Energy experts say keep calm and carry on efficiently
01/03/2012 - The world can cut its carbon footprint by over 50 per cent through energy saving measures which also save money.
If Australia gets smarter about its energy use, it does not have to choose between affordable energy and fighting climate change according to some of the world's leading energy thinkers speaking in Sydney last week.
"The world can cut its carbon footprint by over 50 per cent through energy saving measures which also save money," Dr Grayson Heffner, a leading expert on energy efficiency, demand side management and renewable energy with the International Energy Agency in Paris, said.
Dr Heffner was among numerous overseas and Australian presenters at the inaugural international Summer Study on Energy Efficiency and Decentralised Energy over three days from in Sydney last week.
The event was organised by the Australian Alliance to Save Energy (A²SE), an independent, not-for-profit coalition of business, government and environmental leaders which has as its key research partner UTS's Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF).
Dr Heffner said: "Australia has led the world in some areas of energy efficiency, like banning incandescent light bulbs, the NSW Energy Efficiency Trading scheme and the Australia Building Greenhouse Rating Scheme, but also has some ground to make up in other areas."
He pointed to 2010 International Energy Agency study of public spending on energy efficiency that put Australia last in a sample of 18 countries surveyed.
Also presenting at the Summer Study was Philip Sellwood, the chief executive of the UK's Energy Saving Trust (EST). Established in 1993, the Energy Saving Trust engages with about 3.5 million people a year, helping them reduce their energy usage. Last year alone, the Energy Saving Trust saved just over 20 million tonnes of CO2 through its work.
Mr Sellwood said: "Pound for pound, dollar for dollar, energy efficiency is by far and away the best way to reduce carbon emissions. It's far easier and cheaper to use less energy in the first place than responding to the problem afterwards. We need to stop treating it as an afterthought and realise that this is the main game."
Other international speakers included Wanxing Wang program director of the China Sustainable Energy Program, Steve Nadel, executive director of the American Alliance for an Energy Efficient Economy, David Sweet, executive director of World Alliance for Decentralised Energy and Steve Schultz, corporate energy manager, for 3M – a company that has long been seen as an exemplar for corporate energy efficiency.
Australian speakers covered subjects as diverse as white certificate energy saving schemes, energy affordability issues, smart appliances, electric cars, the cost of complying with energy efficient strategies for new houses and the future of lighting in Australia.
CEO of the A²SE and ISF Research Director Chris Dunstan said Australia's fiery debate over carbon pricing had been important but it had also missed the point.
"If applied wisely, energy efficiency, demand management and distributed generation can reduce energy bills and carbon emissions at the same time," Dunstan said.
"Australia has been blessed with abundant cheap energy resources. If we are going to continue to enjoy the benefits of these resources Australia urgently needs to transform its energy supply infrastructure and incentivise efficient behaviour."
He said the gathering was the first Summer Study program in the Asia-Pacific region but similar programs have been running in the US for 30 years and for 16 years in Europe.
"Hosting a Summer Study in Australia is an important step in realising this transformation. Internationally they have proven to be extraordinarily informative and the quality of the speakers in our three-day program shows that we will continue that tradition," Dunstan said.
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