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Changes imminent for NABERS Energy Ratings

NABERS Energy Ratings are set to change from July 1 this year to reflect the increasing decarbonisation of the grid. There are also plans to introduce a formal definition of “net zero” and recognise buildings that achieve this standard.

Corine Mulet is Technical Projects Manager at NABERS and presented a session on the changes as part of the ARBS Seminar Series Online. Titled “The Future of NABERS Energy”, it was held on February 25 at 1pm AEDT.

Over the past 20 years, the National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) has achieved world leading results – including a 30 per cent drop in energy use for buildings that have participated in the program over 10 years. The Future of NABERS Energy project is now looking at how NABERS will adapt to achieve the same results over the next two decades.

Recognising renewables

Mulet says the first adjustment will be to account for Australia’s changing energy typology.

“The reality is that the grid is decarbonising,” says Mulet. “There’s more and more renewable energy in the electricity grid, which means that the emissions intensity of electricity is lower. That wasn’t previously reflected in NABERS Energy ratings because it hadn’t really changed from the get-go. Now that it has changed, we have gone through a consultation process to understand if industry and government would like us to start to reflect the decarbonisation of the grid in NABERS Energy Ratings.”

The new ratings will start on July 1, 2021. Mulet says although it is not a drastic change, it is an important one.

“The fact that there’s less emissions coming from the electricity grid influences how property industries are choosing technologies and fuels,” she says. “We need to start reflecting what the emissions really are, so that people can take the right decisions. By being able to ensure that property groups and the building industry is choosing the right technologies, choosing the right fuels so that they have the lowest emissions possible, that’s how we’re going to be able to get the buildings that are net zero moving forwards.”

In the ARBS Seminar Series session, Mulet explained the changes, and how building owners, assessors and consultants can prepare for the change and be sure they’re aware of the impact it’s going to have on the building.

Defining net zero

The presentation also looked at attempts to pin down what has become something of a sustainability buzz term in recent years: net zero.

As shown in the ClimateWorks Net Zero Momentum Tracker, there has been a massive uptake of net zero commitments in Australia over the past few years in the property sector. But Mulet notes these commitments may mean different things to different building owners.

“After having done quite a bit of research around net zero, we’ve realised that there is a massive amount of confusion,” says Mulet. “What does it mean for a building to be net zero? What does it include? What’s not included? How do I actually get to net zero? Those are things we’re really looking at really setting in stone and having an industry standard for.”

NABERS has been consulting industry on this topic and continues to work towards a common measure.

“NABERS is looking into a way of formally recognising buildings that are achieving net zero,” says Mulet. “To have a formal recognition set by boundaries with a specific definition of net zero, that’s something that the industry is lacking.”

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