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Tuesday, 22 June 2010
Page: 6143

Mr KELVIN THOMSON (6:00 PM) —Before debate on the Building Energy Efficiency Disclosure Bill 2010 was interrupted last night, I was observing that an Australian Conservation Foundation submission has recommended:

… governments should adopt a package of priority measures for promoting energy efficiency in the buildings sector that covers the following areas:

  • building codes for new buildings;
  • passive energy houses and zero energy buildings;
  • substantial opportunity for retrofitting existing buildings;
  • more energy efficient appliances;
  • windows and other glazed areas.

A recent report by UNEP Assessment of Policy Instruments for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Buildings 2007 concluded that “Regulatory and control instruments such as building codes were revealed as the most effective and cost-effective” policy instrument open to Government for addressing greenhouse gas emissions from the built environment.

The concept of zero carbon precincts is taking off overseas and, given that Australian developers are amongst the global thought leaders in driving innovation, the government should give serious consideration to providing greater incentives to get in place demonstration programs in each of our capital cities. A bit like tax-free hubs, these precincts could attract a concessional rate of tax and treatment and they would drive successful innovation and competition if they are done right. The Australian Conservation Foundation submission also includes a recommendation for Australia to be aiming for higher energy saving standards above six stars for new homes. It points out:

In the US, Canada and the UK, average building standards are 6.8-7.5 stars for similar climate zones to Australia.

…            …            …

Not only should Australia fast track towards 7 to 8-star standards for new homes and renovations by the end of 2010, if we want to keep up with international best practice, we also need to address the increasing size of houses and the direct energy use of lighting, heating, air-conditioning and hot water and commit towards zero carbon homes by 2020. The UK has committed to making all new homes zero net carbon by 2016.

A collaboration of organisations including ACF, Alternative Technology Association, Friends of the Earth, Environment Victoria, and Moreland Energy Foundation Limited produced a report last year, Towards climate safe homes The case for zero emissions and water saving homes and neighbourhoods, which calls on the government to commit to climate safe and zero net carbon new homes by 2020.

In terms of retrofitting existing homes, a package of home audits linked to energy and water efficiency improvements could be focused initially on 3.5 million low-income households scaling up over time. Such a program could create 40,000 jobs and generate energy cost savings of $14 billion over seven years, with an investment of about $8.7 billion.

…            …            …

Existing homes should be upgraded to a minimum of 5 star NABERS rating by 2020.

So these are observations made by the Australian Conservation Foundation and others.

This bill represents another string in the bow of climate change action that the Labor government has been pursuing to ensure that all policy fronts are explored in addressing this critical issue. In the time remaining to me I want to make some observations about the work of the Alliance to Save Energy because their focus is on energy efficiency. As I said earlier in the debate, I think energy efficiency has been something of a Cinderella in terms of discussion about reducing carbon emissions. The Alliance to Save Energy is a collaborative alliance between energy efficiency stakeholders. Their research approach is to work with partners who are already active in this area, seeking to leverage existing research programs and therefore provide additional value. Their research has several key themes. The first relates to energy use, examining physical end-use energy demand including ‘new technologies and appliances’, ‘trends in energy use’, ‘energy efficiency financing techniques’ and ‘ways to motivate smarter end-use behaviour’. They also focus on energy networks, reviewing ‘different energy delivery systems and associated energy savings, including energy transportation and distribution to the point of end-use’. The third is examining energy culture, investigating ‘Australia’s cultural readiness to embrace energy efficiency’ including ‘commonly held perceptions about energy efficiency’, ‘predictable patterns of energy behaviour towards known barriers’ and ‘how energy choices are influenced and made’. I want to draw to the attention of the House an article by their CEO, Mark Lister, titled ‘Unlocking energy efficiency: what Australia can learn from the rest of the world’, which is in the May-June 2010 issue of the journal EcoGeneration. In this Mark Lister points out:

The International Energy Agency … estimates that energy efficiency will account for around 54 per cent—

that is to say more than half—

of global emission abatement to 2030, in a scenario where global carbon dioxide levels stabilise at 450 parts per million.

Mark Lister points out, in relation to California, that their citizens use about 40 per cent less electricity than other Americans. He says:

This success comes from stringent energy codes and standards for buildings and appliances, and ratepayer-funded energy efficiency programs administered by California’s electric and gas utilities. According to the 2009 California Green Innovation Index, California has prospered since energy efficiency regulations were introduced in the 1970s.

Mark Lister says:

In Australia, energy consumption continues to increase. Rather than focusing on ways to reconfigure industry to reduce consumption, billions of dollars are spent to prop up old networks and coal-fired power stations. The cost of this is ultimately passed on to consumers through increased electricity bills.

…            …            …

… state and federal governments can intervene directly through strong policies and regulations to net economic benefit. We can do better with more stringent building codes, targeted information, electricity network regulation, and creating frameworks for parties that currently have no incentive to reduce consumption.

Our governments should consider these options, alongside incentives and other programmes, to encourage the large-scale uptake of energy efficiency.

He goes on to say:

The work of the Prime Minister’s Energy Efficiency Task Group offers a promising acknowledgement of this potential. The Group’s brief is to create a step-change improvement in Australia’s energy efficiency by 2020, and place Australia at the forefront of OECD energy efficiency improvement.

…            …            …

Energy efficiency is a proven, simple and cost-effective way to reduce carbon emissions and can be implemented now using existing technologies. It cuts electricity bills, decreases among networks during peak periods, and reduces the need for costly network infrastructure.

It also:

… buys time for other solutions to be developed and is a fundamental part of any response strategy.

I commend Mark Lister’s article, and I commend the bill to the House.