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Industry demands energy efficient homes

More than 30 consumer, social sector, industry, environment and local government organisations have signed a joint statement urging COAG Energy Council to commit to action to raise the energy performance of all Australian homes at its December meeting.

At the meeting, COAG EC will consider the recommendations of the Department of Environment & Energy’s Trajectory for Low Energy Homes process. This proposes that as part of the 2022 review of the National Construction Code (NCC), minimum energy performance standards for residential buildings be increased to a 7-star NatHERS equivalent.

Other recommendations include establishing a trajectory towards “zero energy and carbon ready homes”, and a commitment to a range of initiatives to improve the performance of existing housing.

Next steps

Should COAG EC agree to the NCC changes, the Building Ministers Forum (BMF) will be asked to task the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) with implementing potential changes through its NCC 2022 Review process, including conducting a Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS).

The BMF announced in April that the ABCB 2018-19 Work Plan will include the development of energy efficiency measures for residential buildings. The scope of the changes considered by the RIS will be based on advice from COAG EC.

The current 6 Star standard applying to all new homes and renovations has been in place since 2010. The NCC is updated on a triennial basis, and the 2019 update has just been finalised without any increase in residential energy performance standards. As the NCC has moved to a triennial update cycle, there will not be another chance to increase requirements until 2025.

Strong case for higher standards

Modelling undertaken for the Trajectory For Low Energy Homes process concluded it is cost-effective from 2022 for new Class 1 dwellings (detached homes) to be built to at least 6.5 to 7.0 stars. These recommendations are based on modelling of individual household capital cost and energy bill savings for a range of thermal efficiency scenarios.

According to research undertaken for the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, in many cases a 1 Star improvement can be achieved through better design alone – at zero additional cost. Where design cannot be improved upon, recent analysis conducted by Renew demonstrates that a 1 Star improvement can be achieved for a few thousand dollars.

Furthermore, it is predicted that the impact of a $3,000 build cost premium over a 25-year loan (assuming a 5 per cent interest rate) would be just $70 per year, or $1.35 a week.

Built to perform

In July this year, the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC) and ClimateWorks Australia released Built to Perform: An Industry Led Pathway to a Zero Carbon Ready Building Code, outlining an evidence base for cost-effective long-term improvements to the energy requirements of the National Construction Code. Built to Perform shows that:

  • Building code improvements from 2022 onwards could cut household energy bills by $20.9 billion and non-residential energy bills by $8.4 billion by 2050, while also cutting $12.6 billion needed for investments in electricity networks by 2050. These benefits outweigh the upfront costs of the improvements.
  • Updating the Building Code from 2022 could reduce Australia’s cumulative emissions between now and 2050 by 78MtCO2e
  • A three-year delay would lock in $2.6 billion of wasted energy expenditure, plus 9MtCO2e of emissions to 2030 and 22MtCO2e to 2050.

Organisations that have signed the statement addressed to COAG EG include CHOICE, National Shelter, Renew and the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS).

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