People power can make a difference to energy price crisis

Budget image ex Canva for Wattwatchers blog post by CEO Gavin Dietz

Last night’s Federal Budget, the first for the new Labor Government, has generated cost-of-living shockwaves with its forecasts about energy price hikes over the next two years: a cumulative 56% for electricity, and 44% for gas. Today the news is being dominated by political recriminations and calls for action, but there is nothing really that new here, because energy for homes and businesses is one area where we the people can (and must) make a big difference ourselves.


Now we know the Australian Treasury expects energy prices for homes and businesses to keep going up over the next two years, steeply, and this will hurt everyone.

Energy Consumers Australia (ECA) was quick out of the blocks this morning, post the Budget delivery, arguing in its media release that: Putting people in control of energy use is our most urgent national energy priority.

We could not agree more.

Today we’ve also seen that inflation, currently the greatest challenge for the Australian and global economies, continues to trend upwards – with energy prices a key factor making living cost more and more. And in his post-Budget lunchtime speech today, new Treasurer Jim Chalmers warned the National Press Club that: Inflation is the dragon we need to slay.

The price of past inaction

Of course the government, all governments, should do something about crippling energy prices!

Or more to the point, they should have done many things a long time ago, before we arrived at the current crisis.

The abject political failures around national energy policy over decades are contributors to the mess we are now in, if not the immediate causes.

Wouldn’t it be great now to have in place a national energy efficiency strategy, that truly benefits consumers and small to medium businesses.  Something they can use to make real reductions in energy consumption and hence energy spend, something that truly enables the transition from expensive gas to renewable electricity.

In many ways, however, energy use and cost are issues where we can’t just sit back and expect any government to fix it overnight, if ever.

We the people, the consumers, have real agency ourselves. And we’re the ones who can act immediately to cut bills on multiple fronts, with the increasingly-abundant support of new technology solutions and business models.

Energy efficiency upgrades. Waste minimisation. Tariff selection. Time of use to avoid peak charges. Rooftop solar, optimised with performance management technologies. Batteries where they stack up for return on investment. Electrification, including electric vehicles, and de-gasification.

Modest boost for energy efficiency

There were some modest positive measures in last night’s Budget, as the respected Energy Efficiency Council (EEC) welcomed today, saying…

This week’s Budget included important steps in the big task of putting energy efficiency to work to reduce energy bills and emissions, including:

· $62.6 million in funding to support small and medium enterprises making energy efficiency upgrades

· $15.2 million to develop the National Energy Performance Strategy, and

· $4.6 million to expand the Greenhouse and Energy Minimum Standards scheme, as well as improving the Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme.

But if we are truly going to make putting people in control the national priority, as ECA advocates, then this kind of expenditure is just the tip of a very big iceberg.

Given the Chalmers Budget priority to slay the inflation dragon, a grand cash splash on compensating consumers for high power and gas prices was always a non-starter for a financially-responsible government.

That doesn’t mean, however, that there’s nothing to be done here.

Over the past decade or so Australian household consumers put more solar per capita on their rooftops than any nation in the world, and commercial and industrial consumers are following suit.

This happened despite the governments of the day.

The electrification of everything has now emerged as a powerful unifying theme that can encompass renewables, energy efficiency and productivity, tariff reform, e-mobility, demand-side management strategies, and more, for homes and businesses.

We have many technology and service solutions

Australia is awash with innovative startups, scale-ups and more-established businesses with proven technologies to support and drive the clean energy transition, at the scale and speed we need.

Tomorrow, at the ‘New Energy’ event of the year, All Energy Australia in Melbourne, two of my company’s team will be presenting on key aspects of data- and technology-driven energy solutions that the nation needs to expedite and expand exponentially.

Grace Young, our Chief Innovation Officer, will present in the morning in the Digitisation stream, in a panel session on energy data strategy, on the topic: Getting strategic about energy data as open and shared infrastructure.

As Grace discusses in her five key principles for energy data, ‘Customer First’ is something we always talk about a lot in the energy sector, but are failing to really embrace it.

In the afternoon, our Program Manager and technology specialist Tim McCoy will address the hardware deployment side of the equation, also in the Digitisation stream, in a panel session on behind the meter, on the topic: Planning an energy project for behind the utility meter monitoring and control.

I’ll wrap up this post with an image from Tim’s presentation, which still reflects the electricity meter box reality for millions of Australian households, and shows how far we have to go to electrify everything, and to empower the people to do lots of the heavy-lifting themselves.

Because waiting for governments to do it all for us is a waste of time we don’t have.