Improving the energy efficiency of Australian homes and businesses would slash $7.7 billion a year off energy bills and create the equivalent of 120,000 full time jobs, a new report has found.

The Energy Efficiency Employment in Australia report, commissioned by Energy Efficiency Council and Energy Savings Industry Association, and written by Green Energy Markets, also found that better energy efficiency would cut household gas use by 640 million gigajoules over a decade – the equivalent of a huge gas field.

“Energy efficiency schemes at the state level have been effective in helping homes and businesses cut energy bills and driving investment and innovation in clean technology,” said Energy Savings Industry Association president Rod Woolley. “These schemes must be scaled up and implemented nationwide to maximise their benefits for homes, business, and industry. Failure to do so is leaving money on the table.”

The report noted that energy efficiency is already Australia’s largest ‘energy employer’, employing 25% more people than coal mining. About 500,000 electricians, architects and engineers spend some of their time working on energy efficiency, equivalent to about 59,000 full-time jobs in the sector.

Green Energy Markets identified a range of technologically mature upgrades that would deliver financial returns in line with or exceeding households and businesses’ cost of capital or alternative low risk investments and then estimated how many installations could be undertaken and the employment required.

For example, there are an estimated 3.7 million homes in Australia in climate zones that require heating and cooling. About 32% of these homes could benefit from retrofitting draught sealing, which takes around 2 hours of labour per house. This results in a total estimate of 1,388 job-years of potential employment in draught sealing in Australia.

The full table of measures shows potential for 120,000 job-years of employment.

Potential employment from enhanced market-based incentives

Market-based energy efficiency schemes could play a key role in delivering many, but not all, of the energy efficiency upgrades to homes and businesses analysed in the previous section.

Based on global and local analysis, Green Energy Markets estimates that market-based incentives will deliver about one-third of the total employment generated by an ambitious energy efficiency upgrade strategy – around 43,000 job-years of employment.