No time like the present to rescue our environment

05 Apr 2007Archived News Energetics in the News

PUBLISHED: The Age - By Jonathan Jutsen, Founder & Executive Director, Energetics Pty Ltd. "The time has come to stop making excuses and start making policies" says Jonathan Jutsen.


At a recent national climate change summit held in Canberra on Saturday 31st March, talented people from a wide range of perspectives were brought together to discuss what could be done to tackle climate change, rather than continuing divisive debates on why action should be deferred.

The focus was on innovation, increasing resource productivity and opportunities, rather than just risks.

With such a positive focus, the business and general community will quickly recognise that with Australia's vast energy reserves and strategic location near China, we could make large net gains from being ahead of the game in greenhouse gas mitigation instead of being a reluctant follower.

Australia has the opportunity to substantially reduce its greenhouse gas emissions economically by improving energy efficiency across business, government, homes and transport activities.

This could allow us to reduce to zero our growth in energy use within five years simply through making efficiency improvements that have a positive net economic benefit - while maintaining economic growth rates - thereby demonstrating we can decouple energy growth and economic growth.

Energy efficiency is not just about collecting the "low hanging fruit", or cutting waste. It is also about investing to improve the productivity of energy use throughout the economy, involving such measures as application of higher-efficiency processes and equipment (including cars), improving transport infrastructure (perhaps including better broadband access to reduce the need for travel), and better material stewardship to reduce wasted energy from disposal of materials with substantial embedded energy (such as glass and aluminium).

It is important to recognise that the community and businesses do not have an intrinsic demand for electricity or oil. We seek energy services - lighting, heating, mobility - and when we apply our full imagination to exploring how to best deliver these services, we can unlock larger efficiency opportunities.

Perhaps when we reduce household energy use to a small fraction of its current level, we might even be able to economically supply the electricity demand using low-cost solar cells built into roofing materials.

So let's move past focusing entirely on options for reducing emissions in central power generation plants.

To achieve substantial improvements in efficiency across the economy, we need to employ the entire policy toolkit including minimum energy efficiency standards, substantial incentives to encourage businesses (and home owners) to accelerate efficiency investments, as well as measures such as carbon taxes and/or carbon trading.

We must implement measures we know will work, as there is no "playback button" on global warming - if we get it wrong the first time, we are stuck with the consequences.

One measure that has recently been initiated by the Federal Government is the Energy Efficiency Opportunities legislation, requiring big energy-using businesses to report their energy use and opportunities for savings.

Judging by the fact that 55 companies had registered for the program as of Monday, and that 250-300 companies are expected to be liable under the act - and that registrations closed on the weekend - it could be quite a challenge to activate companies to deal with their full range of energy-savings opportunities.

It is time to start the process of stabilising the climate by immediately acting to improve efficiency. There are no losers in this strategy.

I propose a target of zero energy growth by 2010 to 2012. We have no time to delay, as every day that we invest in lower-efficiency capital will make the job of stabilising the climate increasingly expensive.

Let's continue in the co-operative spirit demonstrated at the summit to work together to protect Australia and the globe.

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