by Bruce Barbour - May 2009
Housing represents a significant user of energy in the community. Therefore having the highest energy efficiency in the housing sector will be beneficial in tackling Australia’s green house gas problem. I understand that there are current mandatory energy efficiency standards however these are probably not high enough to really tackle the green house gas production problems. I would urge that these mandatory energy standards be increased over time, along with an appropriate occupier education scheme as it has been shown that the benefits of energy efficient house design can be largely or partially negated by occupier use or mis-use.
However in the meantime to encourage home builders to go voluntarily above the statutory minimum star rating that monetary bonuses / subsidies be paid to home builders that achieve a higher rating. I would suggest that this could be of the order of $250 to $500 per additional point one (0.1)) of a star achieved over the statutory minimum. (The level of subsidy should be calculated to be on a par with the energy savings achieved by the other energy efficiency subsidy schemes operating in the housing sector.) So say the statutory minimum is 5 stars, if the home builder/ owner achieves say 5.6 stars they would be paid a bonus of (6 x $500 =) $3000. This will encourage the home owners and their designers to really look for ways of increasing the energy efficiency of the building. So they now might consider going for double glazing instead of single because they would get additional money which would offset the additional upfront capital cost. This will result in lower running costs for the house and lower green house gases.
The same sort of bonus scheme could apply to renovations with bonuses paid for increasing the star rating of the house (only in this case it should be paid for any increase not just the increase over 5 stars). Interaction with other bonus schemes applicable for existing houses would need to be assessed.
This type of bonus scheme would bring the subsidy for housing energy efficiency increases in line with the subsidies paid for other energy efficiency schemes such as solar hot water and photo voltaics.
This suggestion was sent in a letter to my local member of Parliament in May 2009 who forwarded it to the Minister for Energy and Resources.
Received a response from the Office of the Minister in August 2009. The letter received did not substantively address the issue raised in my initial letter so I still do not know whether the Government considers my suggestion to be a worthwhile idea or not, or even whether the Minister actually got to hear of the idea.
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