Electricity consumption around the world appears to be declining, according to a recent report by the Sustainable Energy Association of Australia
Falls in electricity consumption globally over the last few years can be largely attributed to improving energy efficiency, and is the result of successful regulation and programs on energy efficiency by governments leading action on reducing emissions to combat global warming.
"A media report in Perth has suggested that falling electricity consumption since 2010 is a consequence of rising electricity prices, but this is only part of the story," says SEA chief adviser, Professor Ray Wills.
"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."
Western Australian Energy Minister, Peter Collier, recently stated that the uptake of solar power had contributed to the decline in domestic electricity consumption.
"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," continues Professor Wills.
SEA welcomes Western Australian Government plans to launch a campaign in July aimed at helping households to become more energy efficient. This campaign had been called for by SEA for many years.
The SEA is concerned that the rate of change in the electricity market around Australia - and now witnessed in Western Australia - 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 requires more investment to keep pace with demand, assumptions that are clearly flawed based on data from around Australia and around the world," says Professor Wills.
"Add the boon of people being able to generate their own electricity at home with roof-top solar at a price the 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."
"Future planning and investment decisions by governments must prepare Australia for the transformative arrival of renewable energy generation – one that requires a different electricity grid, a smarter electricity network."
The Australian PV Association recently reported that a total of 837MW of PV were installed in Australia in 2011, more than twice the capacity added in 2010; total installed capacity in Australia is now 1.4GW.