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Office of the Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment

Indicator: Energy Consumption

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The ACT population uses energy in the forms of electricity, gas, petroleum products, wood and other renewable energy products. Electricity and gas consumption, per person, continue to rise.

It is becoming more difficult to obtain energy consumption figures as commercial-in-confidence restrictions are placed on the availability of data. Motor vehicle fuel consumption figures are not available, and firewood appears mostly to be harvested in an unsustainable manner.

What the results tell us about the ACT

Data availability a concern

As was noted in the State of the Environment Report 2000, it is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain information on energy consumption in the ACT as so much is now considered commercial-in-confidence. The answers to a number of questions intended to give a clearer picture of trends in energy consumption by sectors, and also use of renewable and non-renewable sources, were not available. Some figures for electricity and gas consumption for the last two years of the reporting period were, however, available from the Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission.

Energy consumption grows

As the ACT’s population grows its energy consumption continues to increase, but energy consumption is increasing faster than population growth would suggest.


Electricity consumption per capita continues to grow (see Figure 1). Throughout the early and middle 1990s per capita consumption remained relatively stable but has been rising since 1997, perhaps as a result of greater use of computers, modems and appliance chargers at home, or because of a trend towards more domestic airconditioning.

Motor vehicle fuel

There are no longer any official statistics collected on the consumption of vehicle fuels in the ACT. The region's reliance on passenger vehicles as the primary means of transport ensures energy consumption remains high.

Figure 1: Per capita electricity consumption for the years 1980 to 2003

graph showing the increase in electricity use from 1991 to 2002

The ACT takes the dubious honour of having the highest proportion of total distance travelled for passenger vehicles. Total annual kilometres travelled by registered motor vehicles in the ACT was estimated to be 3228 million in 2000, 3048 million in 2001 and 3108 million in 2002.

It does not necessarily follow that fuel consumption in this area is increasing, as new vehicles are manufactured with greater fuel efficiency.


Gas consumption per capita has also increased, and at a much larger rate than electricity (see Figure 2). The large increase over the past decade is associated with the availability of natural gas in new developments across the urban area, as well as reticulation into established suburbs. This movement towards natural gas is encouraging, from a greenhouse emissions perspective, as natural gas use produces fewer emissions than does electricity production.

Figure 2: Per capita gas consumption for the years 1991 to 2002

graph showing the increase in gas use from 1991 to 2002


Firewood is a renewable resource, as long as it is sustainably harvested for use. Total annual ACT firewood consumption estimates range from about 40 000 to 60 000 tonnes per annum (Maxwell, 2003). However, it would appear that the majority of wood used in the ACT is not sustainably harvested, but is taken primarily from the central plains of New South Wales with a small amount from eastern Victoria, and comes from stands of remnant vegetation on private property. The ACT Government has allocated funds in 2003–04 for a Wood Heater Replacement Program. Rebates of $400 to $800 for replacement of wood heaters with gas or electricity will be available from January 2004. The subsidy will be available to households who have a heater that does not meet the Australian Standard AS/NZS4013:1999.

Data sources and references

Information on per capita electricity use was provided by ActewAGL, Greenway ACT.

Information on electricity and gas supply 2001–02 and 2002–03 was provided by the Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission.

Historical data for electricity and gas consumption was provided by the Commissioner for the Environment, State of the Environment Report ACT 2000 .

Other sources were as follows:

ABS Survey of Motor Vehicle Use , 12 months ended 31 October 2000, Catalogue No: 9208.0.

ABS Survey of Motor Vehicle Use , 12 months ended 31 October 2001, Catalogue No: 9208.0. ABS Survey of Motor Vehicle Use, 12 months ended 31 October 2002, Catalogue No: 9208.0.

ACT Greenhouse Strategy 2002, Review of performance and options for the future , Energy Strategies P/L in association with George Wilkenfeld and Associates, NIEIR and SMEC, May 2003.

Environment ACT website at

Maxwell, K 2003, The Conservation Council’s firewood campaign in the ACT 1991–2002 , presentation to workshop, ‘Achieving an Ecologically Sustainable Firewood Industry in the ACT’, March 2003 (Conservation Council of the South East Region and Canberra and Environment ACT).

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