Presenting its response to a report prepared by an expert panel established to advise the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction regarding the establishment of incentives on low cost abatement opportunities economywide, the Federal Government has expressed agreement with 21 of the 26 recommendations – most of them relevant to enhancements in the Emissions Reduction Fund established by the Abbott Government in 2014 to supply incentives for companies and people to adopt sustainability practices.

But the government simply made note of key recommendations regarding energy efficiency in the built environment.

These include recommendations to:

  • enhance the National Australian Built Environment Rating Scheme (NABERS) and the Commercial Buildings Disclosure scheme to an expanded spectrum of commercial building categories like hotels.
  • create an energy performance rating scheme for new and standing residential structures in accordance with the Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS)
  • cooperate with state and territory governments to establish mandated energy performance disclosure guidelines for the residential sector connected to the rating system; and
  • take a look at the percentage of skill shortages affiliated with abatement activities and if a need exists for more trained energy efficiency experts in building and industry.

In its reply, the Government asserts that it has addressed a good number of the problems specified in the recommendations through its Climate Solutions Package, announced in February 2019.

Aside from other measures – like a $2 billion incentive to reduce greenhouse gasses through the established Emissions Reduction Fund, support for pumped hydro schemes such as Snowy 2.0 and a  commitment to cultivate a national electric vehicle plan – this featured vaguely phrased promises to ‘help households and businesses improve energy efficiency bills’.

This, the plan indicated, would involve a promise to enhance NABERS and to consider an expansion of the Commercial Building Disclosure Program in the wake of a program review and to collaborate with state governments to enhance energy efficiency standards.

In its reply to the King review, the government stated that it was putting these commitments into action.

Regarding  NABERS, the government has allocated $3.4 billion over 2019/20 and 2020/21 to enhance the rating program.

Regarding the Commercial Building Disclosure Program, the government vowed its commitment to ‘period reviews … which will consider the case for expanding the program.’”

Regarding energy efficiency standards, the government references a 2019 agreement by the COAG Energy Council to adopt a long-range trajectory aimed to achieve zero energy buildings by way of mandated energy efficiency enhancements to be facilitated through the National Construction Code.

Lastly, in regard to mandated energy performance disclosure obligations, the government stated that any legislation was an issue for states and territories but said that the COAG Energy Council had devised a national framework for home energy efficiency ratings.

Yet the Property Council of Australia expressed dismay that the government did not take further action.

While the review included references to many of the measures that the Council had summoned in its Every Building Counts policy framework presented in 2019, it said the government’s refusal to further follow up on the recommendations was a ‘missed opportunity’.

Specifically, the Council cites the need for an energy performance rating to judge standing residential buildings.

While the NatHERS scheme covers the design of new houses, no established rating scheme in Australia allows prospective home buyers or tenants to estimate the probable energy performance of their property before buying or leasing.