Step 1


You’ve probably heard the term ‘energy efficiency’. It means choosing equipment and assets that use less energy and getting more out of the energy we do use. Yes, it most certainly includes choosing appliances with a higher number of energy efficiency stars, insulating your home really well, switching to low energy light bulbs.

But on a larger scale, it also means greatly improving our energy efficiency in all energy end- use sectors (where the energy is ultimately deployed). It includes passenger and goods transportation - improving vehicle technology; designing smarter infrastructure and more energy efficient urban spaces including residential and commercial buildings - through improved architectural design, building practices and construction materials. For industry it means improving equipment, material efficiency and production processes. And doing clever things like re-using waste heat.

Projections in the Pathways Report and work done by ClimateWorks Australia and Australian National University, together with CSIRO and the Centre of Policy Studies at Victoria University provide 4 simple steps that help us achieve zero net emissions by 2050.

Step 1 delivers a great kick-start to our net zero journey. Here’s a snapshot showing results across several key sectors:



In the buildings sector, there is a reduction in energy use per household of over 50%, while commercial sector energy use per square meter reduces by just under 50%.

This substantial improvement in comparison to recent trends does not require a substantial technological leap as it can be achieved through ensuring that new buildings are as efficient as possible, and by replacing equipment by best practice models at the end of its useful life.

For example, LEDs can reduce energy use by almost 80% compared to halogen globes, and can even provide 25% savings compared to efficient compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs).

Similarly, 8 star new builds have demonstrated that 80% less energy use for heating and cooling compared with current homes is possible across much of Australia’s climate zones. In most cases, the cost of energy saved over time will more than offset the additional up-front costs at standard rates of return.



In manufacturing, the energy intensity of production decreases by approximately 40% by 2050 (not including emissions achieved through shifting to cleaner fuels, discussed in Step 3). This is achieved through process improvements and equipment upgrades for existing plants as well as implementing best practice technologies at the time of construction.

For existing plants, it includes examples like reducing thermal losses from heating processes such as furnaces, kilns and boiler systems, or capturing waste heat to preheat materials. It also means reducing the fuel inputs required to perform other industrial processes. For companies, these improvements will usually generate financial savings and reduce production costs.

In mining, similar levels of energy efficiency are achieved. In the short term, through operational improvements such as changing the gradient of the slope where vehicles travel, reducing the amount of time vehicles stop and start and improving load management.

In the longer term, technological improvements such as geological analysis and early ore and waste separation, or effective crushing and high pressure grinding rolls, can deliver significant additional savings.

Mining energy efficiency improvements are counterbalanced by a structural increase in energy intensity. Past energy intensity trends show that every year, around 3% more energy is needed to extract a similar volume of minerals as the year before, largely due to degradation in ore quality and increasingly difficult access to good resources. As a result, mining energy intensity doubles between today and 2050.



In the transport sector, a 70% improvement in the energy efficiency (i.e. litres per 100km) of cars and light commercial vehicles is achieved. This is mostly through electrification of vehicles, combined with fuel efficiency improvements and a continued trend towards smaller vehicles.

Hybrid vehicles commercially available today improve in fuel efficiency by up to 65% compared to an average car.

There’s also a 30% improvement in aviation energy efficiency by 2050. Today, the A380 is already 18% more efficient per passenger seat than the previous generation of large aircraft.

In freight, trucks improve by 15% by 2030, while rail and marine freight improve 17% and 22% respectively by 2050.

alternative pathways


Other energy efficiency improvements beyond those modelled in the report include new technology developments such as material efficiency to reduce the amount of resource extraction and primary metals production (e.g. through 3D printing), or in mining energy efficiency (e.g. through moving to landfill mining or other innovative practices).

Improved energy efficiency in transport could come through reducing travel activity (e.g. through increasing use of public transport, increase in local sourcing of products, or growth in choosing teleconferencing over business travel.)

Further information on ambitious energy efficiency in all sectors can be found in the Pathways to Deep Decarbonisation: Technical Report.