Page 1277 - Week 04 - Wednesday, 25 March 2009

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I thank members for giving me the opportunity to talk about the important issue of energy efficiency ratings and how we are using and abusing them in the ACT. So what is an energy efficiency rating? For the sake of convenience, I will refer to this usually in my speech as “rating” or “EER”. The rating scheme used in the ACT is a star rating of the thermal performance of the building shell. It does not include appliances such as ovens and hot-water services, or even the built-in lighting.

The star rating ranges from zero stars to 10 stars and in this it is similar to energy rating labelling of appliances such as refrigerators. A zero star rating for a building is woeful and it means that the building does practically nothing to protect the occupants from unpleasant heat or cold outside. It is the lowest rating, although technically there are some houses in the ACT which would qualify for a negative rating. A five-star rating indicates the house has good but not brilliant thermal performance. There are a number of houses in the ACT which would rate a lot higher than this and basically do not use external energy for heating or cooling—except, of course, energy from the sun.

Energy efficiency ratings are important for a number of reasons. For house occupiers, they can tell them how comfortable it will be to live in the house and give an indication of how much money it will cost to heat or cool it. For house sellers, a recent study by the ABS for the commonwealth government has shown that houses will be worth in the order of an extra $10,000 for each additional star rating. This, of course, is because people recognise the value of energy stars. For people concerned with climate change, energy efficiency is very important. The more efficient our houses are, the less external energy the occupants need to use.

Weathering the Change shows that 72.3 per cent of the ACT’s energy use is in stationary energy use—largely heating and cooling buildings. The government said that it “will plan our buildings and infrastructure to be more energy efficient and to withstand changed climate patterns”, and noted that “smart building design can reduce the amount of resources we use”. 72.3 per cent of ACT energy is a substantial amount and should be a major focus for the government.

Just to make life a little bit more interesting, there are a couple of separate energy rating schemes. There are a couple of different ones for commercial buildings. These schemes are important but add, unfortunately, to the confusion about energy efficiency ratings and they are outside the scope of this motion.

Energy efficiency ratings are used in two ways with respect to residential properties in the ACT. Again, for simplicity, I will say in this speech “house” when in fact I mean “residential property”; that is, I am talking about both single residences and multi-unit properties. When you build a house it must have an energy rating, and when you sell a house you have to provide an energy rating to the potential buyer.

The Building Code of Australia requires all new houses to have a minimum star rating of five stars, although in multi-unit developments the requirements for some units may be less. When houses are sold, the energy efficiency rating must be part of all house advertising. When a house is purchased a certificate must also be supplied to the purchaser which includes the star rating and a list of potential energy efficiency

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