Five more subs, just save some energy

Hello Mr Turnbull, Hello, ScoMo, Hello Greg Hunt.

Here, listen to this: Australia could buy another four submarines and put a big chunk of a down payment on another one at the going rate of $4.16 billion each if it simply flicked the switch to energy efficiency on the built environment.

Comment: Hello Mr Turnbull, Hello, ScoMo, Hello Greg Hunt.

Here, listen to this: Australia could buy another four submarines and put a big chunk of a down payment on another one at the going rate of $4.16 billion each if it simply flicked the switch to energy efficiency on the built environment.

Say what?

That’s right, just one little bit of effort and you could save a cool $20 billion in just over 10 years and really tickle the fancy of the South Australians, Christopher Pyne and those French naval types*.

As the nation digest the blancmange budget (blanmange was traditionally reserved for the sick, but we won’t go there) and readies for election battle, the property industry is again trying to wave down some attention.

And wondering what it will take for this government to finally realise the built environment is a productivity centre, not a cost centre – an investment, long term (“jobs and growth” “jobs and growth”!) with all sorts of lovely economic/employment spinoffs. And a way to quite cheaply meet our carbon reduction commitments.

We know the government gets it. Of course they do. They are intelligent Rhodes scholars, or equivalent, all. What they are afraid of is the marginal seats. (See News from the Front Desk Issue 290) Earlier this week we brought bleak news that even our latest goody two-shoes premier, Daniel Andrews in Victoria, is worried about the marginal seats or must be since he’s reneged on bringing back the Greener Government Buildings Program. (Sad how the mighty are so foiled by the tiny).

But there is hope for Prem Andrews as there is hope for the Feds (or their equivalents) who could be simply waiting for the dust to settle and the dead wood to be trimmed come 2 July, because the plan that’s been cooked up the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council – that is by the property industry’s own coalition of the willing – looks pretty logical, practical and lucrative, not to mention climate friendly, judging by the bits that we’ve managed to get a glimpse of ahead of its official release, expected soon.

The Low Carbon High Performance report has certainly soaked up a big chunk of the industry’s time and physical energy. The work has been headed by Ken Morrison, chief executive of the Property Council of Australia, as chair of ABCEC’s Efficiency and Emissions Task Group, strongly backed by the Green Building Council, whose executive director market transformation Jorge Chappa is deputy chair of the task group.

On pure economic terms what we’ve seen is a productivity story. Surely the Productivity Commission would love it.

The government should love it. Better still the focus, we understand, is on the Feds taking a co-ordinating role rather than one of major funding. That is  in getting the states and territories onto the same page.

That should not be as hard as it sounds because if anyone gets the energy picture, they do.

NSW already has a program based on energy efficiency upgrades for its government owned buildings, which it’s borrowed, ironically, from Victoria’s GGB.

So what are the specifics? Among details we’ve managed to glean so far the most exciting is in decent mandatory minimum building energy performance standards.  So not the kind of bottom trawling standards that “eliminate worst practice” but something meaningful.

There are a few other good ideas, some are no brainers. Concessions for high performing buildings is one measure. (Does this mean the industry will stop complaining about voluntary planning agreements which provides benefits to the developer in return for environmental or community outcomes?) Others include green depreciation, stamp duty concessions and differential stamp duty rates for better outcomes.

The ERF of course has been consigned to the scrap heap by everyone except those few with their hands out, and rightly so.

The focus instead, ASBEC will say, should be on the mid-tier market, owned by those elusive hard to motivate landlords who prefer to reap the capital gains of their buildings while sitting on their hands and letting the tenants pay for exorbitant energy bills.

Other complementary ideas include energy market reform, an independent Ombudsman to deal with electricity pricing issues and steering better access to the network, better data disclosure and education and training.

Of course the built environment again played Cinderella without the ballgown at this year’s budget, but with any luck it can look past this minor setback and cobble together a bit of magic fairy dust to spin a web that the Feds will buy. They tend to like that kind of thing.

*The extra subs will be really handy for keeping away refugees, who will probably be the only invaders who won’t be able to afford underwater drones and sophisticated whizz bang sonar by the time the subs are finished.