Analysts Say Efficiency Key to Clean Energy Future in Australia

Smoke bellows out of chimney stacks at BlueScope Steel's steelworks at Port Kembla, south of Sydney, Australia (File).
Smoke bellows out of chimney stacks at BlueScope Steel's steelworks at Port Kembla, south of Sydney, Australia (File).

International experts meeting in Australia say global carbon emissions can be reduced by more than 50 percent through simple energy saving measures. Attendees at a conference in Australia, which increasingly relies on coal for power, say that reducing power consumption is an affordable way to both cut energy costs and reduce pollution.  

While many nations turn to cheap and dirty energy sources, such as coal, to meet their increasing energy needs, analysts in Australia say the best way to meet those needs is to improve energy efficiency.

A range of simple solutions include using energy-efficient homes, household appliances and lighting, and driving electric cars.  Encouraging homeowners and office workers to switch off their televisions and computers at the end of the day is also seen as an effective way to save electricity.   

Cutting consumption

Grayson Heffner, from the Paris-based International Energy Agency, says curbing consumption could significantly cut global carbon emissions. He calls efficiency strategies the “soft giant” of clean energy.

"We forecast that energy efficiency will deliver something like three-quarters of the greenhouse gas emissions reductions over the next 20 years.  So in the short term energy efficiency is the main way that we reduce greenhouse gas emissions but oftentimes it is no so prominently featured in the discussions," said Heffner.

Energy conservationists working in China say authorities there are making significant cuts in power usage.

Wan Xing Wang, a Beijing-based representative of the Energy Foundation, a U.S. non-government organization, says the results have been impressive.

"In the past five years China achieved about 19.1 percent of energy intensity reduction of its GDP.  That translates to something like more than 600 million tons of coal savings," said Wan Xing Wang.

Individual initiatives

While most nations have some sort of government-sponsored energy efficiency programs, energy analysts say initiatives by individuals and companies can also help cut demand.

Steven Nadel, executive director of the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, a non-profit group based in Washington, says other developing nations are recognizing the benefits of cutting power consumption - and taking action.

"India is starting to get it as well," he said.  "They are not as far along.  Other developing countries are often farther behind.  You know, they do not quite realize the way China has that keeping energy costs down is the key for development because it helps make them more competitive."        

The three-day gathering in Sydney ends Friday and has been organized by an independent group of Australian business, government and environmental leaders.

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