Improving energy efficiency in Australia’s built environment has long been hailed as the “low-hanging fruit” of greenhouse gas abatement.
At Green Cities ’09 in Brisbane this year, Federal Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, Peter Garrett told the audience that improving energy efficiency was the quickest and most cost effective way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. “If we’re serious about climate change, we must be serious about energy efficiency,” he said.
Now, Australia has a National Strategy on Energy Efficiency to accelerate energy efficiency efforts, streamline roles and responsibilities across levels of governments, and help households and businesses prepare for the introduction of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.
The new Strategy – which was released by the Council of Australian Governments and which makes essential reading for anyone in our industry – is framed around four key themes:
- Assisting households and businesses to transition to a low-carbon future
- Reducing impediments to the uptake of energy efficiency
- Making buildings more energy efficient
- Government working in partnership and leading the way
The Strategy recognises the need for new skills and knowledge requirements to ensure our transition to a low-carbon future, and calls for education and advice to ensure Australians have access to clear, consistent and credible information on energy efficient products and services. The Green Building Council of Australia certainly intends to work closely with government to support this drive to boost skills and promote energy efficiency technologies and measures in the built environment.
Most pertinent to our industry, the Strategy lays the foundation for a transformation of Australia’s building stock. Recognising that commercial and residential buildings are responsible for as much as 23 per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, the Strategy outlines a combination of measures addressing both new building design and construction and existing building stock.
New buildings will be designed and constructed according to increasingly stringent energy efficiency standards – and major renovations will be subject to the same standards.
Cost-effective voluntary action is also identified as a means of raising the energy efficiency of existing building stock. New mandatory disclosure provisions will arm consumers and businesses with more information about the energy efficiency of the buildings they seek to buy or lease – which will encourage a further uptake of green building activity around Australia.
Governments will also be required to outline a clear process and timetable for periodic review of energy efficiency standards. This will not only ensure energy efficiency standards are increased over time, but will also give industry greater confidence to innovate and develop affordable solutions to improve building energy efficiency. The Strategy specifically mentions that residential buildings with energy efficiency ratings of six, seven and eight star buildings (which we assume means NatHERS), will become the norm in Australia, not the exception.
The GBCA is supportive of the new Strategy, and will work closely with governments around Australia to deploy the expertise and capacity we’ve already created to impel the green building movement forward.
The National Strategy for Energy Efficiency can be downloaded from the GBCA’s website.
Romilly Madew is Chief Executive, Green Building Council of Australia