Written by Lou De Mattia and Sandra Howlin
The NT Government's economic recovery plans in response to COVID-19 have the opportunity to improve the Territory's energy efficiency outcomes, helping to bridge the large gap between us and the rest of Australia.
CSIRO Futures Lead Economist, Dr Katherine Wynn said by acting now, "energy efficient technologies is one immediate way to reduce energy costs, emissions and demand on the grid while creating local jobs, and we see many opportunities for increased productivity, such as energy efficient appliances in buildings and electric vehicles in transport that use mature technologies that are readily adoptable today".
Environment Centre NT and COOLmob called on all political parties prior to the August 2020 election to Build and Recover for Energy Efficiency. We advocated that the NT Government use the ACOSS Joint Proposal for Economic Stimulus Healthy and Affordable homes to stimulate the economy in the Covid-19 recovery.
This Proposal was built on the principle of “jobs-rich growth, a focus on people most at risk, a collaborative approach with a regional focus, improving liveability and resilience and reducing carbon emissions”. It’s adoption and implementation in the NT would have allowed the NT Government to achieve positive outcomes across health, jobs, social justice and de-carbonisation and for decades to come.
Environment Centre NT also called on the incoming Government to:
- Adopt NCC 2019 Section J, basic minimum energy efficiency regulations for new commercial buildings
- Increase minimum energy efficiency standards for new and refurbished residential buildings to at least 8 stars
- Ensure AC units provided to social and government housing are split system inverters, not box A/Cs for efficiency and lower power bills
In Australia, energy consumed by our buildings accounts for 55% of total electrical use and 23% of carbon emissions. The potential for improvement is huge and has many advantages including, reducing electricity network stress, reduce energy bills for building owners & occupants, improving overall health of the population and it is the least-cost pathway to zero carbon. (Built to Perform in Northern Australia, Property Council of Australia, 2019).
51% of Australia’s buildings in 2050 will be built AFTER 2019, therefore an obvious method to control the quality of performance of yet to be constructed buildings lies within our National Construction Code (NCC), raising the minimum standards for energy efficiency within the NCC is a major focus of the strategy. (Built to Perform in Northern Australia, Property Council of Australia, 2019).
We had hoped to see energy efficiency playing a major role in last week’s release of the Territory Economic Reconstruction Commission report, but it was extremely disappointing that the words ‘energy efficiency’ are only used twice with vague reference.
Globally and in most other Australian jurisdictions, Energy Efficiency is at the heart of economic recovery policy in 2020, acknowledging that energy efficiency benefits are huge and that realising them requires rapid and decision action from all sectors including Government, industry, and consumers.
The Australian Council of Social Services, Australian Industry Group, the Energy Efficiency Council and the Property Council of Australia held a National Summit on the role of energy efficiency and Australia’s economic recovery in July 2020, recognising the widespread positive impacts and the crucial timelines at stake.
The Territory however, continues to ignore the benefits of energy efficiency, which could deliver positive social, environmental and economic gains across
- Energy demand reduction and greater grid reliability
- Lowering household and business energy bills for all Territorians
- Creation of new labour intensive industries (high employment construction jobs)
- Mitigation against the effects of climate change and increasing temperatures
- Investment in social housing retrofits which also deliver on job creation
Unprecedented number of energy efficiency stimulus proposals from Australian industry, consumer and environmental groups released as Covid-19 responses include:
- Building a stronger and cleaner post-pandemic Australia joint statement from leading Australian organisations – 25 May 2020
- Pivot – Rebound – Transform: A practical plan for rapidly transforming the energy management market that supports Australian industry from Ai Group and the Energy Efficiency Council – 18 June 2020
- Building efficiency for jobs and growth from ASBEC, the Energy Efficiency Council, the Green Building Council of Australia and the Property Council – 17 June 2020
- 50 plus organisations propose a smart housing installation boom to make a real difference from a huge alliance led by the Australian Council of Social Service – 19 June 2020
- Driving a pandemic recovery that addresses household energy challenges from the One Million Homes Alliance – 19 June 2020
- The Million Jobs Plan from Beyond Zero Emissions – 29 June 2020
- Energy efficiency is a machine for creating jobs - time to start it up from ACOSS, Ai Group, the Energy Efficiency Council and Property Council - 3 July 2020
Below is a list of Government led stimulus packages centered around energy efficiency, which were created in response to Covid-19 economic recovery. These responses demonstrate leadership and commitment to policies which will deliver on economic, environmental and social justice outcomes well beyond the needs of the current generation but will ensure future generations have homes that are liveable in a heating climate, that all members of the community including those most vulnerable receive positive benefits, and that job creation is in line with Australia’s commitment to the Paris Agreement.
- Delivering cheap and reliable energy in Victoria - 22 November 2020
- Lower energy costs for dairy farmers - 2 November 2020
- Ongoing support for energy users during COVID-19 - 30 October 2020
- Energy storage project to strengthen grid reliability in NSW - 23 October 2020
- Powering our public schools into the future - 17 November 2020
South Australian Government
- Building a cooler future - 6 November 2020
- Delivering Cheap And Reliable Energy In Victoria - 22 November 2020
- Backing Agriculture For Victoria’s Strong Future - 20 November 2020
- Helping Victorians Pay Their Power Bills - 17 November 2020
- Victoria’s Big Housing Build - 15 November 2020
The Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC) found that national cost-effective energy efficiency opportunities could deliver almost $20 billion in financial savings by 2030 and that these measures, combines with fuel switching and renewable energy technology have the potential to result in net-zero emissions buildings by 2050.
ASBEC also found that a delay in implementing these opportunities by even just 5 years could lead to over $24 billion in wasted energy costs and lost opportunities (The Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC)).
The NT Government committed to taking action on climate change to maximise the economic, social and environmental wellbeing of Territorians as part of their COVID-19 response (Northern Territory Climate Change Response Towards 2050).
Yet the $30 million Home Improvement Scheme (HIS), part of the Territory Government’s Jobs Rescue and Recovery plan was a greatly missed opportunity to improve the energy performance, lower power bills and increase comfort of Northern Territory Homes. The package could have required energy efficiency upgrades and included incentives for landlords to increase the energy efficiency of their rental properties. Low-income households, renters and older people are more likely to live in energy-inefficient dwellings, and such a program would have included more equitable access to energy efficiency gains.
In the past 10 years there has been no adopting of National Construction Code regulations for energy efficiency in the NT, what we have seen is a rise in energy bills, a rise in temperatures and a rise in our GHG emissions. The potential for energy efficiency to address multiple NTG targets through one initiative cannot continue to be overlooked. While the focus on power generation, gas verses renewables seems to consume the debate perhaps it is timely to pause, refocus and seek out the multiple opportunities available to increase energy efficiency and reduce the demand side of power generation as opposed to a complete focus on the supply side. Energy efficiency provisions need to be addressed as the first fuel in the energy conversation.
We’re in a unique position right now, with Australian Government’s investing in large-scale stimulus, and we need to ensure the projects chosen are delivering equitable outcomes to all Territorians.