Australia hasn’t even had a look-in at the top 10 on the 2016 International Energy Efficiency Scorecard, coming in 16th of the 23 countries rated by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.
While the winners pack included the usual suspects – Germany coming in first, followed by Italy and Japan on equal second, and France and the UK on fourth and fifth – Australia was surrounded by less notable players, marginally ahead of Russia and Indonesia, though outclassed by Taiwan, India and Turkey.
Australia moves back from 10th place during the last scorecard released in 2014, however the number of countries included has increased by seven.
The scorecard examines the energy efficiency policies of the top 23 energy-consuming countries, representing 75 per cent of the world’s energy use. It looks at 35 metrics across buildings, industry, transport and national policy.
Australia earned a total of 41 out of a possible 100 points.
Its strongest sector was buildings, due to “its fairly comprehensive building codes, building labelling program, and appliance and equipment labelling program”. This was followed by national efforts, mostly due to the National Energy Productivity Plan that aims for a 40 per cent increase in energy productivity by 2030.
However on both industry efficiency and transport, Australia was among the worst performers.
On industry, Australia came third last, just ahead of Saudi Arabia and South Africa, which the report authors blamed on the axing of the Energy Efficiency Opportunities program.
Transport was the worst sector, with the country second last, ahead of only Saudi Arabia, the scorecard’s overall worst performer.
The report said Australia had failed to extend fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles, and also did not have fuel economy standards for heavy-duty trucks. The low percentage of public transport use (at about 12 per cent) was also noted. It said Australia only invested $0.50 in rail for every dollar spent on roads.
The news, surprisingly, was welcomed by the Energy Efficiency Council, whose chief executive Luke Menzel said highlighted the fact that Australia was falling behind global competitors.
“Australia lags well behind other wealthy countries on energy efficiency, in fact we’re in the same group as Russia, Mexico, Indonesia and Thailand,” he said. “Australia’s consistently poor rankings for smart energy use are a direct result of energy efficiency being an afterthought in our energy policy.”
Mr Menzel said the new environment and energy minister Josh Frydenberg had put energy efficiency “to the top of the agenda” by setting the NEPP target.
“To deliver on this target the minister will need to make serious reforms,” he said. “I’m hopeful this terrible global ranking is the wake-up that prompts the energy sector to get behind the minister.”
ACEEE executive director Steven Nadel said energy efficiency was often the lowest-cost means of meeting new demand for energy.
“Governments that encourage investment in energy efficiency and implement supporting policies save citizens money, reduce dependence on energy imports, and reduce pollution,” he said.
“Yet energy efficiency remains massively under-utilised globally, despite its proven multiple benefits and its potential to become the single largest resource to meet growing energy demand worldwide.”