29 March 2010 – From The Sydney Morning Herald, by Paddy Manning (with a mention for The Fifth Estate) – Newsflash: bright idea fades in Canberra. Put differently, it seems likely that the best way to make the most cost-effective cuts to Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions has absolutely no political support here … outside the Greens.

A maddening thought. The truth is probably a bit more complicated.

Improving energy efficiency in non-residential buildings consistently tops the famous McKinsey cost curve, which ranks carbon abatement opportunities from lowest to highest cost per tonne of carbon dioxide or its equivalent (CO2e) avoided, assuming use of commercially available technology.

Last week ClimateWorks, a think tank, published its Low Carbon Growth Plan, which concluded we could cut emissions by 25 per cent by 2020, from 2000 levels, at the relatively small cost of $185 per head a year.

The most cost-effective abatement opportunity of all, according to ClimateWorks, is retrofitting to reduce energy waste in existing non-residential buildings – not just office blocks but shopping centres, warehouses, hotels, restaurants and public buildings like schools and hospitals (manufacturing and industrial facilities are separate).

That means rationalising – downsizing, turning off, getting rid of – unnecessary equipment. For example, Anna Skarbek of ClimateWorks says shops often have too much lighting and energy audits show the same brightness could be achieved with fewer lights, oriented differently. The retail sector could save 10 per cent of its lighting costs, according to the study. Another example: small businesses often have bigger hot water heaters than they need.

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