Action needed to improve energy literacy: report

Tuesday, 28 May, 2019

Action needed to improve energy literacy: report

A report released by National Energy Resources Australia (NERA) is calling for a nationally coordinated effort to enhance Australia’s energy knowledge, which it states has not improved over the last 10 years.

Confusion around key energy issues continues at a societal level with concern about energy pricing, reliability and renewable versus non-renewable generation, masking a deeper misunderstanding about the sources of power generation, grid electrification and pathways to a low-emissions future.

NERA commissioned The University of Queensland to produce the ‘Building Australia’s Energy Literacy’ report, which provides an independent definition of energy literacy and offers recommendations to coordinate under a national framework what is currently a fragmented landscape driven by sectoral agendas.

UQ Chair in Sustainable Energy Futures Professor Peta Ashworth, who led the research team, found that energy literacy needs to include a combination of cognitive (knowledge and skills), affective (attitudes, values, personal responsibility) and behaviour. 

The report defines an energy-literate person as ‘someone with the appropriate level of knowledge which empowers them to make informed, rational energy decisions and actions which have a positive outcome for the individual and ultimately society at large’.

Ashworth said, “I have been working in this area for many years now and, despite the growing interest in energy as prices have risen, combined with the need to mitigate carbon emissions, there has been little change in overall energy literacy levels. The challenge is around building understanding of how to manage the transition to a sustainable low-carbon society.

“Most efforts to build energy literacy internationally has occurred at the school level. While this is not surprising and remains important, it is not a one-size-fits-all approach that is required. We need to work together to fill the gaps to ensure individuals and groups have access to the information they need, in the format they would like, at the times they need it, to help raise literacy levels more broadly.”

NERA CEO Miranda Taylor said poor energy literacy represents a risk for Australia’s energy future, especially if left unaddressed.

“We know that informed communities and empowered consumers are key to Australia’s successful transition to a low-carbon future. However, more needs to be done both to fully understand the concerns of the community and to respond with information that engages and educates. The building of community and stakeholder trust — and maintenance of a social licence — is a complex and multifaceted challenge requiring collaboration and action by all parties in the national energy debate,” she said.

One of the key recommendations of the Building Australia’s Energy Literacy report is a national workshop to bring together a range of stakeholders who deliver activities that relate to building energy literacy. The workshop would aim to coordinate the current offerings into a more coherent story, develop an Australian Energy Literacy Steering Committee and identify the gaps in energy information.

To view the full report, click here.

Image credit: © lougassi

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