Given the billions of dollars of investment going into green building and energy efficient appliances in Australia, it would seem logical that household energy consumption – at least on a per capita basis – would be on wane.
According to the latest survey results from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), however, that is not the case.
Indeed, the latest issue of Australian Social Trends released by the ABS on September 26 indicates that Australian households are using 25 per cent more electricity and 22 per cent more gas than they were 10 years ago, and that overall, excluding petrol, households used 14 per cent more energy in 2010/11 than what they did in 2000/01.
To be sure, almost all of this increase can be explained by an expansion of the population from an estimated 19.153 million in 2000 to 22.298 million in 2010.
Even after adjusting for this, however, the ABS says household energy consumption levels on a per capita basis have barely moved in a decade – a big disappointment given the amount of effort going into green buildings and more environmentally friendly appliances.
Furthermore, as long as this remains the case, overall household energy usage will continue to grow in line with the population, meaning that any meaningful reduction in carbon emissions will have to come entirely from cleaner power sources as opposed to reduced energy consumption.
It is not as though Australians are not trying to lift their game. More than half a million Australian households had solar panels as of last year, up almost tenfold over the past two years – a concept almost unheard of 10 years ago. Furthermore, around 45 per cent of Australians actively consider energy ratings when buying household appliances (ABS survey, 2011); more than two thirds (69 per cent) of Australians have insulation in their homes; and earlier ABS studies have shown that a vast majority of people throughout the country are actively taking steps to reduce energy use, even among those who say they are not concerned about climate change.
Interestingly, older people are more likely to take steps to conserve energy than their younger counterparts, an observation the ABS puts down in part to the idea that a large number of young adults still live at home and do not pay electricity bills. Indeed, while the most common reason among older Australians who are not saving energy for not doing so was a belief that their energy usage levels are already low enough. The primary reason given by those aged 18 to 24 who do not save energy is that they have not given the matter any thought.
In spite of the push toward better homes and appliances, Australian household energy consumption is stagnant on a per capita basis and is rising overall.
That is a disappointing outcome.