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ARE HOUSEHOLDS USING RENEWABLE ENERGY?
TYPE OF HOUSEHOLD ENERGY CONSUMED
Source: ABARE 2008, Australian Energy Consumption, by Industry and Fuel; ABARE electronic datasets
Natural gas is the second most common source of energy used in the home. In total, households used 135PJ of natural gas in 2006-07, equivalent to 30% of total household energy use, or a 16% increase since 1997-98.
Wood and solar
The most accessible sources of renewable energy available to households are wood and solar energy. Used primarily as a source of heating, wood use by households has declined 26% in the last 10 years, from 82PJ in 1997-98 to 61PJ in 2006-07. Due to air pollution concerns, households, over time, have been encouraged to stop using wood for heating or to convert open fires to slow combustion fires, which are more energy efficient and release only 5% of the greenhouse emissions that open fires produce. (Endnote 1)
In 2008, 13% of Australian households used wood as a source of energy in the home. More than one-third (35%) of households in Tasmania used wood as an energy source, a decrease from 52% in 2002.
A range of government grants and rebates are available to households, to encourage people to use solar energy in the home. In 2008, 7% of households used solar energy to heat water, up from 4% of households in 2005. Over half of all households in the Northern Territory used solar energy to heat water (54%) - a larger proportion than any other state or territory. Western Australian households ranked second with 21% of homes using solar energy, while 9% of Queensland households used solar energy to heat water.
WOOD AND SOLAR USE BY HOUSEHOLDS: STATE/TERRITORY - 2008
(a) Solar hot water and solar-photovoltaic
(b) Solar estimate for Tasmania has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution
(c) Refers to mainly urban areas. Northern Territory wood estimate has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution
Source: Environmental Issues: Energy Use and Conservation, March 2008 (ABS cat. no. 4602.0.55.001)
Wind and hydro-electricity
Other forms of renewable energy, such as small hydro systems or wind turbines, can be adapted for household use, but are less common.
PRODUCTION OF RENEWABLE ENERGY
The production of renewable energy has increased over the last 30 years. In 1976-77, 200PJ of energy was produced from renewable sources. By 2006-07, this had increased to 298PJ, up 49%. Renewable energy production increased by 10% in 2006-07 compared with 2005-06. However hydro-electricity production fell by almost 10% in 2006-07, due to decreasing water availability as a result of dry conditions seen across New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania during the last decade. Despite this decline, renewable energy maintained its 5% share of total energy supply in 2006-07, due to growth in solar/wind (up 230% to 28PJ), biomass (up 7% to 205PJ) and biogas/liquids (up 4% to 13PJ).
PRODUCTION OF RENEWABLE ENERGY(a)
Source: ABARE 2008, Australian Energy Supply and Trade, by fuel type; ABARE electronic datasets
A range of policy measures have been introduced in Australia to support the supply and development of renewable energy into the future. The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and the expanded Renewable Energy Target scheme are designed to support the reduction of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions by increasing the proportion of Australia's electricity generated from renewable energy sources. (Endnote 7)
ELECTRICITY PRODUCED FROM RENEWABLE SOURCES
The production of electricity from renewable sources in 2006-07 rose by 6% compared with 2005-06. Over the next 20 years, electricity generation from renewable sources is projected to increase by around 2% a year. (Endnote 8) Wind and biomass (mainly bagasse and woodwaste) are projected to account for most of the increase in electricity generation from renewable sources. (Endnote 8) In 2007 the Australian Government committed to ensuring that 20% of the electricity supply will come from renewable energy sources by 2020. (Endnote 7)
GreenPower products allow customers to replace a proportion of their electricity account with electricity generated from renewable sources, fed into the national power grid. GreenPower was first established in New South Wales in 1997 and GreenPower now has customers in all states and territories except the Northern Territory.
Just over 817,000 households were part of a GreenPower scheme in the September quarter 2008. These households consumed just over 279,000 mega watt hours (MWh), or 1PJ of renewable energy. This was an increase of almost 149,000 MWh or 51% compared with the September quarter 2007.
In 2008, the total mega watt hours supplied to households under the National GreenPower Accreditation Program was enough to power a year of household electricity use for almost 45,000 homes. (Endnote 11)
HOUSEHOLD CUSTOMERS OF GREENPOWER
Source: National GreenPower Accreditation Program, Quarterly Status Reports, September 2004-September 2008
NATIONAL GREENPOWER ACCREDITATION PROGRAM: CUSTOMERS AND MEGA WATT HOURS - SEPTEMBER QUARTER 2008
Source: National GreenPower Accreditation Program, Quarterly Status Report, September 2008
There has been an increase in the awareness of GreenPower options. In 1999 only 19% of households were aware of GreenPower. By 2008, this had risen to over half (52%) of all households, including 5% who reported that they were already paying for GreenPower. More recently, GreenPower reported the uptake at around 10% of households. Differences between the rates are related to the reference periods used and differences between survey and administrative data.
Households in the Australian Capital Territory had the highest rate of GreenPower awareness (71%, including 5% who were paying for GreenPower) while Western Australian households had the lowest awareness (39%).
Not all households who were aware of GreenPower were willing to pay extra for electricity generated from renewable energy in 2008. Around one-third (32%) of households were prepared to pay more for electricity generated from renewable sources.
The willingness to pay extra did not necessarily translate into action. The proportion of households in each state and territory who said they were willing to pay extra for GreenPower was much higher than the proportions who were currently paying extra for a GreenPower option.
SUPPORT FOR GREENPOWER - 2008(a)
(a) Data cover only states/territories participating in the National GreenPower Accreditation Program at the time the survey was conducted
(b) Of those who were already aware of GreenPower
(c) WA estimate for 'Currently paying extra' has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution
Source: Environmental Issues: Energy Use and Conservation, March 2008 (ABS cat. no. 4602.0.55.001)
Australia's energy supply will face many challenges over the next decade. Increasing domestic consumption, the need for investment in new assets and policy measures aimed at reducing greenhouse gases, will all shape the investment in technologies needed to drive the production of renewable energy in the medium to long term. (Endnote 12)
Data sources and definitions
Most of the information in this article comes from annual and quarterly reports from the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE) and GreenPower status reports. Other information comes from the 2008 Environmental Issues: Energy Use and Conservation (ABS cat. no. 4602.0.55.001) and Australia's Environment: Issues and Trends, 2007 (ABS cat. no. 4613.0) publications.
Energy and emissions unit definitions are available on page 2 of this article.
'Biomass' is the generation of energy from organically based sources. Methane generated by the decomposition of biomass resources (green waste) in landfill sites, sewage treatment works or large scale composting, can be used to generate electricity. Waste materials from agricultural enterprises such as forestry, sugar cane (known as bagasse), winery and cotton production can also be used to generate electricity. Biomass can also be processed to produce liquid biofuels (biodiesel) or a gas biofuel (biogas).
'Hydro-electric power' is electricity produced from the energy of falling water using dams, turbines and generators.
'Solar/solar photovoltaic': Photovoltaics, or PV for short, converts sunlight directly into electricity. Photovoltaic systems are different to solar hot water systems, which absorb sunlight directly into the water-carrying tubes contained in the panel.
'Wind turbines' can be used to drive a generator to create electricity.
Energy and emissions units
The basic unit of energy is the 'joule' (J). A 'petajoule' (PJ) is one thousand trillion joules.
Energy delivered by electric utilities is usually expressed and charged for in kilowatt-hours (kWh):
Megatonnes (Mt): one million tonnes. Mt is the unit of measurement used for greenhouse gas emissions. A tonne of emissions is one tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-e), which measures all greenhouse gases.
Million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe): A measure of fossil fuel quantities. One Mtoe is the amount of energy released when one million tonnes of crude oil is burnt.
During January-August 2008, total electricity production from OECD countries rose to 7,032 terawatt-hours (TWh), an increase of 171.4 TWh, or 2.5%. (Endnote 9) Production from geothermal, wind, solar and other renewables showed the largest percentage change of any fuel type, increasing 23.5%. (Endnote 9) In the OECD Pacific region (comprising Australia, Japan, Korea and New Zealand), production of geothermal, wind, solar and other renewables increased 36.7%, to 14.6TWh, compared with January-August 2007. (Endnote 9)
Australia's emissions per person (CO2 /pop) are high compared with other OECD countries. (Endnote 10) High per capita emissions relative to other countries reflect, in part, Australia's reliance on coal in electricity production and the production of goods with high levels of emissions, namely, resource and agricultural products that are destined for export and consumption in other countries. (Endnote 3)
OECD ELECTRICITY PRODUCTION: FUEL TYPE, JANUARY-AUGUST 2007 AND 2008
Source: International Energy Agency, Monthly Electricity Statistics, August 2008
ENERGY SUPPLY AND EMISSIONS: SELECTED OECD COUNTRIES - 2006
(a) CO2 emissions from fuel combustion only
Source: International Energy Agency, Key World Statistics, 2008
Total energy supply and use
Total primary energy production in Australia rose by 3.2% to over 17,000PJ in 2006-07 compared to 2005-06. Only around one third of this energy was used domestically. The energy increase largely came from hard coal production, which maintained its 51% share of total primary energy production, rising 5% to 9,292PJ.
In 2006-07, Australia's primary energy use increased by 2.3% to 5770PJ. Electricity generation, Manufacturing and Transport together accounted for more than 75% of all primary energy use.
TOTAL ENERGY CONSUMPTION, BY SECTOR - 2006-07
Source: ABARE 2008, Energy Consumption in Australia, by industry; ABARE electronic datasets
Australia's first solar city
Adelaide is one of seven regions in Australia to trial new approaches to producing and using energy as part of the Australian Government's Solar Cities Program. From now until 2013, Adelaide's local governments, businesses and the community will support the uptake of 1700 solar panels for homes and business. Consumers installing solar systems will be given financial help to do so. There will also be 7000 'smart meters' installed in homes and business and a campaign to inform the community about energy efficiency and encourage the uptake of GreenPower. The trial is expected to cut energy usage by 28GWh, representing an annual saving of $5 million in electricity costs and a minimum of 30,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year. (Endnote 13)
1. Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), Greenhouse Gas Emissions Calculator, viewed 10 December 2008, <www.environment.gov.au>.
2. Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE), Energy Update 2008, electronic datasets, viewed 15 December 2008, <www.abare.gov.au>.
3. Department of Climate Change (DCC), Australia's National Greenhouse Accounts: National Inventory by Economic Sector 2006, DCC, 2008, Canberra.
4. Australian Conservation Foundation, Total Environment Centre and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Australia, Green Electricity Watch 2007, viewed 19 December 2008, <www.greenelectricitywatch.org.au>.
5. Australian Energy Regulator, State of Electricity Market 2008, viewed 22 January 2009, <www.aer.gov.au>.
6. Energy Australia, Typical Household Appliance Wattages, viewed 29 January 2009, <www.energy.com.au>.
7. Department of Climate Change (DCC), The Australian Government's Renewable Energy Target Fact Sheet, viewed 13 February 2009, <www.climatechange.gov.au>.
8. Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE), Energy in Australia 2008, 2008, Canberra.
9. International Energy Agency (IEA), Monthly Electricity Statistics, August 2008, IEA, Paris, France.
10. International Energy Agency (IEA), Key World Energy Statistics 2008, IEA, Paris, France.
11. GreenPower, You Can Bank on GreenPower, viewed 26 November 2008, <www.greenpower.gov.au>.
12. Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE), Electricity Generation: Major Development Projects – October 2008 Listing, Canberra 2008.
13. Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), Adelaide Solar City, viewed 10 December 2008, <www.environment.gov.au>.
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