Commissioned by the Australian Government, Energy Use in the Australian Residential Sector: 1986-2020 is the second national baseline study on residential energy use. The first study was published in 1999 and provided a quantitative foundation for the development of greenhouse response measures. The reports were produced on behalf of the Australian Government by energy planning and policy consultants Energy Efficient Strategies Pty Ltd (EES).

Main findings

Between 1990 and 2020 the number of occupied residential households is forecast to increase from six million to almost 10 million, an increase of 61%. Over the same period, total residential floor area is set to rise from 685 million square metres to almost 1682 million square metres, an increase of 145%.

The study estimated that the residential sector energy consumption in 1990 was about 299 petajoules (PJ) (electricity, gas, LPG and wood) and that by 2008 this had grown to about 402 PJ and is projected to increase to 467 PJ by 2020 under the current trends. This represents a 56% increase in residential sector energy consumption over the period 1990 to 2020. This increase coincides with a continuing trend towards an increased proportion of the total residential energy demand being met by electricity (which currently has a high greenhouse gas intensity) and a decrease in the use of wood (with a low greenhouse gas intensity). Although this study does not calculate the greenhouse emissions, it is likely that this predicted growth in energy use in the residential sector will result in a significant growth in greenhouse gas emissions.

Since 1990 the average energy consumption per Australian household has remained relatively constant apart from the influence of year-to-year climatic and weather variations that impact significantly on space conditioning energy demand. Projecting forward to 2020 there is expected to be about a 6% decline in energy consumption per household compared to 1990 levels.  This decline is achieved despite expected increases in service delivery to households, particularly in terms of increases in the average size of houses and the types of space conditioning equipment and in a diverse range of appliance types, such as larger, more power-intensive televisions and an increase in standby energy consumption, lighting, computers and other home entertainment.  The decline in energy consumption per household is primarily being driven by existing and planned energy programs designed to improve energy efficiency of appliances and the building shell.

The trend in per person residential energy consumption shows a steady but modest increase from 17 gigajoules (GJ) per person in 1990 to 20 GJ per person in 2020, or approximately a 20% increase over the study period. This increase in energy consumption per person is partly being driven by a decline in the number of persons per household, as there are some forms of fixed energy consumption that are associated with each household.