Appliance energy-efficiency programs cut electric bills and emissions, but they’re outdated

You may not have realized it, but one of Australia’s most successful climate change programs has been the little “energy rating” stickers on fridges, heaters and other appliances.

And since they were introduced, they have also saved you a lot of money.

Energy stickers and minimum standards that ban cheap and inefficient appliances from the market have saved Australia more electricity than the entire state of South Australia consumes each year.

But some of these standards have become obsolete. And for some devices, they were never introduced.

Late last year, the International Energy Agency (IEA) revealed that appliance standards had reduced national electricity consumption by 15% in Europe and the United States.

But in Australia, the reduction was only half, about 7%.

Outdated standards have eaten away at household savings

Australia’s economies are milder because our climate is milder than that experienced by our friends in the northern hemisphere.

But Australia has also fallen behind in updating some of its standards – minimum standards for televisions, for example, have not been updated since 2013, despite massive advances in television technology in the world. course of the last decade.

And if the standards for refrigerators and freezers were updated in 2019, it was to bring them in line with standards that had already been in place in the United States for five years.

In the United States, the average American household saves US$318 ($425) a year on their electricity bill thanks to the country’s appliance standards, according to a report by the International Energy Agency.

The Energy Efficiency Council has found that Australia’s standards save households between $140 and $220 a year on their electricity bill.

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Inside Australian homes reducing carbon emissions(Emilie Terzon)

Council policy chief Rob Murray-Leach said it didn’t make sense for a small market like Australia to set its own standards.

“Really, our standards should be consistent with Europe or the United States,” Murray-Leach said.

“They don’t automatically update when EU or US is updated; which would make sense [is] when they are updated, we update a year later.”

Energy classes
Some devices haven’t been updated for years and had to add stars to stay relevant.(ABC News: Damien Larkins)

The differences are not negligible.

Each additional star on a device’s rating is equivalent to a 20% reduction in its electricity consumption.

That means a 50-inch three-star TV costs $77.50 less to run per year than a similarly sized one-star TV – using 241 kWh less, according to the government’s energy rating calculator.

But Australian standards lag so far behind other countries that TVs rated four stars here actually don’t meet the minimum efficiency standard in Europe and the US.

The Department of Industry admitted that Australia’s minimum standards were in some cases “behind current international standards”, creating a risk “for less efficient products to dominate the market”.

He said the regulatory framework was “outdated” and unable to cope with some new products on the market, and he was considering whether to update minimum standards for several products.

Mr Murray-Leach said a bigger problem was that some appliances were not rated for their energy efficiency at all.

He said there were no energy efficiency ratings for hot water heat pumps, despite being among the most energy-hungry appliances.

The council said the introduction of standards would benefit manufacturers and consumers.

The ABC asked Energy Minister Angus Taylor why certain products were not regulated and whether Australia should automatically match US or EU standards.

The Energy Efficiency Council says lagging standards in the past have allowed shoddy appliances that can no longer be sold in Europe or North America, such as air conditioners, to be dumped on the market Australian.

But updating Australia’s standards would also help the country meet its commitment to net zero by 2050.

The IEA found that if every country adopted the latest energy efficiency standards for appliances, it would have the same effect as halving China’s total electricity consumption.

“Energy efficiency standards have arguably been Australia’s single most important carbon mitigation policy,” Murray-Leach said.

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