20 billion reasons to factor in demand side to future proof energy supply in Finkel review

With submissions to the Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market closing last Friday, the Australian Institute of Architects is calling for governments to focus on the demand side of the energy equation, particularly in the built environment sector, as a more immediate and effective pathway to alleviate the current challenges around energy security.

National President, Professor Ken Maher, said that while the Review’s preliminary report addressed some of the key issues facing Australia’s future energy security, it was largely silent on the critical role the built environment can and should play in the reform process.

‘Buildings contribute to nearly half of the country’s electricity consumption and the building sector offers a great opportunity for more energy productivity gains,’ Prof Maher said.

‘Australia’s building sector can deliver up to 28 per cent of Australia’s 2030 emissions reduction target, save a staggering $20 billion in energy savings and create healthier, more productive cities, according to research from the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC).

‘Reducing demand through regulation and performance-based design incentives would produce low cost opportunities to reduce emissions and take the pressure off energy generation.

‘As members of ASBEC, the Institute strongly supports their 2016 Low Carbon, High Performance report, which convincingly demonstrates that Australia’s built environment sector can become a global leader in energy and sustainability.

‘Smarter design is critical to achieving savings as demonstrated over the past decade, when improvements in the energy performance of buildings through good design has saved over $28 million (gross) in avoided energy bills. Yet much more is needed, particularly in the residential sector, if we are to achieve the Paris COP 21 targets adopted by government.

‘To make the necessary savings, governments must introduce nationally consistent policies such as strong minimum standards for commercial and residential buildings through the National Construction Code, as well as more stringent performance standards for equipment and appliances.

‘Policies are also needed to support higher performance in the short to medium term through incentives and programs utilising government market power to drive energy productivity improvements, including a national plan towards 2050 zero carbon buildings.

‘A better balance of supply and demand based policies will allow for more flexible, adaptable and future proof energy systems that are not overly reliant on one-way transmission via the grid.
‘Every year we delay will cost us significantly in money, quality of life, emissions, and put at risk our ability to effectively respond to the impact of climate change.’