Beyond 2020: Charting a course for energy efficiency in Australia 02 April 2019

By Luke Menzel

The Energy Efficiency Council will celebrate its tenth birthday on 12 June in Melbourne. We're taking this opportunity to highlight the incredible network that has supported our work over the past ten years, and reflect on what is in prospect for our next decade.

At its best, the EEC has been a vehicle for activating individuals and organisations with a deep interest in energy efficiency, and for coordinating effort that drives change. Advocacy has been a core focus from the beginning, because we know government policy is a crucial driver for developing sophisticated markets for energy management products and services. However over the past decade, the EEC, our members and our partners have steadily expanded our work beyond advocacy to encompass training, certification, events, and, over the past couple of years, working to build energy literacy in businesses across the economy.

If anything, we’ve done all of this in spite of the prevailing public debate around energy. The 2010s have been dominated by circular arguments around coal versus renewables. It has been frustrating; not because it wasn’t a necessary debate (it was), but because we had the same debate over and over again, like some deeply wonky version of Groundhog Day. Apart from this being a waste of time, it has crowded out other crucial issues, including the huge opportunities on the demand side.

Call me an optimist, but I think the next decade is going to be very different. There is no state government in the country that is interested in continuing the coal versus renewables argument. Businesses that were previously in 'wait and see' mode are starting to ramp up the sophistication of their energy management strategies. And there has been a change of tone in the debate at the Federal level over the past couple of months; I expect that shift to continue post election.

But regardless of the political cycle, the task for us, as we approach our tenth anniversary, is to expand and activate the network we have created to shape the debates – and more importantly the investments – of the 2020s. We need to ensure the next decade isn’t just about increasing the amount of renewables in the system – this is, in some ways, the easy bit. However, as the penetration of wind and solar rises, we need to accelerate the development of a large, sophisticated market for energy management that delivers for businesses and consumers and facilitates the kind of demand side flexibility that is crucial in a low carbon, 21st century energy system.

So while we'll be gathering in June to celebrate, we're already looking ahead. Just last week the Council’s Strategy and Planning Committee met in Melbourne. It was a dynamic day with some radical ideas for how we can all work together to drive the step change that will be required. Without getting into the specifics, the task laid out by the Committee was very clear: to ensure that the 2020s are the decade in which Australia embraces sensible, cost effective demand side solutions.

It's a big vision, and it is absolutely crucial that we succeed. It's how we keep energy affordable, keep our electricity system stable, cut carbon emissions cost effectively and stay economically competitive. But we can't do it alone, so we're looking forward to working with you to make this vision a reality.

Luke Menzel is Chief Executive Officer of the Energy Efficiency Council, Australia’s peak body for energy efficiency, energy management and demand response. Luke leads the Council’s work to make sensible, cost effective energy efficiency measures standard practice across the Australian economy, and is deeply engaged in energy policy both federally and in states across the country.

Before being appointed CEO, Luke led the development of a new Australian certification scheme for professionals that manage comprehensive energy upgrades of commercial buildings. The Energy Efficiency Certification Scheme launched in 2013.

Luke sits on a number of government and independent advisory committees, and is Vice President of the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC).