Australia is losing billions in savings because it is not acting on a simple measure that could help families and businesses keep more hard-earned money in their pockets.
Improving energy efficiency is something that other countries such as the US, China, Germany and Japan are facing aggressively, and a new report shows that this has generated huge cuts in accounts.
According to the Energy Efficiency Council report, Australia's global competitors are actively pursuing improvements in energy efficiency and reaping the rewards.
In Germany, energy bills were reduced by 30%, saving the average household about $ 790 per year. In China, accounts have been reduced by about 20%.
It was also good for economic growth, raising global GDP by about $ 2.8 trillion by 2017. In California alone, there were about 310,433 jobs in energy efficiency.
Although many people do not understand the potential of energy efficiency to make a big difference in their consumption and their bills, examples abroad show just how powerful it can be.
In Japan, for example, power management following the Fukushima tsunami helped reduce its peak demand by 19 percent.
By 2016, energy management helped the country replace 39% of the capacity lost when 49 nuclear generators were shut down after the disaster.
And while countries like Australia are hesitant about climate change actions, energy management has done the hard work in reducing emissions.
Energy management has provided by far the largest reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions in this century, the report notes.
The world's first fuel According to the report's estimates, if Australia were to adopt international leadership practices, home and business energy bills could be cut by $ 7.7 billion per year.
It would also create 120,000 extra jobs and help reduce carbon emissions, potentially providing half of the reduction needed to meet Australia's carbon reduction target of 26-28% by 2030.
"Energy efficiency is the most powerful and unique tool we have to reduce energy bills, improve energy security and address climate change," said Luke Menzel, executive director of the Energy Efficiency Council.
"Australia is failing to take advantage of this golden opportunity – it's like we're going through $ 100 banknotes that are lying on the ground."
In Australia, there has been an obsession with developing new sources of power generation, especially when coal-fired power plants close, and while that is important, power management can provide more capacity at a much lower cost.
"Typically, it is much cheaper to encourage manufacturers to voluntarily reduce demand for a few hours a year than to build generators that operate only during extreme heat waves," the report says.
In fact, it has been over-investment in supply-side capacity that contributed to the 35% increase in residential electricity bills in the 10 years between 2007/08 and 2017/18.
"Australia has barely begun to explore the potential of energy efficiency," the report said.
In China, efficiency improvements between 2000 and 2017 reduced energy demand by almost 10 percent – the equivalent of doubling the amount of energy Australia used in 2017.
The report notes that the analysis of the world's 25 largest energy-consuming countries has ranked Australia as the worst developed country for energy efficiency and performance policy, with particularly poor performance in industry and transportation.
"The good news is that Australia can start improving energy efficiency tomorrow, quickly and easily, by making changes that will reduce our living costs, enhance energy security and improve our response to climate change," Menzel said.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
The report made several recommendations to improve Australia's performance.
This includes introducing policies to ensure that Australia meets its national goal of improving energy productivity by 40 percent by 2030.
"The increase in Australia's gas exports and the associated increase in the energy used to liquefy the gas contributed to Australia being behind its target," the report said.
"However, the main reason why Australia has lagged behind its goal is that governments have not introduced the policies needed to improve Australia's energy productivity."
The report also suggests that manufacturers identify and invest in improvements and introduce minimum efficiency standards for appliances, buildings, and vehicles.
Minimum standards of efficiency for appliances such as refrigerators, save for the average Australian family from $ 140 to $ 220 per year. But unlike other countries, Australia only sets standards for several major appliances, such as televisions, air conditioners and electric motors, through the Greenhouse and Energy Minimum Standards (GEMS) program.
The program encompasses far fewer handsets than similar programs in the US, China and Canada.
In 2014, Australia also cut off the Energy Efficiency Opportunities program, which helped companies find more than $ 1 billion in annual energy savings.
"An IEA (International Energy Agency) report of 2017 found that Australia's manufacturing sector is the most energy-intensive of the 19 advanced economies they studied," the report noted.
"Even more surprising, we have the only manufacturing sector that has become more energy intensive between 2010 and 2014."
The report also recommends strengthening building codes and introducing a national program to evaluate the energy efficiency of residential properties when they are put up for sale or leased.
Meanwhile, improving vehicle fuel efficiency is one of the "biggest opportunities" to handle the cost-of-living pressures of Australians, the report notes, adding that urban dwellings spent more than $ 3,500 on fuel in 2017-18 .
"Australia is virtually the only developed country that does not protect consumers with fuel-efficient standards for light-duty vehicles," the report said.
These standards have been introduced in countries such as the US, Japan and many European Union countries for almost 40 years.