In a press release China’s pilot carbon trading market taps UNSW expertise (press release is by the UNSW, which is my employer)

Minister Combet highlighted the benefits to date of Australia’s carbon price, including an 8.6 per cent drop in demand for electricity in the first six months of operation and increased investment in renewable energy.

I'm slightly doubtful that a price on carbon is primarily responsible for reducing demand for electricity by that extent in just six months. I would have thought that electricity usage was something that most Australians would have thought about even before the introduction of a price on carbon.

Climate change has been a major point of discussion in the more "upmarket" media, and rising electricity prices has been a major topic in the more "tabloid" media.

Has electricity demand dropped by 8.6 percent in six months in Australia? And is that drop largely attributable to the introduction of a price of carbon?

(For the purposes of this question, "a price on carbon" should be treated as prices specifically designed to prevent the production of greenhouse gases, as opposed to the market price of fossil fuels)

  • 6 months, maybe the 6 warm summer months when Australians didn't need much electrical heaters and artificial light when compared with the 6 cold(er) and darker winter months preceeding? That'd be perfectly in line with environmentalist claims, which use the same "logic" to scream "melting ice caps" by comparing the summer ice extent of one year with the winter ice extent of the previous year (or whatever year it was larger).
    – jwenting
    Apr 10, 2013 at 10:15
  • Of course, you have evidence for this? Because you wouldn't just speculate would you? In the meantime, some reading for you: "Total emissions from the electricity sector in the December half were 7.5 million tonnes lower than in the same half of 2011. Apr 10, 2013 at 13:05
  • 1
    emissions don't equate consumption levels. If more nuclear power stations or other means of production that don't burn fossil fuels come online, emissions go down while production/consumption may even go up.
    – jwenting
    Apr 12, 2013 at 5:57
  • 3
    @ jwenting - Australian electricity use peaks in summer, not the winter. It takes a lot more electricity to air condition a house in 43C weather than it does to heat a house in 16C weather.
    – Scott
    Jun 4, 2016 at 23:03
  • @jwenting you mean well... but don't seem to know much about Australia. Higher electricity needs in winter? Nuclear power? Come visit and take a look around, it's a little different than you imagine.
    – NPSF3000
    Jun 5, 2016 at 1:18

1 Answer 1


No, the claim as presented in that quote is incorrect.

The initial claim was an 8.6% drop in CO2e emissions from generation, not an 8.6% drop in generation.

While the government believes the 8.6 per cent fall in carbon emissions shows its policies are working, it also means it will collect less from the tax than the $4 billion it anticipated this year.

The actual numbers are a 2.7% reduction in demand (which reduces CO2e emissions by 2.7%), with a further 6% reduction in CO2e from changing mix of power consumption.

Analysis by Climate Change Minister Greg Combet's staff shows that total electricity production in the first half of the financial year fell by 2.7 per cent, compared with the corresponding period of 2011-12.

This can be seen here.

Exactly how much of this is attributable to the Carbon Price can never be known, however:

Consulting firm Pitt & Sherry says changes of this scale are without precedent in the 120-year history of the electricity supply industry.

This implies that a significant portion of the change is to do with the carbon price.

Notably, the Kurri Kurri Aluminium smelter was a significant power consumer, and its closure was soon after the introduction of the carbon price. It is debated whether the carbon price caused the closure or not.

  • Your first link is behind a paywall. Can you please quote a bit of the Australian article to show it supports your statement?
    – Oddthinking
    Jun 4, 2016 at 23:57
  • Where did your "actual numbers" of 2.7% reduction in demand come from?
    – Oddthinking
    Jun 5, 2016 at 0:00
  • Ahh, apologies. While I certainly couldn't help people avoid a paywall, I should explain that I got to that website by finding it via Google and there was no paywall. So if you were to theoretically want to read the article, you could find it via Googling a unique part of the URL - emissions-drop-signals-fall-in-carbon-tax-take The 2.7% figure is in the poorly paywalled article.
    – Scott
    Jun 5, 2016 at 22:19
  • 3
    There's a difference between "avoid a paywall" and "cite a relevant passage, in accordance with the Fair Use provisions of Copyright".
    – Oddthinking
    Jun 6, 2016 at 1:53

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