News | 9th Apr, 2012

Coalition urged to increase home energy ratings

Monday, April 9 2012
Tom Arup, The Age

Environment and welfare groups have questioned a lack of progress by the Baillieu government on its election promise to lift the average energy standards of Victoria's homes.

Heading into the 2010 election the Coalition committed to "support the transition of all existing housing stock to meet an average of five-star energy rating" as soon as possible.

A spokesman for Planning Minister Matthew Guy said the government "stands rock solid by its election commitment" and "our policy is as it stands".

However The Age has talked to a number of environmental, welfare and property industry figures who say there has been little engagement to date on the five-star commitment.

The energy star system rates how much a house needs to be heated or cooled to stay comfortable. All new homes in Victoria are required to be built with a six-star energy rating, but it is estimated upgrades to 1.46 million existing households will be needed by 2020 to meet the five-star average.

A coalition of groups — including Environment Victoria, Victorian Council of Social Service and Uniting Care — has sent the government a budget submission calling for action on the five-star commitment in the upcoming state budget.

"The Coalition's recognition of the need to upgrade Victoria's existing housing stock is welcome," they say.

"However, considering there has been no date set for achieving this commitment, very little funding has been provided through piecemeal rebate programs, and no detail has been released on the process or steps to achieve the commitment. Unless action is taken at the upcoming state budget, there is very little chance of achieving the five-star standard by 2020 or even by a later date. Given the Coalition's oft-voiced concern about rising utility prices for households, this would be a disappointing outcome."

The groups say a large retrofitting program, increased rebates for water and energy saving items, and low or no interest loans for energy efficiency upgrades, should be considered. In the short term, they call for the government to analyse the costs and the best mix of projects to meet the commitment. Dean Lombard from VCOSS said the five-star commitment was not just about reducing emissions, but also about cheaper electricity bills.

"As prices rise higher, the income gain [on reduced energy bills] becomes very real for low income households," he said.

Tricia Phelan from Environment Victoria said the process had been "a sad and sorry state of affairs," adding the groups were still waiting on a response from Mr Guy to their submission sent several months ago.

The Property Council said the built environment was responsible for 24 per cent of Australia's emissions, and called on the state and federal governments "to both develop partnership programs to assist businesses and households to green their buildings".

"This is especially important for Victoria due to its dependence on brown coal. This means Victorian businesses and households will bear the impact of the carbon price more than their state counterparts," the council's Victorian executive director, Jennifer Cunich, said.

The former Brumby government committed to a five-star average under its climate change white paper, setting a 2020 target to achieve it.

The potential cost for government and households was calculated to be $7.6 billion, but benefits from reduced energy and water bills would be worth $11.52 billion.


Read more about our campaign to lift the average energy standards of Victoria's homes

See what else the Baillieu Government is up to, environmentally speaking