The Victorian government, if re-elected, wants to replace the subsidised Victorian Energy Efficiency Target with a voluntary home rating scheme called My Star.

However,  environment groups say the proposal is seriously flawed and disadvantages low income people. They say 1.9 million homes in Victoria have a NatHERS ratings of two stars or less, with poor housing sometimes impossible to cool, and point to a  report by Victoria’s Auditor General that found Victoria needed a comprehensive heatwave plan.

According to energy minister Russell Northe, government should “encourage people to make the right choices for themselves, not subsidise activities and drive up energy prices in the process”.

“That is why we are currently piloting the voluntary My Star Energy Rating Scheme that helps households identify the most cost effective ways to save on their energy bills and make their homes more comfortable,” Mr Northe said in a media statement. “The My Star Rating Scheme will also provide hundreds of job opportunities, particularly for many of the businesses currently participating in the VEET scheme.”

The program would provide house energy efficiency ratings provided by accredited assessors and be based on a 10-star scale.

A spokeswoman for Mr Northe told The Fifth Estate the program was currently in pilot “in and around Melbourne on a variety of homes including apartments”.

She said the availability of a star scorecard could promote voluntary action to improve household energy performance, with the greatest driver for participation being the desire to reduce bills, and to be competitive in the property market when selling or leasing a house.

“The star scorecard will deliver a valid 10 star energy rating which estimates the average cost of energy for key features of a house, including a rating of performance in hot weather,” she said. “The star scorecard will include suggestions for a range of improvements that householders can undertake to increase their home’s star energy rating.”

The scheme is voluntary, and besides providing the accreditation framework for assessors, the government isn’t providing any financial incentives for upgrades.

“The scheme will be a user pays scheme to avoid the cross-subsidisation of non-participants that occurs under the VEET scheme,” she said. “The cost will be determined by the market.”

The spokeswoman for Mr Northe said consultation with industry had yet to occur.

“However if re-elected the Victorian Coalition Government will undertake a consultation with stakeholders before rolling out the full scheme statewide,” she said. “It is anticipated these peak bodies may include the Property Council of Australia, the Real Estate Institute of Victoria, the Master Builders Association of Victoria, the Housing Industry Association, the Association of Building Sustainability Assessors, Building Designers Association of Victoria, Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council, Consumer Utilities Advocacy Centre, Consumer Action Law Centre, Environment Victoria and Victorian Council of Social Services and Energy Safe Victoria.”

Environment group unimpressed

When the government first came to power in 2010, it had an election promise to raise existing household energy efficiency to five stars.

Anne Martinelli, One Million Homes campaign coordinator for Environment Victoria, said this hadn’t happened, and the My Star program would do little to progress energy efficiency and do nothing at all to address the barriers low income households had in getting more energy efficient housing – namely upfront cost hurdles.

“Unless you’re doing something that tackles these barriers, low income households won’t see a lot of value,” Ms Martinelli told The Fifth Estate.

“The rating tool is really just sticking with the age old easy model of saying, ‘Here’s some information; do with it what you will.’ It fails to understand it’s not just a lack of information. It’s really practical hurdles that people face around not being to afford those upfront costs.”

She said there were 1.9 million homes in Victoria that had NatHERS ratings of two stars or less, and a high proportion were low income households, who tended to live in the poorest quality housing.

Not only were these households spending money on electricity unnecessarily, but it was also becoming a health issue, with poor housing sometimes impossible to cool, and with Victoria’s increasing heatwave deaths, measures were needed to protect the vulnerable.

A recent report by Victoria’s Auditor General found that Victoria needed a comprehensive heatwave plan. Environment Victoria thinks this plan needs to include a way to raise housing thermal performance.

“These houses are not providing adequate shelter,” Ms Martinelli said.

The time had come, she said, to see energy efficiency and thermal performance as “no less important than having a landline” or sewerage, and people needed to start talking about minimum standards in the existing housing market.

“[Energy efficiency] was not an issue in the past,” she said. “It is now. It’s now reasonable to say houses need to have reasonable energy efficiency.”

Environment Victoria’s One Million Homes plan calls for extensive retrofits of the existing housing stock, with subsidies for those on low incomes, as well as minimum standards at point of sale or lease.

Success of ACT’s disclosure scheme

Disclosure of energy efficiency schemes can push forward energy efficiency, as the ACT’s mandatory Energy Efficiency Rating scheme has shown, which incorporates existing properties.

A review of the EER conducted a few years ago found it provided multiple benefits.

For property owners, a one star improvement translated to a three per cent increase in market value, the review found, meaning cheap energy efficiency upgrades could realise big increases in value.

For consumers, disclosure of EER helped inform decisions on house purchase or lease, as better EER has reduced operational energy costs and greater thermal comfort.

For the real estate industry, a more efficient market was created through the mandatory scheme, because all players had information about property energy efficiency, leading to more accurate property valuations.

And for the building industry, the report said mandatory disclosure encouraged new residential buildings to be created above minimum energy performance requirements.

Whether a voluntary system can see these benefits realised is another question.

Ms Martinelli said that Environment Victoria supported a mandatory scheme but that it still excluded those with little market power, like renters in low vacancy markets, where there was little choice.

Cecille Weldon, head of sustainability at LJ Hooker, told The Fifth Estate in an article on the company’s Liveability rating scheme that LJ Hooker supported a national mandatory disclosure program, and that the piecemeal approach of states was not effective.

Economist Dr Veronika Nemes from the University of Melbourne, however, is sceptical that a voluntary or even mandatory rating system is the best solution. There was, she said, already a voluntary market available. Home owners can, if they choose, already use private services to get a home energy rating for around $300-500.

That not many people were opting for this before making such a big purchase as a house was an indication that home energy efficiency is currently not a major consideration for most consumers, in contrast to things like location, Dr Nemes said.

“And if the government were to lower the cost of assessment, it would be shifting cost from private homeowners or landlords to the taxpayer.”

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  1. The My Star System won’t work and I agree with Anne that this proposed scheme won’t progress energy efficiency. Just like the failed Green Loans program, this scheme will attract unqualified assessors who will do more damage than good. And no doubt like the green loans, hundreds will end up sitting a half day test to get the “qualification” and hence it becomes another cowboy scheme just like the insulation scheme and in Victoria, the VEET scheme. Maybe less so though if people need to pay for the service.

    If a voluntary system came into play, then why not use the existing software used for mandatory energy ratings for new homes. as happens in Canberra. There are already qualified and accredited energy raters out there, training courses already exist, and the software already exists. Why reinvent the wheel. Like the proposed My Star System, software like FirstRate 5 will give the house a star rating but what are the chances a seller or buyer will act on that rating and make it more efficient. The star rating mainly applies to the building envelope but would also need to include the fixed items that go with the house from owner to owner – heating/cooling systems, swimming pools, etc. But if an existing home came with a 5 star rating, how efficient things become will all depend on the occupants of the home. And behaviour is also a major player. You can have a 5 star home with 1 star occupants and vice versa.

    I don’t agree with you Bubbles on the VEET scheme. VEET is a take the money and run scheme because that is what most activity in VEET involves – install the cheapest stuff available in order to maximize the return to the installing business who make squillions and then vanish. Offering “FREE” will never work and simply attracts cowboys – as we saw in the Green Loans and the insulation schemes. As an example, the Standby Power Savers (SPCs) was the biggest rort in the entire program – there are more sitting in the kitchen drawer or thrown in the bin than are actually in use. And chimney balloons being installed dropping out a few days later, cheap showerheads being removed as they fall apart or rust, and bottom door draught seals which are rarely fitted correctly and a total waste of time as the rest of the door frame is not sealed. How can this work when you have backpackers going around installing things?

    Any “energy efficient scheme” should involve a qualified independent energy auditor who can maintain an ongoing relationship with the customer to assist and manage their energy consumption. The government could offer rebates on certain energy efficient products but only those qualified in an audit. To reduce cowboys the home owner would undertake efficiency measures they pay for and then apply for a rebate should it be available.

    Any scheme definitely needs to address low income households who are often high energy users, as well as those renting. This would have to involve some sort of incentive whatever that may be to get any substantial uptake.

    Graeme – can you advise what insulation you should retrofit into an older house that currently has very inconsistent loose-fill insulation. Are you saying that putting R3.5 batts in this house is not a good thing because of human behaviour?

    Thick insulation does work and its a no brainer although there is not much cost benefit installing insulation with values above R4.0 as a retrofit. Ideally we could place foil under the roof but this is never going to be done to an existing house without roof tile/tin removal. The home owner has to be taught how to use the home to minimize over heating in the summer time – using external blinds, draught sealing, making use of cross breezes but it doesn’t matter how well insulated or uninsulated your home is after 5 days of hot weather, the house will heat up.

    Having said this I agree that any insulation install whether it be to existing stock as retrofit or to new homes must be inspected independently. Even now with insulation companies that have been operating for years, insulation hasn’t been installed correctly. As for downlights, I won’t even go into that, or the fact that new builds should have a more involved building inspection like overseas (ie, insulaton, air leakage, etc).

  2. A CSIRO report submitted as part of International Powers VCAT apeal to extend the Hazelwood coal mine and continue the operation of the Hazelwood powerstation from 2011 until 2034 predicted a saving of 85 million tonnes of CO2 emissions if interstate black coal generated power was used in Victoria instead. Compare this with the original intention of Victoria’s 5 Star energy rating system of saving 600,000 tonnes over 5 years. Hazelwood’s emission output over 5 years exceeded the savings proposed for Greenstar by a factor 0f 35.4.
    In terms of actual emissions savings it would be best for Victoria to close its brown coal fired generating system and import electricity from interstate. Unfortunately the system has been sold by the government and such an action would be perceived as unacceptable sovereign risk for business in Victoria.
    It may also seem slightly bizarre but the CSIRO concluded that the continued operation of the Hazelwood plant until 2031 would have a very small impact on either the local or global climate.

  3. Well the residential market definitely needs to start thinking about energy efficiency in Australia. More than just PV is required. Using the NatHERS 0-10 star system would not require reinventing the wheel as it is already used for all new properties. I’d like to see all properties being sold or rented with a star rating included in all adverts. This is what they have been doing in Europe for years. As per the Canberra example, this measure would help justify the cost of adding sustainability measures both in new buildings and for renovations.

  4. Brad I agree with your comments, I trust I can join the discussion with a colleague of mine also. However there is a bigger “picture” to the sad saga of attaining energy efficiency, especially for older homes as much as new ones.

    Below is part of the introduction of a communication with Minister Northe, with comments below this, that sum up a very concerning problem of the My Star Scheme which will continue on no matter what political party is in power

    Minister Northe…………

    The Victorian Government wants to be seen as caring, governing for the people, the implications of the My Star Scheme I believe, are that this scheme will not benefit the public.

    The My Star Scheme will further benefit the vested interests, more so the insulation industry, with complete disregard for truth in labelling, and Occupational, Health and Safety of workers entering a roof space in pursuit of their occupation. I would conclude also, from my investigations, the contempt of the Victorian Electrical Safety Office, Energy Safe, for the lack of true work place safety practices to protect workers.

    I believe I was the only person with no vested interests, unpaid, to represent the public interest during the Royal Commission Home Insulation Program.

    My input into insulation issues and work place safety from concerns of gross failure of electrical work place practices were highlighted by the Royal Commissioner Mr Hangar, where he thanked me personally in his 27 million dollar report.

    5.2.16 Mr Doreian, a building energy consultant, took an active interest in the proceedings of their Commission Page 45

    9.4.31 Mr Doreian took such a serious and active interest in the whole of the work of the Commission Page 208

    Therefore, Minister and staff, I suggest my correspondence will be addressed swiftly with an email reply.


    The Victorian Government has a duty of care to wait replacing the VEET Scheme with another renamed scheme which almost mimics the outgoing VEET Scheme.

    Before the Victorian Government implement their My Star Scheme they must wait until the directions and findings from the 27 million dollar Royal Commission report into the failed Home Insulation Program are enacted on by the Federal Government in their reply to this report.

    Then, see what issues the Federal Government are going to address, in what time period which will affect the way energy efficiency issues are going to be considered and interact using the My Star Scheme.

    Otherwise the mistakes from the failed pink batts scheme will “rise” again.

    Until the revision of Standards AS 3999 Installation of Insulations and the Wiring Rules AS/NZS 3000 are completed, introducing another scheme as the Victorian Government will fail.

    The proposed My Star Scheme will predominately be a revamped VEET scheme, or any other scheme of the a type similar in principle to the failed home insulation scheme, which was about insulating home ceilings, which the insulation industry have “touted” is the simplest way to achieve energy efficiency, just like the failed pink batts scheme was founded on.

    I have, with Tim R…… campaigned in the public interest where as the vested companies are not interested in the public only their profits promoting higher ‘R’ value, thicker insulation where no proven NET BENEFIT has been established.

    We provided the Victorian Government, see attached VEET SUBMISSION W…. INDUSTRIES – Doreian/R…. Aug 15, 2012 over recent years, thinking naively that T.. and I would be included in any meetings as stated in our submission to VEET, but we have been shut out. WHY?

    “A meeting is needed with all parties to discuss issues of energy efficiency. ” regarding the failure of insulation effectiveness in the roof in relation to poor installation practices and downlights, where 5% gaps decrease the ‘R’ value of insulation by 50% which is acknowledged by the National Construction Code, Australian Building Codes Board. The insulation companies to counter this problem increase the insulation thickness, the ‘R’ value, costing the consumer more money for no NET BENEFIT, in fact summer cooling costs are increased, using ‘R’ 3.5 ceiling insulation.

    Until these issues are addressed the marketing of insulation where thicker is better is a fraud and the Victorian Government will be seen as wasting public funds, where insulation forms part of the My Star Scheme.

    After giving on the stand evidence and providing 46 of the 206 e mails to the Royal Commission Home Insulation Program regarding the failure of the rating system, more so the insulation use, AND electrical issues in a roof space,


    Further, people are living in potential “electrical time bombs”, because stated under oath at the Royal Commission the electrical trade have failed to follow Wiring Rules Standards and the State Government Electrical Safety Offices, have not policed these rules for decades.

    Finally a CSIRO million dollar report, Dec 2013, has confirmed with the ever increasing use of bulk insulation R 3.5, people are living in “virtual” hot boxes.

    Assuming a person, an assessor, is going to be paid to give advice on making homes more energy efficient, maybe subsidised by the Victorian Government, there needs to be some basic ground rules made truthful as a result of the 27 million dollar Royal Commission report into the failed Home Insulation Program, before any new Government program is started.

    Otherwise, this new My Star Scheme is a further waste of Victorian taxpayers money.

    Victoria axes Energy Efficiency Target
    21 May 2014 Fifth Estate

    “The government said the program had become a burden and would be phased out in 2015, with a cost–benefit analysis showing it had delivered a net cost to the economy of $177.6 million. An analysis also found that greenhouse gas reduction from the program had only been eight million tonnes as of 31 December 2012, compared with expected cuts of 16.7 million tonnes”

    “The Victorian Council of Social Service said the move would most effect those on low incomes.
    “This decision will leave low-income families with fewer avenues for assistance to put in place efficiency measures to lower their energy bills,” VCOSS chief executive Emma King said.

    “Winter is a difficult time for thousands of low income Victorians, who face increasingly unaffordable heating bills but can’t afford the upfront cost of simple efficiency measures that would make their homes more comfortable to live in and cheaper to run.”

    If the Government had accepted a proposal submitted to VEET by G Doreian and T. R…, see attached VEET SUBMISSION W…. INDUSTRIES – Doreian/R…. Aug 15, 2012 for products to reduce greenhouse gases, and energy saving TWO years ago, then the targets would have been more achievable and people would have received benefits, REAL BENEFITS.


    Especially relevant for heating, because the insulation would be more efficient.

    I recently was part of a group that had a conducted tour through our local council Environmental energy saver house which showcased many energy saving products.

    The energy saver house advisor, part of the same concept of the Community education programs, and what the MY STAR ASSESSORS will advise the public in their homes, to my surprise AND disgust, told our group for winter and summer, the more insulation, the better. THIS IS A COMPLETE LIE. Read further on in this correspondence; WHY?

    See below confirmation of this statement from the Victorian Government, more so my underlining.

    The My Star scheme will allow households to investigate options to reduce their energy bill. Rated houses can be compared with each other, or compared before and after a renovation. My Star will provide a great new tool for renovators, and anyone who wants to keep their energy bills low or make their house more comfortable in hot and cold conditions.

    Participating in the My Star scheme will be optional and completely at the discretion of the householder.

    Once My Star commences, householders that desire to understand more about their home’s energy performance will be able to contact a trained assessor to arrange an assessment. The assessor will collect data during a site visit and issue the results on the spot.

    There needs to be an extensive inspection and report with many photos of the whole roof space and records kept by address, forwarded to the local council for storage and easy reference, meaning the Victorian Government will have to pay for this service also.

    Basically an audit of the Victorian housing stock, before Government and consumers pay any further money to improve their properties in whatever needs to be done after the audit.

    • for quality and physical condition if any of existing insulation what gaps there are because of poor installation.

    • any downlights installed, how many do have energy efficient covers, recommend LED light globes, and

    • the condition of the wiring and whether there is any unprotected cables/wires in contravention of the Wiring Rules Standards AS/NZS 3000

    • establish whether the home was insulated during the failed Home Insulation Program, and whether any inspection was done, irrespective the new inspection parameters must still be completed for safety reasons, and have the reports in the new data base, especially the condition of the wiring and whether it conforms to the Wiring Rules

    • Here is an example of what people need to be aware of when entering a roof space.

    Because the blog isn’t able to accept pictures, the commentary to the picture describes what the picture shows

    Picture below from ABC Four Corners, Apr 26, 2010 of Greg Hunt now Federal Minister for the Environment inspecting a roof space IN HIS ELECTORATE OF FLINDERS, VICTORIA, during the failed pink batts scheme.

    Under left hand, perfect example of protected cabling/wire, protected by a batten.

    Under right arm, near elbow , unprotected cabling in contravention of the Wiring Rules. Clause 3.9.1.

    o Under the right arm the copper pipe over the ceiling joist, this could be damaged by stepping on, kneeling or tripping when installing the insulation. Once insulation installed, especially now with 290mm insulation, pipe could be partly covered where someone could step or kneel on causing damage.

    o More yellow insulation was installed over the original pink batts installed in this roof and this could happen again in Victoria, and the customer would never know. Having an audit and inspections will almost stop the fraud associated with Government Schemes.

    That’s why the Victorian Government have to protect their people, reduce waste, not abandon them, as the Federal Labor Government did during the failed pink batts scheme.


    Below is quoted from page 17 of the million dollar CSIRO 5 Star Evaluation Report, Dec 13, 2013. This report was to justify the increase of benefits moving from 4 Star to 5 Star, more so ever increasing higher ‘R’ values of bulk insulations, which are the main component protecting the outside structure (walls, ceiling/roof) of a building in the Star rating system.

    “In summer, preliminary (not statistically significant) results suggest that greenhouse gas emissions may be increased for the higher-rated houses in all cities: by 37% in Melbourne, 11% in Adelaide and 28% in Brisbane. The result in Melbourne was affected by the high emission factor of brown coal-fired power stations.”

    Even though the CSIRO 5 Star Evaluation is fatality flawed in many areas, it has proven that THICKER IS NOT BETTER. WHY?

    Refer to Royal Commission Report, Doreian Document DOR 002.001.0033-45

    The CSIRO report evaluated ONLY 209 homes, for just over A MILLION DOLLARS

    • Most homes with R 3.5 bulk insulation, NO MENTION of any foil products at roof level (WHY?), not like most 5 Star homes that if they comply to correct rating protocols enforce higher ‘R’ values, these were a small percentage tested in the research?

    The report noted high insulation ‘R’ values (R 3.5, the same insulation mostly installed in the failed pink batts scheme) showed benefits for winter heating, the overall NET improvement between summer and winter was 7.5%.

    o HOWEVER INCREASED BULK INSULATIONS, INCREASES SUMMER ENERGY COSTS Melbourne 37%, Brisbane 28% Adelaide 11%, An ever increasing trend of warming, should be the concern of everyone in the building industry, which you all for your own agenda turn a “blind eye” for profit at the expensive of the poor consumer “bludgeoned” into paying for the fraud.

    o Especially, summer R-values of many insulation materials used in roof spaces, including air-conditioning ductwork insulation R-values, a flawed energy certification system controlled by the Government of the day, and increased running costs. Reduction of green house gases IS IMPOSSIBLE.

    For all the intentions and agendas in the quest to reduce greenhouse gases, all the mechanisms that the poor consumer has to pay for ARE UNPROVEN by real time controlled testing in a climate simulator, which could then maybe justify some type of modelling program? Maybe?

    Simply put.

    Would you send your little daughter down the street on a 40?C day, dressed in a thick heavy woollen overcoat ?

    Trapped in the hot desert, to survive what would you prefer to have after water.

    A thick woollen blanket, or an emergency foil space blanket?

    If you get the answers wrong, that’s why building energy efficiency rules and regulations are “broken.”

    So why are consumers forced to use R4 – R7 bulk insulation batts?


    Pink batts are tested at an average (mean) 23 ?C for 4 hours using the current world recognised enforced “Steady State” thermal material test method, which was developed to test refrigerator insulation around 1928, keeping in mind a fridge resides in a controlled temperature environment.

    Whereas, a building resides by comparison in an ever changing “hostile” environment subjected to in most cases AND INCREASING severe external radiant heat loads, typically across Australia roof spaces experience 50 – 70?C for longer periods of 4 hours, WAY BEYOND the laboratory Steady State test method of 23?C for 4 hours. What about accounting for humidity?

    Thermal Insulation Standard 4859.1 Clause 2.3.1 defines the protocols for a test method, a method that no one wants to enforce, real time controlled testing in a Climate Simulator.

    Therefore, testing of building materials for energy efficiency requires a more accurate and realistic method, a Climate Simulator, to establish the correct insulations in combination to suit the varying climates buildings are subjected too.

    Basically using the analogy of the car industry, they now use computer modelling, because they had decades of actual laboratory protocol crash testing AND visited actual crash scenes.
    Even after designing a car using computer modelling, THEY STILL CRASH TEST THEM, AND visit actual crash scenes, for registration have to comply to unified protocol crash testing.

    Where is the equivalent to protect consumer NET BENEFIT, when forced to comply with unvalidated building energy efficiency rules and regulations?

    Providing the most technically advanced car in the world, is still challenged by human behaviour that will ensure that some other area, or component of the car will force further improvements.

    “Building energy efficiency” is no different to providing cars, provide the basics for the most energy efficient building to suit the climate, BECAUSE HUMAN BEHAVOUR CANNOT BE PREDICTED it changes daily, inside and out, just as climate conditions are ever changing.

    WHERE IS THE EQUIVALENT TESTING for building energy efficiency?

    NO WHERE, because vested interests control the “Standards” agenda, which are “called up” in regulations where the NET BENEFIT and public interest is ignored AND abused.

    WHY, for pure greed, PROFIT, aided and abetted by faceless backroom bureaucrats who enjoy long lunches, and the Politicians who “sell their souls” for their power trip.

    The system IS broken everyone knows it, but won’t “stump up.” WHY, because many are driven by the “holy grail”, of survival, MONEY, at the expense of the consumer.

    In conclusion,
    While testing is being undertaken, drop back to some sensible negotiated building energy efficiency strategy to benefit the consumer.

    Money is not an issue, any Government with independent OUTSIDE consultation can devise a means of gathering funding, IF THEY WANT TO, OR ARE PRESSURED TO.

    Graeme B. Doreian

    Building Energy Consultant

  5. I think Russell Northe is getting ahead of himself again. Whilst the My Star program might give households some ideas about how they can improve the thermal performance of their homes, it needs to be done in conjunction with some kind of program to help low income households who will always be behind the eightball because they don’t have the disposable income to spend on improvements (or they are renting and aren’t allowed to improve the building). The My Star program doesn’t really address split incentives for landlords either. This gvernment just doesn’t get it that there is a long-standing, consistent market failure when it comes to low income households. But then again, they probably don’t care that much either. The VEET scheme has done a fantastic job for households and business. It provides a discount that motivates action without imposing significant additional costs to the wider community. I’m sure most people wouldn’t mind continuing to subsidize low income households. We already do it through the tax system for health care and various other things. We shouldn’t leave our most disadvantaged neighbours behind.

  6. Mr Northe’s spokeswoman has omitted the Australian Institute of Architects from the consultation list. Oversight or might the AIA’s commitment to sustainable design be inconvenient?
    Brad Hooper AIA