The future of energy


Policy must protect people and the planet.

While the cost of energy and fuel is a constant concern for many people, nobody anticipated the dramatic increases since the start of the war in Ukraine. The horror of that conflict has highlighted a number of weaknesses in our system that need to be addressed if we’re to protect Australians from an increasingly unstable global environment.

Many people have found themselves exposed to rising gas prices due to their reliance on gas for cooking, heating or hot water. In some cases, they installed gas appliances under government programs that, until recently, encouraged people to shift to gas. Governments now need to help people to replace inefficient gas appliances with more efficient electric alternatives. Besides the environmental and economic benefits, there’s also a health benefit, given growing evidence about the impact of gas appliances within the home on asthma and general respiratory health.

Tenants are particularly exposed to rising energy costs, given they usually can’t take action such as installing solar panels. It’s even difficult for landlords in many strata properties to install solar. As renting becomes the only long-term housing option fora growing number of people, we have to make sure that future programs are designed with this in mind. We also must stop apartment developers locking whole buildings into expensive, long-term energy supply agreements, depriving residents of the opportunity to shop around.

Thankfully, action is already underway in some areas. The federal government has recognised that people on low incomes need help to pay their bills and is providing targeted subsidies. While this isn’t a long-term solution, it is a clever way to provide immediate help to people who need it without putting pressure on inflation.

The government has also recognised the impact of fuel costs, starting work on a strategy to give us access to efficient and more affordable electric vehicles (EVs), with some measures already introduced in the last budget.If the government gets this right, it won’t only improve access to new EVs, it will support the development of a second-hand EV market.

Finally, the government is working on a national energy performance strategy, examining a range of measures to give more people the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of living in an energy-efficient home.

Some of this would have happened anyway, as part of the push to reduce Australia’s carbon emissions more rapidly, but the events of the last year have reinforced that good environmental policy is usually good economic policy. If we get these changes right, they won’t just help to address the impacts of climate change, they will also protect us from future price shocks in energy markets.


Perhaps not so much the Victorian Government, with their disincentivising (is that a word?) EV road tax!


While I commend Choice is looking at some of the low hanging fruit, it should also be pushing those harder elements which will impact on energy use and costs in the longer term.

As there will be a shift to predominately electrical energy as the main energy sources in the future, replacing traditional fossil fuel energy sources, recognition needs to to be given to long term electricity usage reduction. This is particularly relevant as the incremental cost of a unit of electricity will continue to rise as we move closer toward reliable, renewable electricity generation (an additional unit of electricity to generate will cost more than the unit previously added to the system).

A long term goal should be not only be to encourage energy efficiency to reduce usage/energy costs but also look at the structural changes needed to ensure that usage and costs can be minimised into the future. Planning for minimising usage in everything we do is the only way to realistically minimise long term energy costs (which will be comparably higher than today). These are big ticket items such as land use planning/urban design/efficient transportation systems through to encouraging new more efficient technologies.

Continuing with the ‘same old way’ and expecting that somehow tinkering around the edges and modifying the way we do currently things will achieve a lower energy/cost future is ‘dreaming’. Planning for the future needs to start now and implementing a national energy performance strategy is a small step, but the bigger structural changes to ensure that the the objective of ‘lower costs for households and businesses, reduce pressure on the energy system and help meet our emission reduction goals’ is achieved in the long term. Only addressing the low hanging fruit won’t achieve this outcome and in a decade we will have wasted 10 years of time.


I tend to agree. What are some of the areas that will need attention? I imagine such changes will be in generation, transmission and usage. Which do you think are most important and do you have any examples of where doing it the old way is particularly in need to change?


In addition to the 1 or 2 previously wasted decades!


Possibly the easiest example is the way we currently live is about using energy. Much of which could have been avoided though foresight or different community/individual expectations.

Generally Australians have a desire to live on our own block of land in our own detached dwelling. This might have been a reasonable expectation 50-80 years ago when cities were small, but continuing with such an approach causes urban sprawl. Urban sprawl requires more energy to be used than for say compact cities. More energy from the development the sprawl, more energy required for movement (travelling distance is high), more energy as it pushes agriculture further away (food miles increase) etc. We way we live today has resulted in maximising energy use, not minimising it.

Generation and transmission/distribution responds to usage, it follows as an afterthought to respond to demand and its location.

We will hear the term ‘smart cities’ in the future, but currently Australia as some of the most ‘unsmart’ cities in the world. To change to ‘smart’ needs a dramatic rethink and change in community/individual expectations.


We are well into the current decade, progress minimal, and barely 2 remain. @AlanKirkland has emphasised the potential,

It’s important to consumers for Choice to keep focus on consumer outcomes. There’s a risk the needs of and concerns for the impacts on consumers can be all too easily overlooked. We are the minnows when it comes to total energy consumption. Enterprise, private and public are the greatest consumers of energy in Australia, and the largest emitters of greenhouse gases.

What progress has been made appears to have placed an unequal burden on consumers while limiting the derived benefits. It would be inappropriate to pass blame. Looking to past failures of leadership hopefully reminds all of what not to do if we need to regain the initative.


Not to mention some serious planning and then mechanisms to ensure adherence to the plan. We still approve houses on flood plains.

I don’t see local government being helpful here, they will probably have to be carried kicking and screaming, if at all. Maybe we should combine State and Local government and have a couple of dozen cantons, all using the same principles and guidelines, instead. Local councillor elections too often result in friendly hail-fellow-well-met types being given power far above their competence or understanding.


A take on what the amount of money being spent on Nuclear Subs could do. Now, I’m not suggesting that the Subs aren’t important but so is energy security as well as Climate Change and the associated risks of carbon emissions. If they can find the money to have the Subs, surely they can find the money for the idea of Solar Systems that is raised in the following article. We may end up with Subs and much of the land they will help protect being un-inhabitable.


Ramble ahead warning :warning:

The problem as I see it is that the same strategy is being used with power as with tobacco, plastic usage, alcohol, sugar, etc. The consumers are being blamed and made to feel guilty, while the industries that generate, sell, and have benefited from these products have continued making massive profits and are only giving up voluntarily those things that directly benefit their bottom line to give up.

It is time to make the producers, marketers, and sellers of health and environmentally detrimental products financially responsible for their damage. The Federal and State Governments also need to stop providing any subsidies to those businesses including tax offsets, tax concessions, fuel subsidies, etc. The ability to avoid taxation in Australia also has to be stopped.

With the savings and additional income from these steps, the governments could instead bring down the costs to consumers and provide abundant funding for R&D for new technology and other developments which will help Australia.


Hi Alan. Just on the prospect of the second-hand EV market, an inherent issue with using batteries with this technology, is that - like most things - they have a finite life. As an example, there are not that many older Toyota Prius’ and other older generation hybrids getting around these days. I have no doubt this technology is getting better (I am a major fan of the Formula E racing, which indeed showcases what the electric cars are very capable of), but it is still something to consider. Another consideration with regards to the environmental footprint of this technology is that those old batteries are made of some very nasty non-recyclable materials. I personally see EV Vehicles as being an interim (city) solution at this stage, making way for alternative environmentally friendlier fuels and technologies.(eg. hydrogen etc). I am happy to be proven otherwise, but those items are certainly worth being aware of in this discussion.
Kind regards,

None that I’ve heard of with lithium ion batteries. Maybe old fashioned NiCads.

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A silly comment in my opinion as a shift to electric fuel by everything possible including big ticket consumers like hotplates, ovens, hot water services and cars together with an ever increasing population will prove this to be pie in the sky.

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Are you saying that we cannot generate enough electricity to power all those things in future? If so, why do you think so?

The production of electricity is subject to supply and demand like most things.

If there is more demand for it, then producers will be eagerly building capacity, as they are now. And that is predominately renewable sources.

The electricity industry and appointed government bodies have been continually updating the industry planning to meet our future needs. The latest revisions are covered in the updated 2022 Integrated System Plan released 30June22.

It advises on what needs to be delivered over the next decades to meet climate change targets. The assumption as a consumer is that the government of the day is prepared to follow the considered assessment of their appointed government body experts.

Grid enhancement is essential.

The long document, for bedtime reading.

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I have been following the effective renewable production for years, some constrained by the inability of the grid to allow connection. It is apparent to all bar those that will not see from the informative NEM ap that coal is still needed for approx 65-70% of our requirements with solar, wind and hydro making up most of the ball. and gas in reserve when those fail. This has been the case for years, before electric cars and the push for domestic electrification. The situation can now only get worse even in the short term with increasing demand as the grid requires huge not in time upgrades to support 2-way power. And now we will close some coal fired big output stations shortly, just in time for the huge demand of elec. car takeup and other electrification and even more consumers to get going. What do you think the near term result is going to be? I am not looking forward to the blackouts to follow.

That may be so right now but why do you think it will not change, other sources are being built as we type? I agree that prices will be high for a while as new infrastructure is built but that does not mean that the new generators and connections will not be built.

Yes, but that isn’t “us”, it is the owners who have made commercial decisions. It is only the Canavans who want to build new coal-fired stations. The fact is we have to build something.

There may well be some missteps in the transition, we shall see. Perhaps if we got this transition started 20 years ago there would not be so many.

Do you have an alternative to propose to your gloomy world predictions?

The grid allows connection - technically they can’t refuse a connection request. It is the costs which are prohibitive.

That might be the case today, but won’t be in the future. Move towards renewables isn’t easy nor cheap. I addressed some of the cost challenges here. This was why I made the above first post, thought needs to be given to reducing electricity use and cost through major structural changes.

Perhaps you would like to explain how Tasmania and South Australia manage without coal generation.