The global market for smart energy products and services is currently worth more than $290 billion annually, and it’s growing rapidly. Just one per cent of this market would inject billions of dollars into Australia’s economy and create thousands of jobs.

Energy efficiency is critical to the security and affordability of our energy systems as we transition to new forms of generation. Energy efficiency can also deliver huge amounts of capacity and more than half of Australia’s 2030 carbon reduction target.

But speaking at the 2016 National Energy Efficiency Conference recently, Dr Brian Motherway, head of the Energy Efficiency Division at the International Energy Agency, said the way we frame energy efficiency has shifted.

Where once it was about saving the planet, it has now become about how we can save money.

When the average Australian household spends more than $2,000 a year on gas and electricity, it’s easy to see why the economics have become a focus.

And yet, energy efficiency lies at the heart of many political and social objectives – productivity, profitability, health, climate change mitigation and competitiveness among them.

As Motherway said: “It doesn’t matter what the focus, as long as there is a focus.”

Momentum is growing. Australia has now ratified the Paris Agreement, and all major parties in Australia have set targets to improve our energy productivity by between 40 and 100 per cent by 2030.

However, we will fall well short of these targets unless we take steps to reform our energy markets and improve Australia’s energy efficiency policies.

It’s time to lift our game.

The NSW Government’s energy strategy is a good start. This bold plan has big ambitions: aiming to save NSW households and business around $17 billion on their energy bills by 2050. NSW Minister for the Environment Mark Speakman has flagged his government’s intention to build “a green services hub for the Asia-pacific region.”

Despite bright spots around the country, Australia remains a long way behind our competitors in the US, Europe and China. Consider the fact that last year, China saved more energy than Japan consumed.

It’s worth highlighting just part of China’s energy efficiency market – energy service companies (or ESCOs). In China, this specialist sector has grown rapidly over the last 15 years, and today it employs more than half a million people. It is valued at nearly $17 billion Australian dollars each year – and it is growing rapidly.

China’s ESCO market is larger than the rest of the world’s put together. This demand represents a huge opportunity for Australia – and one the Energy Efficiency Council is committed to realising.