Earlier this year, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released ‘Energy in Focus: Energy Efficiency of Australian Homes’ which reviews trends in household energy usage and the factors that might affect it. Here is a quick summary of what they found.
Energy use and CO2 emissions are increasing
Household energy use is an important contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. This is because the majority (96.4% in 2006-07) of Australia’s energy generation comes from greenhouse gas emitting fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas. Total emissions for Australia’s residential sector (which includes transport) have increased by 25% since 1990.
This may be surprising considering public awareness of climate change has increased in recent years. Australians actually have, in some ways, become more energy efficient in their homes. More than half of all households knew about GreenPower in 2008 and 5% were already paying for it. Also, from 2005 to 2008 the number of households that used solar hot water doubled. Despite these efforts, electricity use per person rose 19% from 2001 to 2007.
So what is causing these increases?
Between 1994 and 2008, the number of houses with four or more bedrooms increased whereas the number of one, two and three bedroom houses decreased. As our homes are getting bigger, the number of people living in them is decreasing. This means that there is more space to heat or cool per person which requires more energy.
In 2005, heaters and coolers accounted for about 40% of household energy usage and 19% of the residential sector’s greenhouse gas emissions. Whitegoods such as fridges, freezers and dishwashers make up 30% of household energy consumption and 53% of residential greenhouse emissions. Almost all homes in Australia have a refrigerator (one third have 2 or more in use), almost half had a dishwasher (although the percentage of those using it daily has decreased), 97% of homes have a washing machine and 56% had a clothes dryer.
There are also many other appliances such as televisions, computers, DVD players and gaming consoles which are contributing to household energy consumption, even when they are not in use. Leaving appliances such as these on stand-by accounts for 10% of Australia’s household energy consumption and generates about 5 million tonnes of CO2 emissions each year.
This ABS report doesn’t predict what our household energy consumption is going to be like in the future, but it’s safe to say that a continued increase in household energy consumption won’t do the environment or our wallets any good. Simple steps can be taken to improve these statistics such as turning appliances off stand-by, buying energy efficient appliances or monitoring exactly how much energy our homes and appliances are using.
- Alegria Alano
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