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It was a disappointing end to 2018 when the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Energy Council deferred a critical decision to increase energy efficiency requirements within the National Construction Code (NCC).

It means buildings will continue being built to outdated standards, which in the case of housing haven’t been updated in almost a decade.

Despite another lost opportunity, industry is working hard to create its net zero vision by 2030.

In a statement, the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC) described the deferred decision as a missed opportunity to improve the energy performance of Australian buildings.

ASBEC president, Professor Ken Maher, said it could lock in higher energy bills for households and businesses, increase stress on the electricity network and result in greenhouse gas emissions that would otherwise have been avoided.

He said ASBEC’s Built to Perform report, produced in partnership with ClimateWorks Australia, showed that a forward pathway for stronger energy standards in the NCC could reduce household energy bills by up to $900 each year, contributing to up to $29 billion in reduced energy bills and 78 million tonnes of cumulative emissions savings across the economy by 2050.

“Delays in improving minimum energy performance standards for new buildings can lock in decades of avoidable energy bills,” Maher said.

“A three-year delay of strengthened requirements to Australia’s Building Code could lead to $2.6 billion in wasted energy expenditure, while locking in an additional $720 million of electricity network investments and 9 million tonnes of emissions by 2030.”

Professor Maher said that a COAG-level commitment to increase efficiency in the NCC would provide certainty for the construction industry.

“If developers and manufacturers know how the Code requirements will evolve over the next 15 years, this will provide the regulatory certainty industry needs to plan and invest in new technologies, delivering higher building energy performance at lower cost,” he said.

The Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) CEO, Romilly Madew, said the government cannot afford to delay regulatory and structural changes.

“It is vitally important that increases in energy efficiency requirements within the NCC progress with urgency,” she said.

“Buildings currently consume more than half Australia’s electricity and most have lifespans of between 50 and 100 years.

“That’s why we need change now to support the transition to a lower emission future and ensure businesses of all sizes are able to plan for the long-term through a more certain regulatory environment.

“In an increasingly challenging political environment, the opportunities for governments to deliver real action on energy prices, security and emissions reduction through our built environment are enormous, cost-effective, and supported by industry and the community,” Madew said.

“Half of the buildings that will be standing in 2050 are yet to be built and setting standards for their construction now is the cheapest and easiest means of cutting emissions.”

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