Australia’s red card for energy efficiency

Two pieces of bad news for Australia in June, one hitting the headlines but the other more worrying for the long term.

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The Socceroo's flame out in the World Cup crushed the nation but the second - Australia’s ranking near the bottom of a global league table on energy efficiency  - should be keeping us awake at night.

"News of Australia’s ranking near the bottom of a global league table on energy efficiency that should be keeping us awake at night.”

Within hours of the Socceroos capitulation to Peru, the Washington DC-based American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) released the 2018 International Energy Efficiency Scorecard.

The report finds Australia is falling behind our international competitors and missing a huge opportunity to drive down energy bills - while cutting carbon emissions.

ACEEE found Australia’s energy efficiency policies and performance are the worst in the developed world. They placed the country 18th among the world’s 25 largest energy users, a fall from a 16th-place position in 2016.

While efforts in the building sector received decent scores – in the top half of nations surveyed – in transport and industry, Australia ranked 20th and 22nd respectively.

These results are unfortunately not surprising. They are yet another wake-up call. Australia needs to do more to address energy demand. A widely scoped review is required.


In the last year both the CSIRO and the International Energy Agency have noted ramping up Australia’s ambition and effort on energy efficiency will make it easier and cheaper for the country to make the transition to a low-carbon, 21st Century energy system.

Australia has a huge opportunity to quickly cut energy bills and carbon while making homes more comfortable and businesses more productive.

To do this the country needs strong government leadership, smart, ambitious energy efficiency policies – as well as businesses and households connected to the right information and experts so they can act.

Easy to say. But how do we make that happen?


In 2016, Australia’s energy ministers recognised there was a huge backlog of issues in the country’s electricity market and established an independent review, led by Australia's Chief Scientist Alan Finkel, to get to the bottom of them.

After a comprehensive process with support from across the community, the Finkel Review made 50 recommendations, 49 of which are now being implemented.

While not every issue is resolved – the National Energy Guarantee and the ambition of carbon reduction targets chief among them – Australia has made significant progress in dealing with multiple issues in the electricity sector.

In the wake of this abysmal result on energy efficiency Australia need a circuit breaker. Now it is time for a Finkel Review-like process focused on the demand side of Australia’s energy equation.

A review, led by a panel of eminent, independent experts, is needed to get to the bottom of how exactly Australia has found itself the worst-performing developed country on energy efficiency.

The panel should also develop a set of comprehensive recommendations for every part of the Australian economy focused on ensuring we quickly catch up to our international competitors.

Some will say the energy policy agenda is already pretty full and the last thing anyone needs right now is another review. However the results from the independent umpire are dire and every month of delay is another month which saddles Australian businesses and households with higher energy bills than necessary – simply because they are using more energy than they need to.

Australia is more than capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time. It absolutely needs to finish the job of putting in place a durable and bipartisan energy policy for the electricity generation sector. It also needs to start doing the hard work of turning around its parlous performance on energy efficiency.

Energy efficiency is one of the most important levers Australia has to keep energy affordable as the country transitions to a low-carbon, 21st Century energy system.

We need to get on with it. We can't afford not to. And the Socceroos need a striker.

Luke Menzel is CEO of the Energy Efficiency Council

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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