Australian Energy Transition Indicators

Author name: 
Saddler, H.

This paper specifies, and populates with data, a set of indicators which are designed to quantify the progress of Australia’s energy system transition. The indicators are national in coverage and include all sources of energy supply and consumption. The major data sources used are all longstanding official Commonwealth statistical series, meaning that the indicators should be able to be updated each year with minimal risk of definitional discontinuities. Indicators are structured into four groups, covering emissions, energy supply, energy consumption, and the changing mix of fuel types and energy using technologies. Emissions indicators run from 2005, because that is the base year for the Paris Agreement, while all energy indicators run from 2009 because of a major data series discontinuity prior to 2009. All indicators end in 2019.

Total energy combustion emissions increased gradually from 2005 to 2016, but since then have been almost constant. However, as a share of total national emissions, energy combustion emissions increased markedly up to 2016, because of a decline in other emission sources. Using conventional energy accounting conventions, the renewable share of total primary energy supply increased from 4.2% in 2005 to 6.4% in 2019. However, if the substitution accounting method is applied to renewable electricity, the increase in the renewable share of primary supply is from 6.3% in 2005 to 11.7% in 2019. Total final energy consumption has grown steadily since 2009, and throughout this period the shares of types of final energy supplied to consumers have remained remarkably constant. Gross final energy consumption efficiency by households, measured as the reciprocal of residential energy consumption per capita, was almost constant up to 2011, but increased steadily from then until 2019. Similarly, economy-wide energy use productivity, measured as gross economic value added per unit of energy consumed, also increased steadily from 2011 to 2019. The services provided by energy are commonly sorted into three major groups: generation of electricity, the most versatile energy carrier which is capable of providing a wide range of other services; energy used to deliver transport and other forms of mobility; and energy used to deliver heat. Transition of electricity generation from almost exclusive reliance on coal towards a lower emissions mix of generation technologies is well underway. By contrast, no significant progress has been made in transitioning energy used by transport and other mobile equipment; reliance on petroleum fuel remains almost total and emissions are increasing steadily every year.

Similarly, almost no progress has been made in transitioning away from gas and, in some sectors of manufacturing, coal, as the source of heat for manufacturing, commercial sector businesses and households. Total fossil fuel energy consumption in these sectors combined has decreased, but only because of the marked fall in Australian manufacturing activity over the period covered.

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