Consumers to pay more if demand and design keep being ignored in energy debate

21 June

The Australian Institute of Architects has welcomed reports today of support in the Coalition Party Room for the majority of recommendations made in the recently released Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market.

National President, Richard Kirk, praised Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel and the panel for delivering a deeply considered and courageous set of recommendations to address Australia’s energy challenges.

‘The expert panel has shown great foresight and courage in recommending the adoption of a Clean Energy Target – a recommendation we fully support and urge all parliamentarians to accept,’ Kirk said.

‘The measures outlined will – if implemented – go a long way to ensuring Australia enjoys a secure, reliable and environmentally responsible energy future. But the energy debate now needs to be broadened to look deeper into demand side solutions.

‘There are some easy wins that have been largely overlooked as part of the Finkel report on the demand side of the energy equation.’

According to research from the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC), 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.

‘Measures that address demand must be part of the overall package of solutions to achieve long-term energy security and emissions reductions,’ Kirk said.

‘While we unreservedly welcome the acknowledgement in the report that there are gains to be made from better energy efficiency in the built environment and retrofitting existing premises, it does not factor in the full potential on offer, nor do its recommendations map out a clear path to seeing that potential achieved.

‘If governments don’t address demand by regulating better design, consumers will pay more. Recent further hikes in electricity prices represent a potentially disastrous scenario for many households.

‘Good design is a very powerful tool for reducing energy consumption in both the residential and commercial sectors. It takes the pressure off supply, while at the same time saving consumers considerable out-of-pocket costs for their energy use.

‘As the Finkel report shows, considerable investment in new and cleaner generation is required to maintain security of supply and lower emissions.

‘Governments can ease the growing burden on supply, reduce emissions and lower the risks to energy security by seeking demand-side savings in the built environment.

‘Given that buildings contribute to nearly half of the country’s electricity consumption, the building sector offers a great opportunity for more energy productivity gains.

‘Rising temperatures are a serious issue for Australia so it is more urgent than ever to have resilient design providing homes and office buildings that are cheaper to light, heat and cool.

‘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.

‘The Institute calls on governments to introduce nationally consistent policies such as stronger 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.’