Energy use set for first ever fall
Grid manager the Australian Energy Market Operator has predicted the first ever fall in Australian energy use, a trend which will slow the need for new power plants and save billions on transmission networks.
The Operator says consumption will fall this year due to four factors: a decline in manufacturing, comparatively mild weather, the swift growth in rooftop solar panels and consumers reacting to rapidly rising electricity prices.
It reverses years of the operator projecting soaring growth in energy consumption, and has implications for the shift from coal-fired power to lower-emissions gas under the carbon price scheme.
It could also restrict the pace at which power bills increase. If demand for electricity is down, it will keep the wholesale electricity price paid to power plant owners low.
And if investment in new electricity infrastructure is deferred it could slow the increase in the amount consumers pay for the upgrade of poles and wires — nationally, the biggest contributor to rising electricity bills in recent years.
Matt Zema, the market operator’s chief executive, said the fall in energy use — down 2.4 per cent on last year and 5.7 per cent lower than projected — was the biggest since the creation of the National Electricity Market in 1998.
“For the first time, we’re seeing that GDP is still growing but energy demand is actually decreasing,” he said.
The forecasts come soon after a report from the Renewable Energy Certificates Agents Association, which found that home solar installation was having a positive impact on energy demand..
The Association’s analysis claimed that electricity consumption fell 3.2 percent over the three years to 2011, and more than half of the cut in power use was due to photovoltaic solar panels, solar hot water systems and energy savings programs to encourage the use of more efficient lightbulbs and appliances.
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