“The decline in electricity consumption is primarily attributable to increasing energy efficiency in appliances, with the latest Energy Star appliances using much less energy than their predecessors. Combine this with people being more conscious of their power consumption, and supported by more and more households adding solar panels to offset their power bills, and the fall in electricity consumption by households is logical and will continue," Wills said.
Western Australian Energy Minister Peter Collier acknowledged the drop in electricity use, saying the uptake of solar power had contributed to the decline in domestic electricity consumption.
Electricity consumption in other states of Australia, especially Victoria and NSW, has fallen earlier and more quickly than in WA as a consequence of long-running programs in those states to assist householders reduce electricity consumption.
In fact, electricity consumption peaked around 2007-2008 and has fallen every year since, according to the International Energy Agency.
“Improvements in energy efficiency can be seen in other areas on consumption too – for example in the US demand for oil is close to a 15-year low, not just as a result of economic weakness, but also through increased energy efficiency in the US vehicle fleet,” Wills added.
SEA welcomes WA government plans to launch a campaign in July aimed at helping households to become more energy efficient. However, SEA is concerned that the rate of change in the electricity market around Australia and now witnessed in WA is not informing plans for large infrastructure spend.
“Decisions on increasing levels of public investment in electricity infrastructure are being driven by assumptions that increasing consumption patterns require more investment to keep pace with demand, assumptions that are clearly flawed, based on data from around Australia and around the world,” Wills said.
“Add the boon of people being able to generate their own electricity at home with roof-top solar at a price that is cheaper than the electricity they buy from the retailer, and could ultimately reduce domestic consumption of electricity from the grid by up to 50 per cent.”
According to the Australian PV Association, a total of 837 MW of PV were installed in Australia in 2011, more than twice the capacity added in 2010. Total installed capacity in Australia is now 1.4 GW.
This article first appeared in BEN-Global.