Despite some major improvements, particularly in the top-tier office market, the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council found only a 2% improvement in energy intensity across the commercial sector and a 5% improvement across the residential sector over the past decade. “That’s not really capturing the scale of opportunity we know exists through energy efficiency,” says ClimateWorks implementation manager Eli Court.

If landlords are serious about cutting energy use, all the tools they need for the job are at hand. The hard part is getting them to make a decision about picking them up and using them.

“In terms of meeting international climate change commitments, we know that nationally we need to be around net zero emissions by 2050 — buildings are the one sector in the economy that we know can already get there even with today’s technologies, and that’s a huge opportunity.”

ClimateWorks worked with the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council on its Low Carbon, High Performance summary report, released in May, to consider how buildings can contribute to Australia’s emissions and productivity goals.

The report included modelling around how the built environment could reach zero emissions by 2050 with a combination of energy efficiency, distributed energy and switching from gas and other non-electric compliances to electric alternatives.

The authors focused on the barriers to increased energy efficiency and found they are more of a perception than a reality. “All the energy efficiency opportunities we modelled are already either profitable or on the path to profitability, showing that without any technological breakthroughs we could get to zero carbon,” Court says, acknowledging that technology breakthroughs could reduce costs or create opportunities.

“One of the big opportunities is around selling the case for improved energy performance of buildings by the heating and cooling industry to end consumers. That’s because they’re out talking to people day in day out about the equipment they are installing and replacing. That makes them a really important touch point for communications.”

Court will present the report’s recommendations at the All-Energy Australia Conference in Melbourne in October as part of his presentation on the role of buildings in Australia’s transition to a low carbon economy.

The recommendations are grouped into five key themes which build on the National Energy Productivity Plan, he says, but suggest improvements to the plan including the introduction of targets for the built environment sector, strong public reporting requirements and clear governance and accountability for delivering the various measures.

Another recommendation is to facilitate an upgrade of the minimum energy performance standards for new buildings in the national construction code, which specifies the minimum standard for new buildings, with an upgrade to the code scheduled for 2019.

“We are working with Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council to make sure that in 2019 that upgrade is ambitious and aligned with what we need to achieve to get us on a trajectory to zero carbon emissions buildings,” he says.

 

Eli Court will be presenting as part of Energy Efficiency 2: Meeting Australia’s Energy Productivity and Carbon Mitigation Targets by Improving Performance in Government, Business and the Community on October 4.