Sweltering summers and scorching energy bills: Citizen scientists can help ease the sizzle

By Melina Gillespie

13 December 2018

3 minute read

Close up of powerlines with a sunset behind them

As we slide into summer, we’re already experiencing scorching temperatures in many areas across the country. The nation has experienced a warmer-than-average November and a number of extreme weather events, such as the recent heatwave in tropical Queensland. Nationally, maximum, minimum and mean temperatures were all above average.

Making decisions on energy use

It’s perhaps to be expected then, that some Australian households will face stress as summer heats up, both in terms of the heat and rising electricity bills. When air conditioners, extra fridges and pool pumps are in heavy use, some households are faced with tough decisions about how they balance their comfort with potential impacts on the environment and energy costs.

A recent survey showed that two-thirds of our CSIRO Energise citizen scientists have experienced increases in their energy bills over the past two years. That is bound to change the way we use energy, but what do those changes look like when the comfort, and even the health, of your family is at stake?

To complicate things further, super-hot summer days can place Australia’s electricity grid under immense strain. We can go from needing a constant dribble of energy, to a sudden demand for massive amounts of power. These spikes in demand can impact our energy systems, and that can edge us ever closer to the lights going out.

Collating energy-use data

So what can be done? That’s exactly the question we’re looking to answer.

Surprisingly little is known about the way Australians think, choose and act on peak summer days, and how their homes, bills, comfort and technology options affect those in-the-moment energy decisions. More importantly, the real, practical pathway to lowering energy bills, reducing our risk of blackout, and maximising our wellbeing, comfort and health remain elusive.

So we are conducting a study into how Australian households engage with energy on the hottest days of the year. The study will help us answer things like:

Energy citizen scientists

We think the best way to learn how people use energy is simply to ask, so we’re doing just that through our CSIRO Energise app over summer. The app lets you tell our researchers what is happening in your energy world, just as things are heating up. That input will help us gain deeper insights into how Australians manage their energy on the hottest days of the year, and will directly inform our research into how to unlock a more sustainable and manageable summer of energy for everyone.

To take part, download the free CSIRO Energise mobile app and join citizen scientists from across Australia in our Summer Energy Study. By jumping on board, you can tell us about how you use energy, what it means to you, and where summer is hitting you the hardest.

Then, as we learn more, our researchers will be telling you about their discoveries through the CSIRO Energise app and providing some of the overall results on their energy use modelling website.