NSW Environment minister Robyn Parker has shown “real leadership” with the Energy Efficiency Action Plan.

19 August 2013 — The NSW government has set strong and ambitious NABERS targets for commercial buildings as part of a raft of policies designed to deliver energy savings of around $5.2 billion for the state and inject confidence in the green building sector.

The new Energy Efficiency Action Plan, announced on Friday, will also put downward pressure on the cost of living for households and increase productivity for business, according to the NSW government.

The plan includes targets to:

  • deliver building retrofit programs so 50 per cent of NSW commercial floor space achieves a 4-star NABERS energy and water rating by 2020
  • realise annual energy savings of 16,000 gigawatt-hours by 2020
  • support 220,000 low income households to reduce energy use by up to 20 per cent by 2014

“There is increasing interest in energy efficiency across the community, but barriers that prevent the uptake of energy efficiency remain,” the plan report stated.

“The plan will provide the right structures, tools and incentives for product and service providers to help NSW households, business and government use energy more efficiently.”

It said that improving minimum energy efficiency standards for appliances and buildings was the most effective way of improving energy efficiency and protecting consumers.

“Our research found that energy efficiency could cost-effectively avoid 28 per cent of NSW’s energy use,” said Environment minister Robyn Parker. “Assessment of more than 160,000 low-income households and 17,000 small to medium businesses found $5.2 billion could be saved annually.”

The NSW government said it would “lead by example” and become an energy-efficient government by:

  • increasing energy efficient office leases taken up by government
  • driving savings by key government agencies through a Government Resource Efficiency Policy
  • supporting agencies with a specialist team to help identify and implement projects
  • establishing a pre-qualified tender panel to streamline procurement
  • improving the accessibility of finance for government energy efficiency projects
  • making government energy usage and energy efficiency data accessible

“We’ll drive energy efficiency projects at key government service sites, including hospitals, schools and emergency service centres, over the next four years to save around $27 million a year,” said Ms Parker.

“It will be easier for hospitals and other key government services to access the NSW Government’s Treasury Loan Fund to pay for energy efficiency upgrades.

“Under the plan, every government department will pursue large-scale energy efficiency projects with a payback period of less than six years.”

The government would help business to become more efficient by:

  • increasing upfront Energy Savings Scheme incentives and require savings to be verified
  • streamlining energy efficiency projects with Energy Savings Scheme tools and business-case guides
  • accelerating the uptake of energy efficiency in priority sectors and technologies
  • offering hands-on training for site managers to help them apply best practice maintenance plans
  • providing energy efficiency basics training and information resources to general business advisors
  • standardising financial contracts for energy efficiency projects
  • building a digital platform to enable businesses to share data on energy savings

Homes would be helped by:

  • providing access to the Energy Savings Scheme for innovative behaviour change programs
  • enabling the Energy Savings Scheme to support tradespeople to retrofit homes
  • streamlining access to the Energy Savings Scheme for appliance retailers selling high-efficiency appliances
  • completing the Home Power Savings Program to support 40,000 more low income households save on bills
  • identifying opportunities for improved access to energy efficiency for low income households
  • investigating voluntary ratings to help energy efficient homes stand out
  • exploring measures to make finance for residential energy efficiency more affordable and accessible
  • sharing information, data and tools with households and their service providers through a digital platform.

The plan noted that Environmental Upgrade Agreements could potentially be applied to multi-unit residential buildings, and that they would investigate this possibility further.

The Energy Efficiency Council welcomed the release of the plan, commending NSW Environment minister Robyn Parker for showing “real leadership”.

“The Energy Efficiency Action Plan will help families and businesses that are doing it tough,” said EEC chief executive Rob Murray-Leach. “Over the last five years the cost of energy rose much faster than wages. Helping households and businesses save energy will lower their bills and boost competitiveness.

“Stopping agencies from wasting energy will save taxpayers millions of dollars and lower the cost of energy for everyone.

“We’d like to see the government work on the details on the budget behind the plan, but as a direction-setting plan this gets a big tick.”

The council called on the federal government to learn from NSW and announce a national energy efficiency scheme.

The Green Building Council of Australia said that just by improving the energy efficiency of the federal government’s building portfolio, they could save more than $35 million a year in energy costs.

“A modest 10 per cent improvement in energy efficiency would save more than $35 million per year in electricity costs and be equivalent to the electricity required to power 23,000 homes,” said GBCA chief operating officer Robin Mellon.

See the full plan.