Property Australia

Why energy policy matters in the election

PROPERTY AUSTRALIA April 16, 2019

Energy, climate change and cost of living pressures converge as voters size up the parties ahead of next month’s federal election, says the Property Council. 

Limiting global warming to below two degrees Celsius means Australia must transition to net zero emissions by 2050. The energy trilemma – how to deliver energy that is affordable, reliable and environmentally responsible – remains a key challenge for all political parties.  

Addressing that challenge with an affordable and sustainable energy roadmap is a central plank in the Property Council’s five-point election plan. 

“The property industry has a vital role to play in the global transition to a low-emissions future,” says the Property Council’s chief executive, Ken Morrison. 

“Australia is already a world leader delivering sustainable and energy efficient buildings, recognised by the world’s most respected sustainability indices such as GRESB and the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, and we can do more with the right policy settings and political leadership,” Morrison says. 

According to ASBEC, Australia’s buildings could deliver more than $20 billion in savings by 2030 through lower household and non-residential building energy bills, and by reducing the cost of investment in electricity network infrastructure. 

“Australia’s property leaders have made substantial progress in this area already. The challenge now is to extend that progress across the sector with targeted policies – both carrots and sticks – that drive emissions reductions,” Morrison explains. 

“We are calling on the major parties to deliver a comprehensive suite of policies that address the host of split incentives and information gaps. Most important of all, Australia needs a national plan for net-zero emissions buildings 

The Property Council’s federal election platform sets out five key recommendations that would form this national plan: 

  1. Establish a National Energy Guarantee or similar mechanism to ensure future energy investment delivers reliability, affordability and emissions reductions. 
  2. An explicit net-zero buildings plan, including a zero-carbon ready building code, to reduce built environment emissions. 
  3. Targeted incentives to address the split-incentives often faced by property owners. 
  4. A nationwide energy-efficiency scheme and support for data and rating tools that strengthen decision making. 
  5. Cut red tape to accelerate the rollout of distributed energy for buildings and precincts.  

A nationwide energy efficiency trading scheme integrated with a National Energy Guarantee style framework, and harmonised with state-based energy efficiency schemes, is a key element of this plan.  

Role modelling of best practice, supported by targeted programs and tax incentives can also help build momentum behind energy efficiency including by supporting innovative and collaborative solutions. There is also for scope for government to show leadership through its own property portfolio.  

The Property Council is also seeking a clear forward trajectory of changes to the National Construction Code so that industry is better able to adapt to changing requirements over time. 

Our industry leaders have already raised the bar, but we need to enable better performance across the whole of industry by setting out a consistent, transparent and achievable pathway to better energy efficiency standards. This includes removing the barriers which are slowing the progress of other industry participants.  

“This is shaping up to be a significant area of work as part of the recently approved Trajectory for Low Energy Buildings, approved by COAG Energy Council in  February.” 

Meanwhile, the CSIRO has launched the Australian Housing Data Portal, based on NatHERS data, to track the nation’s residential energy efficiency progress. 

CSIRO attributes 11.4 per cent of Australia’s emissions to households. Around 195,000 new homes were constructed over the past year, with a steady increase in the number of high-performance energy-efficient homes, especially in Tasmania and the ACT. 

The average floor area of the Australian home – which includes both houses and apartments – has increased to 132 sqm. The average energy efficiency rating has increased to 6.2 stars, just above the national minimum requirement. This translates to an annual saving of approximately $560 in energy bills and 2.3 tonnes of carbon emissions per home. 

“It is encouraging to see some jurisdictions, like the ACT and Tasmania, are building a significant proportion of new homes and apartments to 7 stars and above.  

“We can decarbonise our buildings using today's technologies and create homes that are healthier and affordable – but we need the right policies and political leadership to accelerate action,” Morrison concludes. 

Read more about the Property Council’s election platform and its call for an affordable and sustainable energy roadmap.