Does energy efficiency matter in the age of cheap solar?

28 May 2019

When it comes to reducing energy costs and carbon emissions, Australians have strongly supported solar photovoltaics (PVs), making Australia a world leader in household PV uptake with over 2.1 million rooftop solar power systems installed across the country as of April 2019. But what about energy efficiency? Does it still matter?

The answer is a big yes and here are the reasons why.

Energy efficiency can help us achieve Australia’s 2030 carbon reduction target

Unfortunately, electricity contributes to 85 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. While it’s good news that renewables are on the rise in the country, coal and gas still account for about 85 per cent of electricity generation in Australia.

With buildings producing over 25 per cent of Australia’s emissions, reducing energy consumption through energy efficient measures is key to achieving Australia’s 2030 carbon reduction target and support the shift to renewable generation.

According to Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA), Green Star-rated commercial buildings use around 66 per cent less electricity and 55 per cent less water than the average Australian building. So the more energy efficient we become, the less emissions we’ll generate.

Energy efficiency will make the transition to renewables cheaper

“Energy efficiency first” is the mantra in green and net-zero buildings. Reducing energy consumption can reduce the cost of a solar power system or increase the overall percentage of electricity solar power provides in buildings.

The Ecoefficiency Group director Penny Prasad states, “Although it is good that some companies are opting for solar panels on their roofs as a solution to minimise costs, companies should invest in energy efficient equipment first.”

Combining energy efficiency and renewables, we can reduce our electricity bills further and maximise returns from feed in tariffs.

Huge opportunities exist with energy efficiency

According to the Energy Efficiency Council, energy efficiency is a huge opportunity where we can cut households’ and businesses’ energy bills by $7.7 billion a year.

For instance, Infosys, India’s second largest software company with 30 million square feet of buildings dedicated itself to pursue efficiency on all of its buildings before pursuing renewables. It retrofitted HVAC and lighting systems and as a result, lowered its energy use by over 40%.

Similarly, when global infrastructure services consultancy Cardno moved into Brisbane’s 6 Star Green Star-rated Green Square Tower North, its monthly energy bills dropped from an average of $12,000 to approximately $8,000, even though their new office space was larger than where they’d been previously.

Conclusion: Energy efficiency and renewables go hand in hand

If we combine energy efficiency with renewables, we can achieve better results in reducing costs, energy demand, carbon emissions and create a more sustainable and comfortable environment to live in. The bottom line is, Energy efficiency is about achieving more while using less energy, by being smart about the energy we use at home, in business and in government.

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