Tina Perinotto
23 July 2010
– Opposition Leader Tony Abbott this week said he would scrap the Green Building Fund and cut back on other green initiatives if he was elected. Green groups were predictably unimpressed but in the property industry there are hopes that incentives for greening existing buildings will grow rather than face the axe. Regardless of who won the election.

For instance, pointed out Property Council chief executive officer Peter Verwer, the Opposition might want to drop the Green Building Fund, but it supported accelerated depreciation, and the Federal Government had already announced $85 million Carbon Trust, which would replace the GBF with low interest non-recourse loans.

Besides, the Green Building Fund had virtually run its course now – having distributed more than $70 million in grants in specific projects to improve building energy performance.

Mr Verwer said the Carbon Trust was “looking to take up where the green building fund left off,” and an added benefit was that it would be for “industrial and retail not just offices.”

Both major parties were expected to have incentives for greening existing buildings.

An important position by the Coalition, he said, was its support for accelerated depreciation to retrofit green buildings –  a policy firmly rejected by Labor.

Mr Verwer said Treasury’s well known dislike of the accelerated depreciation was no reason to think the scheme would not be approved, even in a Labor Government in the future. The economy and tax scene had several schemes and incentives that Treasury had vigorously opposed, he said.

The Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council would soon release an update on accelerated depreciation that “would answer all the critics.”

But a mix of methods – grants, loans, and tax incentives – was best, and in line with practices in many other countries, he said.

Coming soon, too, he said would be white certificates.

These generally comprise part of a mechanism that would require energy retailers to produce evidence that they are stimulating energy cuts with their customers to earn their allotted points.

Mr Verwer said these would create significant energy savings incentives for the built environment, but it was not clear which version of such a scheme would be adopted.

However, he did not expect the scheme would include tradeable certificates.

Executive director of the Australian Alliance to Save Energy Mark Lister also did not expect the certificates would be tradeable. “What’s the point?” he asked, after speaking on the panel at this week’s Green Capital forum organised by the Total Environment Centre. It would simply create another complex market, he said.

Mr Lister explained that the certificates could be generated by the energy retailer purchasing white or energy saving certificates created by, say, energy efficient lighting or solar panels,  or by directly selling energy efficient products, either directly or indirectly through a third party.

“It‘s a big opportunity for the built environment,” Mr Lister said.

“Before businesses would make a business case [for energy savings retrofits] based on energy saved or capital output, now they would get paid to put in place these measures.”

tperinotto@thefifthestate.com.au

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