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Why is electricity consumption decreasing in Australia?

Until 2010, for well over a century, through two world wars and the Great Depression, the quantity of electricity used in Australia each year was greater than the year before. In the three years since…

Break down the reduction in demand and you’ll find price matters. Nicholas Lieby

Until 2010, for well over a century, through two world wars and the Great Depression, the quantity of electricity used in Australia each year was greater than the year before. In the three years since 2010, the quantity used each year has been less than the year before. There is no evidence this trend will reverse in coming months.

The electricity consumption decrease has been relatively large in the National Electricity Market (NEM), which covers the five eastern states and the ACT, but is also occurring in Western Australia.

Specifically, NEM demand in 2013 (financial year) was almost 8 terawatt hours (TWh) (4.3%) lower than in the peak year of 2009. If electricity consumption in the NEM had continued to grow from 2005 onward at the same rate as it did for the previous 20 years, consumption would have been about 37 TWh higher in 2013 than it actually was.

Trends in total and per capita annual electrical energy consumption in the NEM. Hugh Saddler

Why is this important?

Consider that 37 TWh is equal to the output of almost 5,000 MW of coal fired generation capacity. This is just less than the combined capacity of Bayswater plus Eraring in NSW or, in Victoria, Loy Yang A plus Loy Yang B plus Hazelwood.

All of the decline in consumption has in fact been at the expense of coal fired generators. Many are now barely profitable. Greenhouse gas emissions fell by 9.2 Mt CO2-e, roughly 2% of Australia’s total emissions, in 2012 alone.

Until less than two years ago, official expectations were for rapid demand growth to resume in the NEM. Hugh Saddler

To be precise, what the above figures are measuring is not electricity used by final consumers, but electricity supplied to the national grid system by large generators which participate in the (wholesale) National Electricity Market.

It is very difficult to find consolidated data on the quantities of electricity supplied by small distributed generators, such as rooftop photovoltaics and landfill gas plants. But the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) has estimated that in 2012-13. photovoltaics supplied 2.7 TWh and other small generators supplied 3.1 TWh. So, although important and growing, these sources alone do not account for the whole of the 8 TWh reduction from the peak year, let alone the 37 TWh reduction from the long term trend.

Changes in electricity generation in the NEM by fuel type. Hugh Saddler

Research we have recently completed concludes that the three largest factors contributing to the recent dramatic changes in demand for electricity are:

  • the impact of (mainly regulatory) energy efficiency programs
  • structural change in the economy away from electricity intensive industries
  • since 2010, the response of electricity consumers, especially residential consumers, to higher electricity prices.

Energy efficiency

Australia’s first mandatory regulatory energy efficiency measures were introduced in the late 1990s. These were Mandatory Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) for refrigerators and freezers.

Since then, these standards have been extended to a very wide range of residential and commercial appliances and equipment. Analogous energy efficiency requirements have been applied to new buildings. We have used data in reviews of the appliance and equipment measures and the building measures to estimate that the increased impact of these measures between 2006 and 2013 has in total reduced annual demand for electricity by 10.5 TWh, or 28% of the total 37 TWh reduction.

Smaller demand reductions have come from increased uptake of solar and heat pump water heaters (supported by various government programs), the Home Insulation Program (the so-called “pink batts scheme”), and the Victorian and NSW retailer energy efficiency obligation schemes. All of these schemes together contribute another 8% of the reduction.

The effect of major energy efficiency policies and programs on electricity demand. Hugh Saddler

Industry restructure

Between October 2011 and September 2012, three major industrial electricity users, all in NSW – the Port Kembla steelworks, the Kurri Kurri aluminium smelter and the Clyde oil refinery – were partially or totally shut down. These closures removed approximately 3.6 TWh of annual electricity consumption from the NEM, which is about 10% of the 37 TWh reduction.

However, detailed analysis of annual public reports of National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting System (NGERS) shows that, other than the companies linked to the above closures, electricity consumption by the largest 100 electricity users in Australia over the three years from 2010 to 2012 was remarkably constant.

While there was negligible growth, there was no decline. There certainly wasn’t a “collapse”, of manufacturing. This is consistent with sectoral value added data in the National Accounts.

That said, the longer term structural shift in the economy away from manufacturing to services (and mining) has accelerated in recent years.

For several decades, ending around 2006, Australia has had steady growth in output of primary metals and other electricity intensive commodities, and this drove a steady increase in electricity consumption. This growth ceased in 2006.

This means that over and above the absolute decline caused by the closures, lack of growth in output of electricity intensive commodities is contributing to lack of growth in demand for electricity, amounting to about 14% of the 37 TWh. Declining manufacturing output overall is not, in general, causing an absolute fall in demand.

Consumers cutting back

If all the above contributions to reduced electricity demand are added to actual demand, starting in 2006, the result is a series of total annual numbers, which can be thought of as total demand for electricity services. This includes both actual electricity and services provided by using a given quantity of electricity more efficiently. We found that demand defined and calculated in this way (and also including the reductions from the major industry closures) closely tracks the historical trend growth in electricity demand, up to 2010 . Since then, however, there has been a marked departure from trend.

Households have adjusted to higher prices by reducing their consumption. Hugh Saddler

From 2010 to 2013 a widening gap between the modelled demand for electricity services and the historical projected demand emerges. This gap can be completely accounted for by introducing consumer response to higher electricity prices into the model. This report finds that the price response explains 19% of the “shortfall” in 2013.

The most interesting finding of this part of the modelling is the abrupt change in consumer responsiveness to higher prices after 2010. It is surely not a coincidence that 2009-10 was the year in which the possible effect of a carbon price on electricity prices became a major national political issue. It was also the year when increasing political attention was paid to the rapid increases in electricity prices already occurring, mainly because of higher network costs.

Electricity prices remain a major preoccupation of political debate. The hypothesis is that the political attention being paid to electricity prices led consumers to pay more attention than they had previously done to their expenditure on electricity.

Once they paid attention, consumers responded by reducing their consumption to limit their spending. The outcome showed up strongly in the total electricity demand figures from 2011 on.

There is powerful evidence to support this. Looking at the recently published ABS Energy Account data, we can see that real average annual household expenditure on electricity grew strongly until 2009-10. Since then it has barely increased, despite continuing large increases in electricity prices.

It seems residential electricity consumers have managed, very sensibly, to almost completely offset the effect of higher electricity prices on their household budgets by reducing consumption.

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  1. Dale Bloom

    Analyst

    There could be a misconception occurring here.

    While manufacturing in Australia has declined (as it has in many other countries), the imports have not, and will probably increase with government programs to increase our population.

    In countries such as China, about 30% of its CO2 emissions are the result of manufacturing goods for export to other countries.

    And while countries such as the UK have claimed a reduction in CO2 emissions of 18%, they actually rose by 20%, once imports, exports and international transport were accounted for.

    http://sei-international.org/publications?pid=971

    So, factor in imports that are produced elsewhere but consumed in Australia, and overall energy consumption may not look so good.

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  2. George Michaelson

    Person

    this doesn't look good for a re-capitalization of generation or distribution based on a fixed+variable model, because the variable part (consumption) helps keep the fixed down.

    if the trend is to be price-elastic and reduce consumption if KW cost is too high, then the fixed component becomes more important and predictably high.

    energy efficiency and Carbon abatement is a goal outside. The consequences of achieving them might well be apparent cost increase. If the cost increase goes to the fixed component, people feel like they're paying for something 'they don't want to use'

    I suspect because sewerage and water reticulation mostly happened in our parents and grandparents (paying) time, we've lost site of the cost:benefit models which make you do things. This is now looking like sunk cost which we don't want to pay for. waa waa waa why me why do I have to pay for replacement wiring my wiring is fine my electricity is fine my fridge is fine waa waa waa..

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    1. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Mark McGuire

      Not in your lifetime or mine Mr McGuire. Inconceivable as it may be - this is a big problem - bigger than each of us and the sorts of changes we are discussing will take many decades.

      An excellent article and bit of research - very clever bit of economic sleuthing.

      I am surprised - and comforted - that the decline in demand has not been directly attributable to a decline in manufacturing and economic activity generally.

      If we are half-smart we can use this crisis/opportunity to reconsider the behemoth structure of our power generation industry and look to more decentralised production and distribution systems where transmission costs and losses are reduced. More importantly such a structure will enable the social and environmental costs (and benefits) of production to be more equitably and rationally allocated.

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    2. Andy Saunders

      Consultant

      In reply to Mark McGuire

      That's called demand management (in a general sense - there are several variations). It's a great thing, already practiced a little in Australia, but there should be massive amounts more of it.

      Unfortunately it depends on better metering (you could call it the almost-pejorative "smart metering", I'd prefer something like "intelligent electricity"), but crucially needs the duck-shoving about who pays for the meters and who has access to the data etc to stop. The biggest effects see by this sorts of system are not the peak-shaving (which is their original intent) but in overall consumption (as people turn on/off a piece of equipment, see the resulting energy change and say "wow, that takes a lot of power, let's be careful with using it" - or words to that effect)

      (and yes, Peter below - an excellent article and one I have been long awaiting)

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    3. Chris O'Neill

      Victim of Tony Abbotts Great Big New Tax

      In reply to Mark McGuire

      "And still the climate changes."

      But hasn't the climate NOT changed statistically significantly in the past 17 years?

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    4. Mark McGuire

      climate consensus rebel

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      Greeting Peter, Andy & Chris. Thanks for your considered replies. Merry Christmas to you & all @theCon.
      Peter, you are an intelligent person. You know the climate will always change, and we would all be concerned if it did stop.
      Andy, that our 'modern' society is at a point requiring demand management for energy supply, this highlights mismanagement. If it is deliberate, we really have a problem.
      Chris, so the observations tell us. But still carbon(sic) levels continue to rise.
      Again, Seasons Greetings to all. Have a SAFE, happy Christmas.
      Hope your glass is half full!

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    5. Chris O'Neill

      Victim of Tony Abbotts Great Big New Tax

      In reply to Mark McGuire

      "Chris, so the observations tell us."

      I thought you said:

      "And still the climate changes."

      The observations tell us there has been NO statistically significant climate change (specifically global average surface temperature) in 17 years.

      Which is it? Change or no change?

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    6. Andy Saunders

      Consultant

      In reply to Mark McGuire

      And a very merry one to you, too Mark.

      Not so sure need for demand management is caused by mismanagement. I think we've collectively probably taken it for granted that power is instantly available anywhere at a uniform cost, and so our usage has got more peaky.

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  3. Ian Donald Lowe

    Seeker of Truth

    Power usage is down because people are using less, due to extreme price increases. You really don't need a degree to figure that one out. just talk to people.

    The real question is why have electricity prices to the consumer risen so high, so fast? Generators such as those in Orbost have their own source of coal, no new power stations have been built and no major infrastructure work has been undertaken in the last three years. How do the suppliers justify these exorbitant price increases?

    It is reaching the point where the most vulnerable people in our communities, those on the lowest incomes, the old and frail, may be placed at risk during periods of extreme heat or extreme cold as they cannot afford to pay for heating or cooling. Besides the risk to life, there is the impact on the quality of life for those on low and fixed incomes as more of there income must go toward paying for electricity, which means less for food, health-care, etc.

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Ian Donald Lowe

      " The real question is why have electricity prices to the consumer risen so high, so fast? Generators such as those in Orbost have their own source of coal, no new power stations have been built and no major infrastructure work has been undertaken in the last three years. How do the suppliers justify these exorbitant price increases? "
      Do you mean the Latrobe Valley Ian?, a long way from Orbost up at the lower Snowy River country, lovely region as it is.
      The electricity prices have risen alegedly…

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    2. Gary Murphy

      Independent Thinker

      In reply to Greg North

      If you want to know the truth Greg - perhaps do some research?

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    3. Liam J

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Greg North

      Link or you made that up, Greg.

      'Gold plating' of grid infrastructure is in part semi-proofing against the increasing # of heatwaves & high winds which bring down powerlines and start killer fires.
      Some blame should also go to the pro-privatisation lobby for allowing foriegn plc's to run down the infrastructure.

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    4. Craig Read

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Liam J

      A close friend used to work as a painter for the SEC before they were sold off.

      They used to train a lot of trades-people, and do a lot of preemptive maintenance on our electricity grid, substations, etc. A lot of it used to be maintained to a schedule, regardless of whether it appeared to need it or not. Power failures were very infrequent, and usually only occurred when a car hit a power pole. And the SEC did all this while making a profit, which reduced the state's reliance on our taxes…

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    5. Andy Saunders

      Consultant

      In reply to Craig Read

      Craig, interesting comments.

      Actually best-practice is less about fixed-schedule maintenance (which tends to re-paint perfectly good paint-jobs just because the time had come around), and more about condition-based maintenance. trouble is, during the change-over it is rather easy for either management or workers to go for "no maintenance" instead.

      Actually the bush fire stuff is not the main cause of high T&D costs - it is the local distribution upgrades caused by higher peak loads (aircons...) - and some aging gear also, to be fair.

      Privatisation with a benefit - ok, maybe CBA? There's probably others. It's important also not tojust focus on customer benefit, but also the taxpayer subsidy. Easy to get low customer prices in a nationalisaed business, but taxes will take a hit,

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    6. Andy Saunders

      Consultant

      In reply to Liam J

      Liam, I think the fire problem is more the HV system, and not much cost goes that way. Most of the T&D cost is in the local ("D") part.... around our streets.

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  4. Colin MacGillivray

    Architect, retired, Sarawak

    Great article- very thorough, must worry producers.
    Exactly right about the response of users to higher prices. Here in Borneo our power and water is cheap- A$35 and A$3 per month respectively for two people. Both are produced by the State, no gst, slightly subsidized I think, but not much. It makes one very lazy - leaving ceiling fans on and washing the car with the hose at full bore.

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  5. Geoffrey Sherrington

    Surveyor

    Price goes up, consumption goes down. Supplier make lower profits, put prices up, consumption goes down more.
    It would be interesting to sleuth around and find out what TRUE % od electrical price increase to the consumer has been caused by expenditure on alt energy and its extra infrastructure including poles and lines, its cost recovery, the cost of subsidies for alt energy and the cost of having schemes that favour use of alt energy. This is what people in Britain are complaining about, plus the fact that official figures mask the cost and make it nearly impossible to extract the true cost.
    I figure that a person with enough access to data to write this article will also have the figures I'm talking about. If so, how about expressing them?

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    1. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Geoffrey Sherrington

      People in little britain complaining? Jeez there's a turnip for the books.

      Not sure what they have to complain about myself... according to data from the IEA, EIA and various national electricity boards consumers in the UK pay some $0.20 USD per KWH. We here pay $0.21 USD.

      It's probably just the weather...

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    2. Gary Murphy

      Independent Thinker

      In reply to Geoffrey Sherrington

      The 10% RET adds around 2% to electricity prices. And renewables decrease wholesale prices so the actual impact is less than that.

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    3. John Newlands

      tree changer

      In reply to Gary Murphy

      Yes according to this link the interim large scale renewable target is nearly 11% and the LGC spot price about $34 per Mwh or 3.4c per kwh.
      http://www.euaa.com.au/green-market-prices/
      That LGC subsidy enables wind farm owners to seek lower wholesale prices. However the end user has to pay it in their bill so the retail price (the important figure) is higher.

      If a 'green' final retail price was 25c per kwh then a user-paid 3.4c subsidy would represent more than 15%.

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    4. Gary Murphy

      Independent Thinker

      In reply to John Newlands

      Yes - but a 10% RET only requires 10% of the electricity to be matched with LGCs. Hence adding 1.5% to your overall electricity bill. But I thank you for pointing out that 100% green energy only costs 15% more.

      it is the zero fuel cost of wind which enables it to reduce wholesale prices. Requiring high fuel cost gas peakers less often which also reduces the amount the coal fired power stations get paid.

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    5. Andy Saunders

      Consultant

      In reply to Geoffrey Sherrington

      I think it interesting to see (and AFAIK no-one actually knows the answer yet) how the distribution costs will change with increasing penetration of distributed generation (which mostly means solar PV).

      If my solar rooftop is supplying next-doors aircon, should I (and maybe they) be paying the full network charges when the only bit of infrastructure involved is that 20m of wire between our houses?

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    6. Craig Read

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Geoffrey Sherrington

      That sounds very similar to the "solar" death spiral that has many energy suppliers spooked.

      Peak energy usage (and therefore price) has typically been during the middle of the day. Solar generation is also most effective at this time, but the cost of generation and transmission don't go down as less people use it. So the cost of generation ends up being apportioned to less and less customers. As those costs are passed onto customers, more of them move onto solar and the cycle continues…

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    7. Chris O'Neill

      Victim of Tony Abbotts Great Big New Tax

      In reply to Andy Saunders

      "when the only bit of infrastructure involved is that 20m of wire between our houses"

      And how much infrastructure is involved when the Sun goes down and the aircon is still on?

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    8. Andy Saunders

      Consultant

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      Not much, generally the aircon turns off...

      (I'm using exaggeration to show a point..., but the point is valid nonetheless)

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    9. Andy Saunders

      Consultant

      In reply to Craig Read

      Craig, I 99% agree with you.

      Part of the problem is (just to use a typical example) solar-PV is roaring along on your house rooftop in the middle of the day (with almost zero consumption), when you are at the office with the PC and AC on, using maybe even the same amount as your house is exporting... still a need for getting the electrons from one place to t'other.

      Solar is cost-competitive, but generally (currently...) only at a retail level (or wholesale where is is offsetting internal consumption). I think smart meters are vital (but of course are only a part of the solution, it's what you do with them and their information that counts - getting the information into the hand that flicks the switch is key...)

      Living off the grid is feasible, but hardly economical for the vast majority. And probably undesirable in a community sense (why shouldn't my surplus solar-PV be powering your peak usage?)

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    10. Chris O'Neill

      Victim of Tony Abbotts Great Big New Tax

      In reply to Craig Read

      "Storage issues are being worked on, but living "off the grid" is already feasible if that's what you want to do."

      Things could change but the market for lead-acid deep discharge batteries (the most economical electricity storage for off-the-grid users) is pretty small compared with the roof-top solar market.

      "I don't think the future looks too rosy for our coal based energy suppliers."

      Until a lot of people start setting up their own lead-acid storage, coal-based electricity suppliers will still have a large captive market for when there is no Sun shining which is most of the time. If they lose when the Sun is shining, they can make up for it when the Sun is not shining.

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    11. Chris O'Neill

      Victim of Tony Abbotts Great Big New Tax

      In reply to Andy Saunders

      "generally the aircon turns off"

      And when it doesn't go off?

      Either that or you don't live in Melbourne where it's still over 25 or 30 deg C often enough when the Sun gets low.

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    12. Andy Saunders

      Consultant

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      (I'm using exaggeration to show a point..., but the point is valid nonetheless)

      No-one asks a single power station to be the backup for everything, likewise solar PV shouldn't be asked to be the backup for when the sun goes down.

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    13. Chris O'Neill

      Victim of Tony Abbotts Great Big New Tax

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      "And when it doesn't go off?"

      The point is that infrastructure costs don't decrease just because you use it less often. The capital cost is still the same. This is the general problem with solar and wind. They require a great deal of capital themselves with virtually no reduction in the requirement for capital anywhere else, just a relatively small reduction in operating (fuel) costs.

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    14. Andy Saunders

      Consultant

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      No, that 20m won't get overloaded (well, another half-dozen ACs and maybe it will...). I'm not loading anything else in the 99.9% of the T&D system... which is where 100% of the T&D expenditure is going.

      You shouldn't worry about the solar/wind capital costs (unless you are the one buying them...) - rooftop solar (consumption replacement) can have paybacks in 5-10 years or better, a lot of investors are happy with that.

      And it doesn't cause significant increase in capital elsewhere, in fact a good argument can be made that it is reducing capital elsewhere in most cases.

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    15. Chris O'Neill

      Victim of Tony Abbotts Great Big New Tax

      In reply to Andy Saunders

      That's all very well but it's not going to reduce the infrastructure requirement, is it?

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    16. Chris O'Neill

      Victim of Tony Abbotts Great Big New Tax

      In reply to Andy Saunders

      You're still avoiding the issue that supplying neighbours when the Sun is up makes not one iota of difference to the infrastructure required. Your neighbour still requires all the existing infrastructure to supply his aircon when your rooftop solar doesn't. Result: zero saving in infrastructure costs.

      I'm sure some people get a reasonable return on capital for their rooftop solar. But I wasn't talking about just that.

      "it doesn't cause significant increase in capital elsewhere"

      I didn't say it did. But it's not saving on capital costs anywhere so those capital costs will have to be paid for with a smaller amount of billed electricity => those electricity units will cost more per unit.

      "a good argument can be made that it is reducing capital elsewhere in most cases"

      So you tell us.

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  6. John Newlands

    tree changer

    Lower electricity demand is not necessarily good news when factory workers lose their jobs. It could be tragic if the frail elderly decline to use air conditioning in their 1960s built bungalows for fear of bill shock when it is 43C heat. It's easy to envision greater not less electricity demand not only due to our rapid population increase but other geophysical trends.

    Some think that petrol can be largely replaced by home charged batteries in cars, for example the plug-in hybrid Holden Volt…

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  7. Garry Baker

    researcher

    What, with all this untrammeled price gouging that has been going, on it's no wonder energy consumption is down. Even large consumers who can do deals on prices are astounded with their costs these days.

    Nowadays the electricity market is nothing more than a Ponzi scheme for the benefit of the very few who run the show. As for free enterprise competition - Forget it. Rather, consumers are just a mere bar code to be tolled to the max, and there is no competition. Indeed, it was consigned…

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    1. Craig Read

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Garry Baker

      It's funny that having our government buy up our utilities would be considered "socialism" and therefore "bad". But it's fine to sell them to a company run by the government of a "socialist" country.

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    2. Chris O'Neill

      Victim of Tony Abbotts Great Big New Tax

      In reply to Craig Read

      I think the line goes that we should take advantage of other people's mistakes. Which is great if it really is a mistake.

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  8. Greg North

    Retired Engineer

    " However, detailed analysis of annual public reports of National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting System (NGERS) shows that, other than the companies linked to the above closures, electricity consumption by the largest 100 electricity users in Australia over the three years from 2010 to 2012 was remarkably constant.

    While there was negligible growth, there was no decline. There certainly wasn’t a “collapse”, of manufacturing. This is consistent with sectoral value added data in the National Accounts…

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    1. Liam J

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Greg North

      "The use of renewables will have certaintly added to the cost of power because of additional infrastructure requirements"

      You keep saying that, on this and many other threads, but you've yet to show it. If you are disagreeing with the research article above you should have the courtesy to provide links your data.

      " and we could be facing a dark future as older power stations become more and more unreliable and yet back up for renewables will still be required."

      Surely you are aware of existing, new-ish & fairly effiicient gas turbines? Simply better technology than brown coal boilers.
      Re your baseload chestnut, several european countries are hitting 50% renewables regularly, maybe rest your worries until we hit 20%.

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    2. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Liam J

      I am not aware of your own technical background Liam and so I'll provide you with what I consider is a good informative site purely for technical issues - http://www.westernpower.com.au/documents/reportspublications/generator_grid_connection_guide.pdf
      It is for WA but the principles do apply to any grid and in particular read the sections on Photovoltaic, Wind and Distributed Generation, overlaying what you can glean from that onto a base load generating system operation.
      In Victoria for instance…

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    3. Andy Saunders

      Consultant

      In reply to Greg North

      Greg and Liam, I think you are actually agreeing with each other maybe 90% of the time.

      I doubt the control/storage problem gets too difficult until we get quite a lot higher renewables penetration. And I think it will be a set of interesting, but not overwhelming problems when that happens.

      Greg, what happens when Euro countries don't have renewables generation? The merit-order dispatch system (plus things like spinning reserve/STOR) seems to work quite well....

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  9. John Fraser

    logged in via email @iinet.net.au

    <

    How delinquent of Australians to slow down their use of coal fired electricity.

    Murdoch would not be amused.

    "Murdoch and Abbott lied to Australians".

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  10. MItchell Lennard

    Researcher - Distributed Energy Systems

    Great article thanks Hugh,

    The complexity is that while we have a 'national energy generation market' we have very localised, regional consumption. Economists , especially those writing very high level nationwide reports dealing in TWh can only easily see the generation figures, localised consumption is far harder to examine. This is why there are now a few project up and running looking at techniques for data mining of meter data. Obviously the distributors have the best knowledge of what is…

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to MItchell Lennard

      I agree with much of what you have stated Michael in that there are going to be so many smaller variable reasons for reduction in consumption whereas the article has addressed it in a broader context.
      Queensland put another significant increase in power costs earlier this year after there having been something of a hiatus by the Newman government and whilst I am not familiar with what other states increases have been in the last year, up to 2012 it has been just NSW that has been the standout state…

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  11. John Newlands

    tree changer

    I like to divide terawatt hours Twh by 8.76 (the number of kilo-hours per year) to get gigawatt years Gwa. For annual data that gives the continuous average equivalent over the year. For example if solar is 2.7 Twh in 2012-2013 dividing by 8.76 gives 0.3 GW continuous average output. Since Australia is said to have 3 GW of PV installed that means the capacity factor is about 10%.

    I infer from the article that 2009 electricity consumption was over 20 Gwa. That means with over 20m population we were each using on average nearly a kilowatt of electricity around the clock. That is what sets us apart from Medieval peasants because like or not the social and economic system takes a lot of power to run, both overtly and in the background. That is also why I think wind and solar will never make a serious enough dent in coal...we need that steady power 24/7.

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  12. Peter Redshaw

    Retired

    Hugh, thank for what is a relativity good analysis and explanation of the electricity issue. It does somewhat counter the governments argument that most of the reduction in energy use and greenhouse gas emissions is due to the closure of manufacturing in this country. And it also somewhat negates the flawed argument that all we have to do is get rid of manufacturing in Australia and we will reach their target in greenhouse gas emissions. That is that paltry 5% reduction target of theirs.

    What…

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    1. David Robinson

      floorist

      In reply to Peter Redshaw

      My water bill(this quarter) in SA totals $221.33.
      Water use $45.20
      Supply charge $68.70
      Sewerage access charge $97.73
      River Murray Levy $9.70
      It's not just in electricity we the people are being screwed.

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    2. Peter Redshaw

      Retired

      In reply to David Robinson

      David, yes I agree. This is related to all utility bills. As I said I have no problem with a minimum connection charge, but that also should be of the unit value of electricity, gas, water, etc. The only one that fits outside of that is sewerage where you are being charged a connection fee as it would be difficult to quantify liters of sewage and waste water put into the sewage system from each property. In SA it is based on the property value. In QLD it was previously based on the number of…

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    3. Wade Macdonald

      Technician

      In reply to David Robinson

      You would get a better deal with the mafia in SA. With water use being so low in % comparison to the charges it is not even a water bill anymore.

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    4. Garry Baker

      researcher

      In reply to Peter Redshaw

      Peter, the usual sum for plumbers is, water in - water out - sewage wise.... given that most folks press the flush button. So really it's matter of falling back on a per-capita number for non sewage use.... drinking, etc.

      On the ACCC... yes they are a truly worthless crowd. However, sometimes they are hamstrung (in a political sense) to the game plan - not the fairness of the game plan - just the plan, and if that includes these add on charges, well their hands are tied.

      The missing link in all this is a "peoples representative" - Governments say they are there to help them, but really it's a load of smoke shoveling

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    5. Garry Baker

      researcher

      In reply to David Robinson

      Welcome to the era of price gouging for the essential services of life. Thanks to 4th rate politicians who have flogged off most of our public assets to fund their grand ideas on how a society should proceed.

      As a result of these game changes, decent society building initiatives have been pushed aside, and we now live in an 'economy'. To hell with the relics of the past where societal obligations had priority. Make them pay - make them all pay

      Sure, SA water still appears to be government…

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    6. Peter Redshaw

      Retired

      In reply to Garry Baker

      Gary, having been a plumber, that used to be true and probably still is in many cases. Now that many people have water tanks and people have connected up those water tanks to toilets and other uses that is not quite true. But as a general rule you are right in that it could be used for as a measure of putting a charge on sewage.

      I realise that the ACCC and its state bodies are more than likely hamstrung by the legislation and politics they operate under. But there is also a problem we have…

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    7. Andy Saunders

      Consultant

      In reply to Peter Redshaw

      Peter, it's not that simple, I'm afraid. Imagine if you are energy-neutral (i.e. on average generate as much as you consume), almost certainly your generation and consumption won't match time-wise. So you need the grid connection to handle the difference (positive or negative) - which costs.

      Going "off-grid" - with the exception of premises that are a long/expensive way from the grid already, is probably foolish. Again, the generation/consumption patterns won't match, so you must "over-generate…

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  13. Gary Dean Brisneyland

    Sustainable Environments and Planning Student

    From my understanding, traffic lights in Brisbane are now LED's, as are many street lighting situations. The same in supermarkets, malls and stores. Store refrigeration is now all covered.

    Home lighting has changed dramatically, and tv's are more energy efficient. While we're recharging batteries a whole more, more technology is personalised, with minimised use opposing heavy electric use of high wattage speakers. Those that are family sized speakers are considerably more energy efficient…

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  14. Garry Baker

    researcher

    Since the author of this article, Hugh Saddler, seems to be making a genuine inquiry into the sorry state of affairs with energy consumption, and the obscene charges folks get hit with these days – Perhaps a re-post of a previous conversation might help.

    ********************

    Back in the early 90's Jeff Kennett wanted to raise some cash (as is the wont of most state premiers) so he flogged off the State Electricity Commission - a very profitable money making asset owned by the citizens of…

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Garry Baker

      If you research some more Gary, you will find far less politicised reports and you might even come across a few on privatisation of assets occurring long before Jeff started.
      https://www.greenleft.org.au/node/4022 for instance.
      What you will also find not often reported is the industrial hot bed that was the SECV with unions basically holding the state to ransom with the threat of power black-outs.
      I worked both in Broken Hill and with the SECV and though the former has been held to be something of an icon re Australian employer/union inndustrial ways, the SECV was far more rampant with meaningless industrial activities, the organisation absolutely riddled with work place manning inefficiences.

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  15. Liam J

    logged in via email @gmail.com

    Fascinating, thanks Hugh Saddler.

    I wonder what the $/(nega)watt comparison might be for solar PV vs. energy efficiency - i'd bet that efficiency is cheaper than PV, but by a little or alot?

    Can't wait for a government that stops subsidising the mega-polluters, then we'll really make some progress.

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  16. Comment removed by moderator.