Victoria could be one step closer to mandatory residential energy efficiency ratings, after extremely poor results were returned from a trial of a Residential Efficiency Scorecard designed for Victorian homes.
The scorecard, to be launched into the market later this year, found that of 45 houses assessed during a three-month trial, average energy efficiency rating was three NatHERS stars out of a possible 10.
Results showed 85 per cent of homes were uncomfortable in hot weather, and 55 per cent could be improved by installing external blinds and sealing cracks and gaps.
The assessments showed that for most homes – 78 per cent – the largest energy cost was for heating, followed by hot water, which was the biggest cost for 22 per cent of households.
A report on the trial said that 65 per cent of homes could save money on power bills by improving the efficiency of heating and sealing up gaps.
It said that many of these upgrades were covered by the Victorian Energy Efficiency Target scheme, which allowed householders to buy them at a discounted price.
The new cloud-based scorecard would allow information on fixed features of a house to be entered to generate an overall star rating and certificate. Items assessed will include heaters, airconditioners, hot water systems, wall and floor materials, insulation, windows and solar power systems.
The certificate will break down how much energy is being used on heating, cooling, lighting, hot water, pools and spas, plus what proportion of energy is renewable if solar panels have been installed.
It includes a hot weather efficiency score that rates whether the home will stay comfortable during hot weather, and provides specific advice for the householder on how they could change their home to make it more energy efficient to help save on energy bills.
It needs to be mandatory
Consultant Bruce Easton of EcoVantage said that the tool was a step along the way to mandatory disclosure, but without mandatory disclosure it “won’t do anything” in terms of major changes in the residential sector.
He said there are also options for the tool to be used in a way that verifies the results of a NatHERS assessment.
Nick Roberts, campaigns director for Environment Victoria, which is part of the stakeholder discussions on the scorecard, said that though the moves were a “step in the right direction” the scorecard was still a voluntary rating system at this stage.
He said a new star system the government is developing in conjunction with the scorecard was welcomed, as it will increase the scale to 10 stars.
“They are raising the bar,” he said.
He said that for the new scorecard to work and improve overall performance of Victorian houses, it needed to be applied across all levels of the property market, including rental properties.
As a voluntary rating it was most likely to only be used by people buying or selling property who have energy efficiency high on their personal agenda.
“A thing like this doesn’t develop [traction] unless a market mechanism backs it up,” Mr Roberts said. “For this to be effective [in saving energy], it needs to be mandatory.”
In the UK residential ratings have resulted in properties with good ratings commanding higher prices, he said.
The rental market in Victoria, he said, had no incentive for landlords to get properties rated, and no incentive for tenants.Nor is there an incentive for either party to undertake upgrade activities.
EV and other members of the One Million Homes Alliance, have been advocating for mandatory residential energy ratings, and were involved in the stakeholder discussions during the tool’s development.
Mr Roberts said the pilot’s findings show how poorly designed Victorian homes were in terms of coping with the climate as it is currently, never mind under the projected temperature increase scenarios.
“By any standard, Victoria’s houses in terms of energy efficiency and thermal performance are not suited to the extremes we get.”
He said that research showed poor performance in winter was a major public health issue. The Lancet has reported research showing more people die from cold-related illnesses in Australia’s south eastern states than in certain countries in Northern Europe where build standards are higher.
It would also be useful to know, he said, how many of the houses had been assessed as five star or six star by First Rate or other construction-stage tools, but found to be under-performing once occupied.
Mr Roberts said many of the issues around energy use and thermal performance across Victoria’s housing stock could be fixed “relatively easily” by increasing building standards for new dwellings and the government undertaking a wide ranging retrofit program, particularly assisting low income households.
He said this would have multiple benefits, including improving public health, reducing energy use, improving comfort levels and also creating jobs for people delivering retrofit activities.
Taking homes rating at two or three stars to five star, he said, would be a start.