Policies that have lowered Australia’s electricity consumption – part 2

Bruce Rowse

Standards for the energy efficiency of both equipment and buildings have contributed to a reduction in electricity consumption. This posts attempts to quantify the contribution to reduced electricity consumption these policies have made, with a focus on the state of Victoria, Australia

Equipment energy efficiency standards

Many countries have equipment energy efficiency standards, encompassing labelling and minimum efficiency performance standards (MEPS). For computer users perhaps the most famous of these is the voluntary U.S. Energy Star Label.

In the USA the Building Technologies Office regulates minimum standards for over 50 categories of appliances and equipment. By 2030 its estimated that this program would have cumulatively saved 6.5 billion tonnes of GHG and $1.7 trillion.

Equipment energy efficiency labels have existed in Australia since 1986 and MEPS since the 1990s with national legislation enacted in 2012 pulling together state standards. Australian minimum efficiency performance standards now cover the following:

  • Domestic fridges and freezers
  • Air  conditioners
  • Electric storage hot water heaters
  • Gas hot water heaters
  • Flouresent lamps
  • Incandescent lamps
  • Power supplies for halogen lighting
  • Televisions
  • Set top boxes
  • External Power supplies
  • Computers
  • Computer monitors
  • Electricity distribution transformers
  • Three phase motors
  • Refrigerated display cabinets

The estimated impact of the Australian equipment energy efficiency program by 2020 is the saving of 32,000,000 MWh annually below a business as usual scenario, roughly equivalent to 32 MT of GHG. Roughly 80% of these savings are expected to come from MEPS, with the remainder from the labelling programs, or labelling combined with MEPS.

Validating these savings claims is beyond the scope of this posting. Taking the estimated savings of the equipment energy efficiency program at face value, and with a focus on Victoria, this program has saved over 4,000,000 MWh in 2013, with 2020 savings of around 7,000,000 MWh expected (compared with BAU from a 1990 baseline). Compared with 2008, where annual savings were slightly over 1,500,000 MWh, the additional annual savings over and above 2008 levels in 2013 were around 2,500,000 MWh. This is roughly equal to the savings achieved in Victoria by the combined effect of the national Renewable Energy Target and the energy efficiency white certificate (VEET) scheme.

Building Standards

Building energy efficiency standards are also widespread. In Australia these regulations are embedded in the National Construction Code, which encompasses the Building Code of Australia (BCA).

These codes apply to the construction of new buildings.Each year approximately 2% of Australian building are new.

In Victoria the residential energy efficiency building provisions began in 2003,and have been progressively tightened since then. They have had a focus on improving the thermal performance of buildings. Only one study has been undertaken to measure the impact of national energy efficiency standards for new homes, undertaken by CSIRO and published in December 2013. The study had a focus on measuring and comparing the energy use of 5 star homes building from 2005 on with 3.5 and 4 star homes built from 2003. For the 116 homes in Melbourne that were examined it found that the 5 star provisions were effective in reducing winter gas consumption (the vast majority of Victorian new homes are heated by gas) by around 100 MJ/m2, but there was no discernible impact on reducing electricity consumption in summer.

On this basis, comparing 2012/13 with 2008, residential thermal energy efficiency provisions are assumed to have had little discernible impact on reducing Victorian electricity consumption.

From 2010 the BCA has also included energy efficiency provisions for residential lighting. Up until 2010 most new homes made extensive use of inefficient halogen downlights. Whilst no study has been done yet to estimate the savings arising from these lighting provisions, assuming on average a halving in lighting power use, and approximately 25% of home electricity use (before the BCA 2010) being in lighting, the 2013 savings in Victorian homes would equate to roughly 100 to 150 MWh compared with 2008, growing at roughly 50 MWh/year.

For commercial buildings a report commissioned by the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, published in March 2013, estimated that the commercial energy efficiency provisions first introduced in the Building Code of Australia in 2006 and tightened in 2010, had reduced electricity consumption in Australian commercial buildings by 3.1 PJ (860,000 MWh) in 2012 compared with 2008.

Taking this estimate at face value, on a per capital basis this would correspond to a saving of a little more than 200,000 MWh in Victoria in 2012 compared with 2008.

In summary, equipment energy efficiency standards appear to have contributed substantially to reduced electricity consumption, with building standards making a small contribution to date.


2 thoughts on “Policies that have lowered Australia’s electricity consumption – part 2

  1. Pingback: Policies that have lowered Australia's electricity consumption - part 3 - carbonpolicy.org

  2. Pingback: Australian electricity demand and consumption, 2004 to 2014 (NSW and Vic)

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