AUSTRALIA can cost-effectively strengthen residential energy efficiency standards in the Building Code and cut heating and cooling energy use by up to 51 per cent, according to a new report released last week by the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC) and ClimateWorks Australia.
Implementing these changes now could deliver Australians savings of up to $150 per household per year on energy bills, with savings more than offsetting additional capital costs. It could also deliver more comfortable homes, reduce stress on the electricity grid, and cut emissions by around 10.8 million tonnes to 2050 – more than the amount emitted annually by Victoria's Loy Yang B coal-fired power station.
'The Bottom Line – household impacts of delaying improved energy requirements in the Building Code' report shows these savings could come from simple energy efficiency improvements such as air tightness, ceiling fans, and roof insulation.
The report states that the houses we build in coming years will be in use for decades, well beyond 2050 when Australia will need to be near net zero emissions. Buildings account for almost a quarter of national emissions, and more than half of electricity use.
With half a million homes projected to be built between 2019 and 2022, delaying improved energy standards by just three years would lock in an estimated $1.1 billion in unnecessary household energy bills, and 3 million tonnes of additional emissions by 2050, the report says.
According to the report, an estimated 58 per cent of Australia's expected building stock in 2050 will be built after 2019.
"With buildings accounting for almost a quarter of national emissions and more than half of national electricity consumption, this makes the Code an indispensable policy tool to transition to zero emissions in line with Australia's commitments under the Paris Climate Change Agreement," the report says.
The Australian Building Codes Board has released a proposal to update the Code energy requirements for 2019. This includes improvements to the requirements for housing, but there is no proposal to strengthen the required level of energy efficiency for homes.
"We welcome the proposed improvements in the non-residential energy requirements," said Tony Arnel, President of the Energy Efficiency Council and Chair of ASBEC's National Construction Code Working Group.
"If implemented, these changes could deliver significant energy and emissions benefits in the non-residential sector. The draft changes for residential buildings are also a good start. However, our report demonstrates that greater opportunities exists to improve residential performance," Mr Arnel said.
ClimateWorks Program Manager, Eli Court, said improving Australia's built environment provides some of the most 'shovel-ready' opportunities to meet the nation's Paris Climate Change Agreement obligations.
"If we miss this opportunity, other sectors of Australia's economy will need to cut emissions more. That may not be as fast or cost-effective, making Australia's emissions reduction task more expensive overall," Mr Court said.
"As leading building practitioners have shown us, with best practice design for energy efficiency, such as attention to building orientation and window sizing and placement, further low-cost improvements in energy efficiency are possible."