The ways in which Australia generates, uses and perceives energy has changed, is changing and will continue to change over time. One thing that has not changed is our need for energy to power our lives. What we are powering and the frequency with which we do it has of course evolved with technology, which has changed our lives more in the last century than it has done for centuries before it.
As different forms of energy were discovered and the technology to extract, generate and distribute developed, the way we lived and worked also changed and these two factors, combined with an expanding population and economic development, has resulted in our energy consumption growing exponentially. With that have come fears over the depletion of natural resources and the effect carbon emissions have on the environment, leading to an exploration into renewables and the role natural gas could play as a relatively low- carbon fossil fuel.
Early energy usage
Since the dawn of mankind we have used energy to cook, keep warm and provide light. For millennia that energy was drawn from wood and the sun, and, later, wind and water were utilised too.
With the advent of industrialisation, mass manufacturing and advances in transportation, Australia’s energy landscape began to take a different turn. The uses for electricity increased and began to become more readily available and, from the post-war years onwards, a steadily wealthier population began to buy more appliances and consumption grew. In the boom years of the 8os and 90s, we bought a host of new appliances fuelled by technological advances. Consumption of everything was up.
For the first time in decades, our energy consumption is showing smaller annual increases. This is due to a concerted drive to be more energy efficient across homes and businesses. Electricity generated by renewables is also up, although its contribution to the overall energy supplied within Australia remains relatively low. Natural gas and electricity are still the two main energy sources consumed in homes and businesses, streaks ahead of coal, LPG and crude oil.
Unsurprisingly, industry is by far the largest consumer of energy but even industries such as manufacturing, transport and mining (the three most prolific consumers) is showing a concerted effort to be more energy efficient. As part of a global desire to reduce carbon emissions, Australia is increasingly turning to natural gas.