If the government pursues policies to promote higher energy-efficient standards for the country’s existing housing stock it could save householders at least $1,000 each year, according to a recent report.
The report, from the Australian Council of Social Service and the Brotherhood of St Laurence believes that governmental investment in efficiency could save apartments around $300 and houses up to $1,100 or so. This is actually before rooftop solar is taken into account, too, so moves in this direction will mean big savings, especially for lower-income households.
Any government investment in energy efficiency for houses and apartments will create savings in electricity that will recoup and exceed the original investment in five years or thereabouts.
By making these improvements mandatory in rental properties, tenants could be saving up to $1,100 each year.
These savings are around the same level as the projected savings from the Federal Coalition’s national regulated retail price. This policy is one of the main promises of the Morrison government and it aims to push down electricity prices. Unfortunately, not much has been done so far, either at the federal or state level, to put plans into action.
An easy catch
Around 95% of Australia’s housing stock was built before the early 2000s, before energy efficiency standards came into play, so by aiming at this easy target, the nation could save millions each year.
Many rental properties are very inefficient, with zero-star ratings and the fact that the tenants are powerless to change anything in the place means the rating stays low – and expensive.
Landlords can be encouraged to install energy-efficient appliances, solar panels and the like, but unless it becomes a mandate, many won’t. A similar situation applies to low-income owner-occupiers who can’t afford to upgrade appliances or install solar heaters and panels.
The so-called big-ticket items like water heaters, air conditioners and panel arrays are often out of easy reach for low-income households and so people just struggle on with big bills.
When households receive help to install energy-efficient appliances, they feel the benefit to their pockets – and their health – almost immediately.
The Brotherhood of St Laurence wants to see large-scale solar and energy efficiency programmes and incentives for everyone, regardless of income as it’s not just about reducing high bills. The improvement in life quality reduces the burden on governments and health services, as well as employers.
The nuts and bolts
The report recommends that states and territories introduce mandated energy efficiency standards for rental properties as part and parcel of a bigger programme to improve the rental housing sector.
Landlords should, it says, receive incentives to upgrade their properties, with the biggest rewards going to low-cost units and dwellings.
Federal, local and state governments should work with energy retailers to co-fund programmes to bring solar and energy-efficient appliances to low-income households, as well as to social housing and other affordable complexes.