of just seven out of the available 25 points. Italy, at the top, scored 17.

Australia scored poorly on most categories, including investment in rail versus roads; use of public transport; fuel economy standards; and vehicle miles travelled per capita.

Room to move for all countries

The report found that there was room for improvement for all countries studied.

“Countries that use energy more efficiently use fewer resources to achieve the same goals, thus reducing costs, preserving valuable natural resources, and gaining a competitive edge over other countries,” report lead author Rachel Young said.

This was the theme of this year’s 2XEP forum, hosted by the Australian Alliance to Save Energy, which is pushing to double Australia’s energy productivity.

Rankings: (1) Germany; (2) Italy; (3) the European Union; (tied for 4) China; (tied for 4) France; (tied for 6) Japan; (tied for 6) United Kingdom; (8) Spain; (9) Canada; (10) Australia; (11) India; (12) South Korea; (13) United States; (14) Russia; (15) Brazil; and (16) Mexico.

See the full report.