With a focus on energy use during summer, our CSIRO Energise citizen scientists can tell us a lot about how we can manage our national energy needs sustainably.

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.

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 survey showed that two-thirds of our CSIRO Energise citizen scientists have experienced increases in their energy bills over the past few 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:

  • what is driving those massive and sudden peaks in electricity usage?
  • how do extreme temperatures affect everyday households?
  • what can we do to best make our homes more comfortable? and, ultimately,
  • how can we make summer affordable and more comfortable, while reducing the stress on our energy networks?

Energy citizen scientists

We think the best way to learn how people use energy is simply to ask, so we’ve done that through our CSIRO Energise app over summer. The app allowed our researchers to look at what was happening in your energy world, 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.

In the 2018/2019 summer, hundreds of people downloaded the CSIRO Energise mobile app, and as citizen scientists, took part in our Summer Energy Study. People have told us about how you use energy, what it means to you, and where summer is hitting you the hardest.

Now that the first Energise app experiment has finished, we’re looking at the data. The data we’ve collected will help us explore a range of challenges and opportunities facing the energy sector. The ultimate goal? A more reliable, sustainable and affordable energy future for all Australians.

As we learn more, our researchers will be telling you about their discoveries by providing some of the overall results on the NEAR (National Energy Analytics Research) Program. 


  1. Jill, good idea, but I’m not sure modern air conditioners are inductive. Anything with an “Inverter” in it is a rectifier, capacitors, and nasty spikes of oscillation on top of that – non linear, nasty harmonics, et c.

  2. I don’t have a mobile phone.

  3. I also don’t have apps but would like to be part of the survey. How do I?

    1. Hi Shirlene,
      Thanks for your interest! Unfortunately, CSIRO Energise is only available on mobile phones.
      Eliza – social media team

  4. If you compare the power factor of the load on a normal day, with the load on an exceptionally hot day, you should see the load becoming increasingly inductive due to air conditioner motors, fans and other inductive devices. Couple that with the time of day (cooking etc) you might assume that it’s air conditioning superimposed on a normal day. But on exceptionally hot days, the street wiring also heats up, making it slightly more resistive. This, coupled with the extra load, drops the voltage a little at the household, making the household equipment run less efficiently. If the power factor is not corrected, the current drawn may cause problems at the generators and switchgear upstream.

  5. I do not have a smart phone
    so I am unable to be part of this study
    as it is for low income people maybe it should also have other ways to do this study

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