How do we make energy efficiency sexy?

Thanks to the generous support of the 2015 Postgraduate Students’ Association Committee, I was lucky enough to receive funding to attend the 2016 Summer Study on Energy Productivity in February of 2016. For those not in the know, energy productivity refers to the volume of energy required for each unit of GDP.  So basically, we’re talking about energy efficiency on a national scale.

2016 should be an exciting time in the world of energy productivity in Australia. In December of 2015 the Government announced the National Energy Productivity Plan.  With the aim to improve energy productivity by 40% by 2030 the Plan will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and costs to householders and industry.

So why haven’t you heard about the National Energy Productivity Plan? (Because I’m assuming you haven’t). The truth is, energy efficiency isn’t sexy.  Consumers don’t ask for it.  So we don’t know about it.  So standards don’t improve.

This was an underlying topic throughout the Summer Study – how do we get people to engage with energy efficiency? It’s easy to get people excited about renewable energy – from towering wind farms to the smallest solar panel thrown on the top of a caravan.  You’ll also find passionate responses to climate change issues from across all sections of society.  But for whatever reason, energy efficiency isn’t popular.

Perhaps it suffers from a bad reputation. It’s all about turning things off (how annoying!) or putting on sweaters (so inconvenient!).  This reputation is undeserved.  Technologies have come a long way and being energy efficient no longer means accepting second-best services.  Lights are brighter, heaters are just as warm and cars can go further on a single tank of fuel.

Unfortunately, these benefits aren’t flowing through to Australian consumers. Efficiency regulation in Australia is falling well behind international standards.  Did you know that Australia is one of the only OECD countries not to have carbon emissions standards for cars?  Do you have any idea of the power that the housing industry has over government to prevent improvements in building efficiency?

The truth is we need to create a bigger profile for energy efficiency in Australia. Politicians need to be talking about energy efficiency in the lead-up to the federal election.  Consumers need to be demanding better standards from their builders and from their appliance suppliers.  We all need to be talking to the media – writing on Facebook walls and tweeting journalists – and asking for more information on energy efficiency.  Let’s convince politicians, industry and the media that energy efficiency is sexy.  And that we’re willing to bare all for it.

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