ACT State of the Environment 2007

Indicator: Energy use

Summary

The ACT uses energy in the forms of electricity, gas, petroleum products and wood. Energy use per person has increased in the ACT across the reporting period.

Renewable energy use has increase significantly during the reporting period but remains at less than 2% of our total electricity use.

While the number of vehicles in the ACT has increased, the estimated annual kilometres travelled has dropped since 2004 and is below the national average for the first time.

What the results tell us about the ACT

The Territory's population has grown during this reporting period; unfortunately its consumption of electricity and gas has grown at a faster rate. Non-residential use (ie use by businesses and government) has grown at a faster rate than residential use indicating that our economic growth is also having an impact on our electricity use. Our increasing use of fossil fuels is particularly concerning as the implications of our use of fossil fuels on our climate becomes clearer (see Greenhouse indicator).

Electricity

Consumption of electricity rose across the reporting period from 2546 GWh in 2002–03 to 2717 GWh in 2004–05.

Figure 1 : Volume of electricity sold ACT, 2001–02 to 2004–05

Graph of volume of electricity sold ACT, 2001/02 to 2004/05

Source: Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission 2007

In the ACT, residential consumers make up most of the electricity purchasers at 91% (in 2004–05) of the total market yet average residential consumption has stayed fairly stable at 18.9MWh in 2004–05 (ICRC 2007).  However government and business customers have a greater consumption and this consumption has increased from 56% in 2001–02 to just over 58% in 2004–05 (ICRC 2007).  Indications are that that the 2005-06 report will indicate little if any significant change to the trends indentified.

At 8.7 MWh (2004–05), the ACT's per customer residential electricity consumption is higher than the national average (6.8MWH) (Figure 2) and second only to Tasmania which uses significant amounts of hydro-electricity; this means the ACT has the highest greenhouse gas emissions per person from residential electricity in the country.

Figure 2 : State and territory comparison of per customer residential electricity consumption, 2004–05

Graph of state and territory comparison of per customer residential electricity consumption

Source: Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission 2007.

The good news is that we are using more renewable energy with the volume of green power increasing significantly from 28,692 MWh in 2002–03 to 43,463 MWh in 2005–06 (Figure 3), however renewable energy remains at less than 2% of our total electricity use. It will be interesting to see what effect actions, such as implementing a renewable energy target and legislation for Green Power to be offered to new electricity customer (as outlined in the ACT Government's climate change action plan), have on renewable energy consumption in the ACT.

Figure 3 : Total volume of renewable energy sold in the ACT, 2003–04 to 2005–06

Graph of Total volume of renewable energy sold in the ACT

Source: based on data from the Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission 2007 and 2007a.
Note:  2005-06 figure is based on Compliance Report data as corrected through contact with ICRC.

Gas

Gas consumption continued to increase over the reporting period (Figure 4). As natural gas is now available in almost all ACT suburbs, this increase is not unexpected. New housing developments in the Territory during this time have been able to access natural gas, thereby increasing use of this form of energy. As with electricity, the Territory's gas use stayed fairly stable at 6639 TJ in 2003–04 and 6525TJ in 2004–05. Although any increase in energy use is not good, natural gas use emits less greenhouse gases than electricity production.

Figure 4 : Natural gas use in the ACT, 2003–05

Graph of Natural gas use in the ACT

Source: Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission 2007

Note: earlier data is not available as figures did not separate Canberra and Queanbeyan gas consumption.

Petroleum products

The ACT does not presently have access to statistics on consumption of vehicle fuels; however, from June 2008 new legislation (Action 42 of the ACT Government's climate change strategy released in July 2007) will require service stations to provide data that will facilitate an accurate calculation of greenhouse gas emissions.

Over the reporting period the number of vehicles in the ACT increased from 206,444 in 2002 to 220,827 in 2006. Our estimated annual kilometres travelled for motor vehicles reached a peak of 3234 million kilometres travelled in 2004 and have since dropped to below 2002 levels (Table 1).

Table 1: Estimated kilometres travelled by ACT motor vehicles, 1999–2006
Year 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006
Kilometres travelled (million) 2961 3228 3048 3108 3199 3234 3104 3104

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics cat. no. 9208.0, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006

The Territory's estimated annual average kilometres travelled is starting to decrease (Figure 5), and at a faster rate than Australia as a whole (see the Transport and Air emissions indicators). This is good news for the ACT, and as new vehicles are more environmentally efficient this should reduce our air emissions from vehicles. Whether we are travelling less because of our increased awareness of air emissions causing climate change or because fuel prices have increased during the reporting period remains to be answered.

Figure 5 : Average annual kilometres travelled ACT and Australia, 1999–2006

Graph of Average annual kilometres travelled in the ACT and Australia

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics cat. no. 9208.0 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006

Wood

Firewood is a renewable resource as long as it is harvested in a sustainable way. Total annual firewood use in the ACT is not known, however, data on firewood sales from licensed merchants shows a substantial decline over the reporting period (see Harvesting native species indicator).

Factors contributing to the decline in use of wood for heating are likely to be cost of purchased firewood relative to other fuels, installation of other heating sources such as natural gas in new houses, and uptake of the government rebate to replace wood heaters with gas or electricity.

Data sources and references

The Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission provided data for electricity and gas use in the ACT. Previous state of the environment reports were unable to quantify electricity use in the ACT, except to note that our per capita use was increasing.

Australian Bureau of Statistics Australian Bureau of Statistics, Survey of Motor Vehicle Use, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, cat. no. 9208.0, available at <http://www.abs.gov.au/Ausstats/>

ACT Government 2007, Weathering the Change: the ACT Climate Change Strategy 2007–25, available at <http://www.tams.act.gov.au/live/sustainability/climate/weathering_the_change>

Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission , 2007, Licensed Electricity gas and Waster and Sewerage Utilities Performance Report for 2004. Report 1 of 2007 available at <http://www.icrc.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/47072/2007report01_web.pdf>

Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission , 2007a, , Licensed Electricity gas and Waster and Sewerage Utilities Compliance Report for 2004. Report 10 of 2007 available at <http://www.icrc.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0018/80334/ComplianceRpt05-0627Nov07_Web.pdf>

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