“The greenest power is the power you don’t have to produce”
Amory Lovins, Chairman and Chief Scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute
While there has been an understandable focus on developing renewable energy sources as an alternative to coal and gas, a sustainable energy future will also require us to reduce our demand for energy in the first place, including in our own homes.
The Zero Carbon Australia Buildings Plan (Melbourne Energy Institute, 2013) estimated that the typical Australian household could reduce its electricity consumption by 53% through implementing straightforward energy efficiency measures.
And with the average 3-person household in NSW consuming 7300 kWh of energy per year, there is a lot of energy at stake. Reducing the average household’s energy use would result in a huge amount of energy that does not need to be produced in the first place, neither by dirty coal fired power stations nor renewable sources such as wind and solar.
The flow on effect is a reduced demand on energy infrastructure and transmission, and the inherent energy losses (inefficiencies) they involve. And while big business and industry need to play their part to reduce energy consumption, Australian households can lead the way and make a sizable contribution, just as they have done with the rapid uptake of domestic rooftop solar.
One common misperception about reducing household energy use is that it necessitates making sacrifices to comfort, i.e., being frugal with energy and generally “going without”. This is where the concept of ‘energy efficiency’ is critical, because rather than abstaining from using energy, it instead means adopting more efficient ways of using energy.
“Energy efficiency is widely recognised as one of the easiest, cheapest and fastest ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions”
Zero Carbon Australia Buildings Plan, 2013
There are so many ways we can reduce our own energy consumption, by making our homes more energy efficient and practicing energy efficiency: from utilising more efficient technologies such as LED lights and household appliances with high energy ratings, through to better understanding how you may be losing energy unnecessarily, e.g. through drafts or insufficient insulation. One first step to reducing our energy use is to understand where we are using it. The diagram below shows the breakdown of household energy consumption for a typical household.
In addition to the environmental benefits of using less energy, there is significant money to be saved. A report from the Energy Efficiency Council (EEC) found that if the average Australian household adopted the energy efficiency measures already adopted in German households they would save $790 a year on their energy bills (The World’s First Fuel, how energy efficiency is reshaping global energy systems, EEC, June 2019). Potential savings like these mean that taking action on energy efficiency in your home can constitute a significant return on investment.
So! Where can you learn more about actions you can take to make your home more energy efficient? There are many user-friendly resources available, including the books and websites listed below.
Enova Community Energy also provide a free Energy Coach Program, conducted by volunteers via home-visits or phone consultations. Enova is unique among energy retailers in that it supports its customers to reduce their energy consumption through energy efficiency and renewable energy production. The author works as the volunteer coordinator for Enova.