Across two days in May, the Energy Efficiency Council, Australia’s peak body for energy management, energy efficiency and demand flexibility, hosted the 2022 National Energy Efficiency Conference in Melbourne with a sharp focus on the role of energy management in achieving net zero.

The theme for the event was “The first fuel for net zero”, with a sharp focus on informing and inspiring innovation in energy management; providing vision for the potential of energy efficiency from an environmental and economic perspective; and encouraging understanding of the need for urgency in enacting change.

The conference featured a number of keynote speakers, and delegates were encouraged to be inspired to act on issues such as linking renewables to energy management, and translating net-zero aspirations into action.

International guest speaker Adrian Joyce (pictured above), director, Renovate Europe Campaign, provided fascinating insight into the EU initiative to transform its 210 million buildings into energy efficient green zones as part of its roadmap to net zero.

Established in 2011, Renovate Europe is a political communications campaign beating the drum for deep energy renovation of building stock in the EU. The key objectives of its EU Renovation Wave Strategy are to drastically increase renovation rates in Europe; address energy loss; save energy; alleviate energy poverty; reduce greenhouse gas emissions; create jobs; and boost economic recovery.

Renovate Europe’s target for 2030 is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60 per cent, reduce energy demand by 14 per cent, reduce energy for heating and cooling by 18 per cent, and deep renovate 35 million building units.

Luke Menzel, chief executive officer of the Energy Efficiency Council, addressing delegates at the 2022 National Energy Efficiency Conference in Melbourne.

The campaign offers plenty of wisdom into how Australia can follow suit.

“I’ve been struck by how brutally honest Australians are about how terrible their buildings are,” said Joyce in his keynote address. “But in Europe, we’re not much better, with 97 per cent of buildings needing ‘deep renovation’. A little over nine per cent of buildings are visited each year by installers, plumbers, painters, etc, but very few of them receive renovations that affect their energy performance.

‘Deep renovation’ is the only one that counts, and only 0.24 per cent of buildings in Europe receive this each year. The rate we need to undertake deep renovation is three per cent each year – a 12-fold increase. That is the extent of the challenge we are looking at. Already, 200 billion Euro is being spent on building renovation in the EU.”

Joyce explained that a holistic approach to address energy loss is required, such as installing energy efficient equipment; ensuring the delivery of quality outcomes; pertinent independent advice in planning and design; expert installation works; and flexible, tailored financial solutions.

Also speaking at the conference was Carsten Müller, a German parliamentarian and chair of the German Industry Initiative for Energy Efficiency. He spoke at the event’s gala dinner about the importance of energy efficiency during the current global crisis of soaring energy prices and the war in Ukraine.

Carsten Müller, chair of the German Industry Initiative for Energy Efficiency, spoke at the National Energy Efficiency Conference’s gala dinner. Photo: Supplied.

He pointed out that the distance between Berlin and Lviv is about the same as the distance between Melbourne and Sydney, and that even for many Europeans it’s not recognised how close Germany is to Ukraine, meaning the war is closer to home than many people realise.

Carsten noted the common challenge the war has brought to Germany and Australia: rapidly rising energy prices. He outlined how Germany managed to reduce its gas imports from Russia by one-third in less than three months after the war began by switching sources – albeit using more coal – and through increased energy efficiency.

Energy efficiency is considered the second pillar of Energiewiende (“energy turnaround”), which aims to make Germany’s energy system sustainable, reliable and affordable. However, Carsten argued the importance of energy efficiency is not well recognised, particularly with respect to its role in energy security.

He urged conference attendees to talk more passionately and emotionally about energy efficiency in light of the global energy crisis, stating, “Energy efficiency is the key to democracy, freedom and peace.”