The Cooperative Research Centre for Low Carbon Living (CRCLCL) has called for a comprehensive review of Australia’s energy efficiency policy and regulation to assist the country transition rapidly to the economically attractive low carbon built environment of the future.

In a new report ‘Best Practice Policy and Regulation for Low Carbon Outcomes in the Built Environment’, prepared by Philip Harrington of Strategy Policy Research, the CRCLCL says Australia’s energy efficiency policy is not keeping up with market realities and best practices in other OECD countries. According to Mr Harrington, Australia has some examples of best practice policy and regulation, but there is much room for improvement.

He explains that Australia has introduced excellent initiatives in the built environment, including the voluntary rating scheme, NABERS, which is recognised around the world; the Commercial Building Disclosure (CBD) scheme that requires mandatory disclosure of the energy performance of larger office spaces; as well as ambitious local and state government carbon reduction targets, and initiatives requiring above-minimum energy and sustainability performance standards via some local government planning schemes.

While some of the best measures are limited in scope, the list of poor policy and regulatory practices in Australia’s built environment is long. Mr Harrington attributes this situation to the country’s failure to update regulatory measures, such as minimum energy performance standards (MEPS) for buildings since 2009. Similarly, product and appliance standards have been largely frozen for many years, due to government-imposed processes such as regulatory offsets.

Making a strong case for expanding and updating existing national measures including the MEPS, Commercial Building Disclosure and the NABERS ratings tools in the shorter term, he said opportunities to take action on these include the National Energy Productivity Plan and the 2017 Climate Policy Review process.

CRCLCL Deputy Chair Sandy Hollway AO, said there were economically-attractive opportunities to move Australia towards global best practices in built environment policy and regulation. ASBEC had recently estimated the potential for building energy efficiency improvement to be at least 50 per cent by 2050; reductions are also being observed in the cost of solar and other renewable energy sources, which must be taken advantage of, he said.

Referring to the report, Mr Hollway reiterated the need for a thorough review and rationalisation of policies and regulations in consultation with states, territories, industry and the community.

Observing that Australia’s regulations have not been updated over a period when energy prices have been dramatically rising and technology costs for low carbon solutions such as solar, have fallen, CRCLCL Chief Executive Officer, Professor Deo Prasad AO said Australian residents and businesses are paying for it in higher energy costs.

According to Professor Prasad, setting a forward trajectory for regulatory settings under the National Construction Code could help remove regulatory uncertainty and decrease the risk of business investment in low-carbon products, services and business models.

For a full copy of the report ‘Best Practice Policy and Regulation for Low Carbon Outcomes in the Built Environment’, and the associated Policy Guide Note, please visit the CRC for Low Carbon Living website.