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Tuesday, 22 June 2010
Page: 6147


Ms HALL (6:20 PM) —It is always a pleasure to follow a member of the opposition whose comments I largely agree with. It is very pleasing to hear that the member for Flinders has a commitment to lowering greenhouse gases. I have to put on the record very firmly that I think that is one of the greatest challenges that our society faces both nationally and internationally. I believe it is an issue that governments all around the world and of all persuasions have to come to terms with. It is of vital importance if we are going to protect our planet and protect our way of life. One only needs to visit places like the Solomon Islands to actually see the impact that climate change is having on nations like that.

This is vitally important legislation that I am pleased to hear the opposition will be supporting and that I think all members should embrace. The Building Energy Efficiency Disclosure Bill 2010 creates a national scheme which requires disclosure of information about energy efficiency of large-scale commercial office space when that space is offered or advertised for sale, lease or sublease. It will create a legal requirement for owners of these large commercial buildings to obtain energy efficiency information and to disclose it to the prospective purchasers and lessees, as I have already stated. It will also require head tenants who are subletting office space to disclose this information. Funding of $5.3 million over four years was committed by the government in the 2009-10 budget to support the development and implementation of this scheme. This funding will cover the initial phase of the scheme, covering office buildings, and the expansion of the scheme over the coming years to include other types of commercial buildings. Administration of the scheme will be undertaken with the objective of moving to full cost recovery at the cessation of this funding.

The regulation impact statement, or RIS, indicates that the scheme will cost $18.7 million over 10 years. The 10-year cost includes both costs to building owners in obtaining the energy efficiency information that is to be disclosed and the cost to government in administering the scheme—so it covers the total cost. The benefit of the scheme will far outweigh this cost if as little as 3.9 per cent of the sale and lease transactions result in disclosure of information being used to purchase or lease office space that is more efficient by one star. The total energy cost saving will be equal to the cost of the scheme.

One of the real challenges that government faces is to encourage owners of commercial buildings and those involved in commercial activities to see the benefit of lowering their greenhouse gas emissions and investing in these new technologies. As has already been stated, there is always a greater incentive for a business to increase its profits rather than reduce its costs. Investing in greenhouse friendly technology will lead to a reduction in costs, but that is not quite as immediate as the investor or owner of the commercial building seeing that profit in their hands.

The National Strategy on Energy Efficiency was signed up to by the Council of Australian Governments in July 2009. That strategy was aimed at improving the efficiency of new buildings and major renovations by increasing the energy efficiency requirements in the 2010 update of the Building Code of Australia; providing information to the housing market by requiring Australian homes to provide energy, water and greenhouse performance information to buyers and renters, starting with energy efficiency in 2011—I know that is a little further down the track; and requiring owners of commercial office buildings and government buildings to provide energy efficiency information to interested buyers and tenants, starting in the second half of 2010. The legislation before the House brings that to fruition. It is of vital importance.

The national buildings framework will set increasingly strong minimum performance standards over time for new buildings and major renovations, with standards to be reviewed and increased regularly every three years. Eventually it will cover all classes of residential and commercial buildings. As I have already mentioned, this legislation applies to commercial buildings over 2,000 square metres. It will also apply to new and existing buildings; cover the building envelope including roof, walls, doors and windows as well as the energy efficiency of key building services; aim to bring together assessment and rating tools for existing and new buildings; include common measurement and reporting to help in setting up building standards and assessing building performance; allow for the use of rating tools developed by the market, provided they are accurate, transparent and user friendly; encourage innovation in meeting defined performance standards; continue to communicate energy efficiency improvements using star ratings; and facilitate effective monitoring and compliance.

The star rating system is vitally important and should be given credence in this House. This legislation looks at a minimum star rating of one. The NABERS energy rating goes up to four stars and sets out a number of ways that this can be achieved. It highlights opportunities to improve energy efficiency and looks at all initiatives that building owners can take to bring this about, including central chiller plants to identify efficiency improvements to control chilled water and improved in-house expertise and reporting, as well as monitoring heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems, timer controls, optimum start controls, carbon monoxide sensors, reduced hours of servicing, after-hours switching, zone controls and weather compensation controls—and the list goes on.

It also includes external shading, internal shading, energy performance modelling, glazing and things such as roof colour, building insulation, testing, boiler size, technology and controls. There are many innovative ways to lower the energy consumption of buildings and improve their energy efficiency. It is only by making the initial investments and by providing incentives to building owners that these changes will come about. It is one of the easiest ways to bring about those changes.

The Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency in Canberra has a proposal for purpose-design office accommodation with high environmental standards. It is my understanding that the fit-out plan will incorporate a number of energy efficient and environmentally sustainable features, including operable windows. I find the simple fact that you cannot open a window in a building most perplexing. Within my own electorate office, I do not have a window that I can open. Being able to open a window to allow, in addition to the natural light, fresh air to come through removes the necessity to have an air conditioner running full-time, day and, in some cases, night. We have, though, had an energy audit within my office, so there is now a timer on our air conditioner. If we wish to have it operate outside hours then we need to do that manually. But, because of the design of the office, we have to have an air conditioner running and we have to have artificial lighting.

When you come across something as innovative as the proposal that has been put up by the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, you realise that those simple little changes can really make a difference. With this legislation, owners of commercial buildings will need to present energy efficiency information to people seeking to lease, sublease or buy their buildings. It is vitally important that we embrace mechanisms that are going to improve energy efficiency and reduce the impact of greenhouse gases and such on our environment.

Another recently announced government initiative is to make Newcastle Australia’s first smart grid city. I think that is great news for Newcastle and the Hunter. I see the member for Paterson is in the chamber. It will have an impact on his area. It will have an impact on the Shortland electorate, which is in the Lake Macquarie area. It really puts us in the Hunter at the cutting edge, because Australia’s first commercial-scale smart grid, which will help Australians save energy, connect renewable energy to the grid and tackle climate change, is being set up in the Hunter. It will commence in mid-2010, and the $100 million Smart Grid, Smart City demonstration project in Newcastle is expected to lead to Australia-wide advances in energy efficiency. It will place Australia at the cutting edge internationally and it is something that should be embraced. I am quite convinced that this trial will be very successful. I congratulate all who have been associated with it and I thank the Minister for Climate Change, Energy Efficiency and Water, Senator Penny Wong. We in the Hunter are pleased that the main demonstration sites will be in Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and the Upper Hunter, with parts of the trial in the Sydney CBD.

Smart grids, as I am sure most members know, will give Australian households and businesses tools to reduce energy use and energy bills in the future—something that all Australians would like to do. It helps them reduce their cost of living and, in addition to that, it makes them feel good about making a positive commitment to our environment. Smart grids give households the ability to manage their own energy use and information about their energy use. Consumers can also use smart grids with energy efficient smart appliances—matching them up. If the smart grid application is adopted throughout Australia, it could deliver a reduction of 3.5 megatonnes of carbon emissions annually. That is very significant.

I am very pleased that EnergyAustralia were successful in gaining the Smart Grid, Smart City project because I know that they have had a long-term commitment to being at the cutting edge of innovations on reducing greenhouse gases. It was EnergyAustralia that introduced Pure Energy to New South Wales. At the time, former Treasurer Egan was in state parliament. He came to Newcastle to announce that EnergyAustralia customers who signed up to the Pure Energy product could buy a proportion of their electricity from renewable sources. That proportion has now increased: people can buy up to 100 per cent of their energy from renewable sources. Many people have signed up to that product.

It is really good to see that EnergyAustralia is involved in the Smart Grid, Smart City project. The EnergyAustralia consortium includes the CSIRO, IBM Australia, AGL, GE Energy, TransGrid, Newcastle City Council and the New South Wales government. We need to congratulate all those who have been involved in winning the Smart Grid, Smart City bid. The people of the Hunter welcome it. They are only too pleased to be able to make their little commitment to adopting a more energy efficient lifestyle. It is programs such as Smart Grid, Smart City that enable them to do so. The bill before us today is a very important step towards improving our energy efficiency nationwide. I commend it to the House.