(L-R): David Hoschild, Tony Arnel, Stella Avramopoulos, John Hewson, Romilly Madew, Luke Menzel, Rob Murray-Leach.

The Energy Efficiency Council has released what it claims is a comprehensive and detailed set of recommendations on how Australia can tap into the $470 billion global energy efficiency market, reduce energy bills, improve building performance and reduce carbon emissions.

The Australian Energy Efficiency Policy Handbook was launched at Tuesday’s Leaders Forum on Energy Efficiency in Sydney.

Speaking at the forum was California Energy Commissioner David Hochschild who told attendees his state’s “aggressive energy efficiency and renewable energy policy experiment” was working.

It had seen California attract more clean tech venture finance capital than China and Europe, and also a halving of unemployment with the rise of energy efficiency technology, he said.

As part of its policy measures, the state had financed US$2 billion in energy efficiency upgrades through an instrument similar to Australian Environmental Upgrade Agreements, and is stipulating that all new housing will be net zero emissions by 2020.

The policy handbook aims to kickstart a discussion about the actions necessary to achieve the productivity target.

It lays out evidence-based recommendations across sectors including commercial offices, manufacturing, transport, energy retailers, residential, government, large energy users, and small to medium enterprises.

The handbook flags the potential to target the laggards in the industry through minimum energy standards in buildings.

According to EEC head of policy Rob Murray-Leach it was time to start the conversation. He told The Fifth Estate he believed this was the most comprehensive set of recommendations to date to achieve energy efficiency across the Australian economy.

“This is the first comprehensive platform of energy efficiency. It covers issues as diverse as energy market reform, standards for buildings and distributed generation reform,” he said. “We’ve got the National Energy Productivity Plan and other people have had a go at this but this goes to a higher level of detail and prescriptiveness.”

The forum’s keynote address was given by Dr John Hewson who told the crowd that he has always seen the challenge of climate change bringing with it a tech revolution, and that Australia has a “competitive edge that we’ve never exploited”.

Other speakers included EEC chief executive Luke Menzel, ASBEC chair Tony Arnel, Green Building Council of Australia chief executive Romilly Madew and chief executive of Kildonan UnitingCare Stella Avramopoulos.

Ms Madew spoke about energy efficiency opportunities in the property sector, and said that “government has a huge opportunity to lead in clean energy through procurement”.

There were 80,000 buildings currently “falling through the cracks”, she said.

Mr Arnel said the investment in energy supply must be balanced with “smart energy use”.

Mr Menzel said smart energy use could drive economic growth by improving productivity and resource efficiency while lowering energy costs.

“Energy efficiency has become a major global issue over the past decade, and has gained significant momentum in Australia in the last year,” he said.

“The Australian government has set a target to improve energy productivity by 40 per cent by 2030 – but on our current trajectory we will fail to meet this target.

“We need serious reforms to unlock the full benefits of energy efficiency.”

In conjunction with the handbook, the EEC also released Save Energy – Grow the Economy, 2016-17 Policy Recommendations, which comprise nine steps the council says the government should immediately start work on:

  • Reduce governments’ energy bills by adopting programs like the NSW Government Resource Efficiency Policy
  • Modernise manufacturing by supporting companies to adopt new technologies
  • Transform commercial offices by investing at least $10 million a year through COAG to engage building owners and help them provide more efficient, healthy and productive workplaces
  • Inform and protect home buyers and renters through the development of a national scheme to disclose the energy-efficiency of new and existing residential properties
  • Implement fair and efficient electricity tariff structures that deliver the right balance of investment in energy supply, networks and demand reduction
  • Improve electricity network regulations by encouraging increased investment in demand management and improved oversight of networks’ interactions with consumers and energy service providers
  • Strengthen and extend energy efficiency certificate schemes by harmonising and extending schemes across all jurisdictions
  • Improve standards for appliances, buildings and vehicles including introducing standards for light vehicle fuel efficiency
  • Ensure Australia taps into the $470 billion global energy efficiency market by investing in training and innovation, and by harmonising Asia-Pacific certifications and metrics to build a market for Australian products and services

“Australia’s rate of energy efficiency improvement continues to fall behind other developed economies. We need strong government leadership, and new energy efficiency policies that remove barriers and correct well-known market distortions,” Mr Menzel said.

“Real effort to improve energy efficiency is essential to limit increases in energy bills and tap into the global economic opportunities that are emerging as we move towards a carbon zero world.

“Australia is at the cusp of a new global wave of investment in energy infrastructure – it’s up to us to make the most of the opportunities to grow our economy, create jobs and cut emissions.”

With Tina Perinotto