Energy efficiency beats renewable energies: report

Large scale energy efficiency is a ‘missing piece’ in Australia’s plans to curb greenhouse emissions, according to the Council’s 2010 policy platform, which calls for 50 Mt of carbon emissions reductions to come from efficiency. Its seven-point plan would also save A$5 billion a year and protect consumes from price increases by making the country’s power system work better.

The three major policies to transform Australia and put it on track to meet GHG targets are:

  • A national energy efficiency target
  • A requirement for investment in efficiency by power networks
  • A national efficiency scheme to replace the current state-by-state approach.

The policies were developed over the past year, and are based on successful programmes in in other countries. The European Union, United States and China all have strong national efficiency targets for 2020, and the Council says the Australian government can deliver significant energy savings in four key areas: buildings, industry, cogeneration and government operations.

Efficiency to have more impact than renewables

The International Energy Agency estimates that energy efficiency will deliver 65% of global carbon cuts in the energy sector by 2020, and 54% by 2030. The Australian Bureau of Agricultural & Research Economics estimate that energy efficiency will account for 55% of Australia’s cuts in GHG emissions over the next 40 years.

“Even if Australia introduced a price on carbon tomorrow, we would still need strong energy efficiency policies,” the report explains. “The European Union has had an emissions trading scheme since 2005 and also has more ambitious energy efficiency policies than Australia.”

“As there are many barriers to energy efficiency, we need several key energy efficiency policies,” it adds. “The major delay to a carbon price means that energy efficiency is now critical.”

“The Australian Government has a number of policies to ensure that 20% of energy will come from renewable sources by 2020; however, even with more renewable energy, emissions from fossil fuels will still increase if energy demand continues to increase at its current rate,” it explains. “Energy efficiency policies would reduce the growth in energy demand, putting Australia on track to meet its international greenhouse targets.”

Grid improvements needed to handle increased demand

Australia’s grid will spend A$42 bn over the next five years, of which one-third is just to cope with increased power demand. “We desperately need measures to direct some of this towards smarter ways to cut electricity waste.”

“Energy efficiency is nearly half the country’s greenhouse solution and it pays itself back,” says Rob Murray-Leach of the Energy Efficiency Council. “To take a World Cup metaphor, it should be more like our lead striker, to implement solutions across the whole economy, but right now it is still warming up on sidelines.”

Members of the Energy Efficiency Council have combined annual revenue of A$200 bn.