Solar Energy

Sharp rise in energy use comes as Australians buy extra appliances in lockdown

Nov 20, 2021 12:09PM

Woman taking lasagne out of an oven Show caption ‘We can see just how much Covid has changed our energy behaviour as a nation, from the food we eat and how we store it to our use of heating and cooling,’ Energy Consumers Australia says. Photograph: monkeybusinessimages/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Wed 27 Oct 2021 23.05 BST

The coronavirus pandemic has led to a sharp uptake in energy usage, with almost a third of Australians buying large appliances and white goods in the past year as they embrace home cooking.

According to a new study commissioned by Energy Consumers Australia, at a time when governments are seeking to shift or reduce household energy use as part of the transition to a clean energy future, Australian households have been using more due to lockdowns.

The energy consumer behaviour survey revealed the use and purchase of appliances have increased during the pandemic, with 30% of households having bought a large appliance during the past year and a third of respondents now owning more than two fridges or freezers.

But the survey found that 41% of respondents said their household had become more interested in reducing energy use since the onset of the pandemic.

“We can see just how much Covid has changed our energy behaviour as a nation, from the food we eat and how we store it to our use of heating and cooling and the appliances we are buying and intending to buy,” said Energy Consumers Australia’s chief executive, Lynne Gallagher.

The survey also showed that 59% of Australians say they are cooking at home more and 40% say their house uses more heating and cooling.

With skyrocketing energy bills, many owner-occupiers considering solar.

The past decade had seen a rapid rise in the uptake of household rooftop solar, and the pandemic appears to have supercharged that as 5% of respondents say they intended to buy solar panels for their household in the next 12 months. A further 15% said they would consider installing them in the future.

Matt Davies and his wife built their first house near Geelong just as the pandemic hit. The electrician said he had a natural bias towards electricity but, when he first drew up his plans, he put in gas.

“Being an electrician, you’re used to the norm of what houses are,” he said.” I was using gas but by the time I had got plans in, it had become an all-electric house.”

Davies wanted a house that was cheap to run and good for the planet so he joined the My Efficient Electric House Facebook group.

“I’ve got solar panels on the roof, so you would say my house is a zero-cost house,” Davies said. “Sometimes it costs zero dollars and sometimes you get credit, I’m basically living in a house that has free energy.”

Australians have traditionally been inefficient users of electricity in homes.

Research from RMIT revealed that in Victoria energy performance of existing homes averaged just 1.8 stars – on a scale that goes to 10.

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A rating of at least six is mandatory for new homes under the nationwide house energy rating scheme. Australian homes are big drivers of climate change – contributing more than 10% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions and energy.

The energy consumer behaviour survey showed most Australians are fixed on using gas – a fossil fuel – as well as electricity at home. Just 9% of household consumers said they were seriously considering running their home on electricity only, while 77% either had not thought about it or had decided not to.

Davies said the benefits of rooftop solar – and an all-electric home – were hard to argue with. “Do you want to pay for energy or do you want it for free? Whether you like renewables or not you take the free options, every day of the week.”












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Mary Brennan