Rising energy prices and increased use of renewables are contributing to increasing energy efficiency of households.
Rising energy prices and increased use of renewables are contributing to increasing energy efficiency of households. Damien Ayers

The latest update to the Australian Energy Accounts published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has shown that households have continued to make improvements in energy efficiency and increasing their adoption of renewable energy.

The per household average energy consumption fell by almost 1 per cent in the year ending June 2015, with the number of Australian households growing faster than the rate of residential energy consumption.

“Despite a small increase in energy use, Australian households are becoming more efficient in their use of energy”, Lauren Binns from the ABS’ Environment and Agriculture Branch said.

An additional factor, which is likely to provide households with further incentive to cut their energy consumption is the rising cost of energy. The ABS estimated that per household expenditure on energy exceeded $5,000 per household.

Fuel costs represented the largest proportion of energy costs, with the average household spending $2,636 each year on fuel. Electricity costs ($1,720) and gas costs ($725) have grown considerably over in recent years and have received significant attention as a result.

Household expenditure on gas and electricity is approximately 50 per cent higher than it was six-years ago, when the ABS started tracking average household costs.

Efficiency improvements were also seen in the industrial sector, with industry succeeding in generating more economic value from their products, with comparatively smaller increases in energy consumption.

“While industry use of energy increased 0.6 per cent from 2013-14 to 2014-15, Australian industries used 1.5 per cent less energy for each million dollars of economic output”, said Ms Binns.

Data captured by the Bureau of Statistics showed the growing contribution of households in supplying their own energy. Over the last 10-years, the production of renewable energy by households has more than doubled, from 26.2 GJ, to 54.1 GJ in 2015. This follows the significant boom in installations of both rooftop solar and solar hot water systems.

Employment in the energy sector also fell for the third consecutive year, as jobs fell across the coal mining, electricity generation and renewable sectors. Job losses in the renewable energy sector have been severe, with policy uncertainty impacting on investor certainty across the period examined by the ABS (2013 to 2015) and resulting in a loss of around one-third of positions in the sector.

According to an earlier assessment completed by the ABS, employment in the renewable energy sector peaked at more than 19,100 jobs in 2012. Employment in the sector has since fallen to approximately 14,000 jobs. Contraction in the installations of rooftop solar systems was the main contributor to the fall, with 6,800 installer jobs lost in the last three years.

An increasing proportion of Australia’s energy production is being sent offshore into export markets. The ABS determined that Australia has an increasing degree of energy self-sufficiency, with over 70 per cent of Australia’s energy production being sold for export. Coal was by far the largest source of energy exported (over 11,000 PJ), followed by Uranium (2,592 PJ) and Natural Gas (1,365 PJ).

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