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Government at last turns focus to energy productivity,
and the plan looks good

COAG energy ministers

Cameron Jewell | 8 December 2015

Increasing National Construction Code standards, expanding the Commercial Building Disclosure program and considering a national mandatory disclosure scheme for residential have been announced as key measures to reach Australia’s energy productivity improvement target of 40 per cent by 2030.

The COAG Energy Council’s National Energy Productivity Plan 2015-2030, a framework for how Australia can work towards its 40 per cent energy productivity goal, details 34 measures the states and Commonwealth will implement to better coordinate “energy efficiency, energy market reform and climate policy???.

“By improving Australia’s energy productivity, we can boost our competitiveness, creating investment and jobs; help consumers manage their energy costs to reduce bills; and reduce our carbon emissions – delivering at least one quarter of Australia’s emission reductions to meet our international commitments to 2030,??? federal Energy Minister and COAG chair Josh Frydenberg said.

The NEPP was welcomed by the Energy Efficiency Council.

“This plan shows that ministers around the country realise that energy efficiency will be critical to boost productivity, lower household bills and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,??? EEC president Tony Arnel said.

EEC head of policy Rob Murray-Leach, however, warned that the plan lacked detail.

“The National Energy Productivity Plan is a starting place, rather than a destination,??? he said. “It doesn’t announce new funded actions, but it does identify key areas where policies need to be developed. We look forward to working with governments as they develop these policies.???

Advancing the NCC

The NEPP says increases to the National Construction Code’s energy efficiency requirements will be implemented in the 2019 NCC update.

It notes that energy efficiency requirements in both residential and commercial building codes are “out of date with recent technologies???.

“The council will facilitate engagement with the Australian Building Codes Board and Building Ministers Forum to consider changes to the code so as to achieve better energy efficiency outcomes for Australia’s buildings within the next cycle of revision of the National Construction Code, to be complete by 2019,??? the plan states.

A complementary program will be led by the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council, which is “developing an industry-led vision for improving the energy performance requirements for both residential and commercial buildings in the NCC???.

ASBEC executive officer Suzanne Toumbourou told The Fifth Estate the NEPP was a momentous step-change for a government that had previously lacked vision in the space.

“It looks like they’ve been listening, and it’s nice to see states have signed up too,??? Ms Toumbourou said.

The industry-led project ASBEC is working on, in conjunction with ClimateWorks, hopes to set an agreed trajectory for energy efficiency improvement for commercial and residential buildings, which would be “tightened automatically???, Ms Toumbourou said, rather than the current process of committing and recommitting to energy efficiency provisions every three years when the code is updated.

It is hoped that this will “provide certainty, foster innovation and deliver the benefits of rapidly improving energy technology and design approaches for Australia???.

“If the next code upgrade in 2019 fails to include improved energy efficiency requirements, buildings will be using the 2010 minimum standard until 2021,??? the ASBEC Building Energy Performance Standards Project warns.

“Delay in upgrading the minimum standard would lock in poor performing building stock for many decades, resulting in unnecessarily high expenditure on energy, unproductive working environments for businesses and lost opportunities for low-cost emissions reductions.???

The project currently has a working group of industry members and academic bodies, which include:

  • Air Conditioning and Mechanical Contractors Association
  • Australian Institute of Refrigeration Air Conditioning and Heating
  • Building Products Innovation Council
  • Chartered Institute of Building
  • CRC for Low Carbon Living
  • Energy Efficiency Council
  • Facility Management Association of Australia
  • Green Building Council of Australia
  • Insulation Australasia
  • Property Council of Australia
  •  SA Department of State Development
  • Standards Australia
  • University of Melbourne

“Ultimately we’re recognising there has been a missed opportunity in the current 2016 code… We should not miss that opportunity again going forward,??? she said.

Key issues to be worked out by the group include how much higher standards should be, what other improvements could be made and what supporting analysis may be required.

The group has written to the Australian Building Codes Board to seek implementation of its vision.