Building an energy efficient culture

The Dreyfus Files - The Age

Just like Australians have done with water consumption, we need to make a change in the way we think about energy use.

This doesn't mean limiting economic growth or reducing living standards by eating dinner in the dark. But there is plenty of evidence that some households and businesses continue to use more energy than they need to.

It's not that the desire isn't there to keep the bills down, but often people don't have access to the information they need to reduce their energy consumption in a way that doesn't sacrifice lifestyle and productivity.
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For many Australians, buying the family home is the largest financial investment they will make in their lifetime. The house that we buy is the house that we'll spend the rest of our lifetime heating and cooling, and the costs of doing so vary widely depending on the energy efficiency of the house.

That's why the Gillard government is working with state and territory governments on developing options for residential building mandatory disclosure, which would give homebuyers the information they need about the costs of running a house.

Opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt, always ready to deploy the 'No' campaign at any new idea, criticised the plan to give consumers more information about the house they buy.

But it's worth remembering what state and territory governments, with our support, are working towards.

Mandatory disclosure will require owners of houses, flats or apartments to provide energy performance information about the home at the time it is offered for sale or lease. This information can be used when comparing properties or when seeking to upgrade a building's performance.

The federal, state and territory governments have released a consultation document outlining six different options for a residential building mandatory disclosure scheme. Some of these are new and some are similar to schemes that are currently operating.

For example, the ACT scheme requires disclosure of an energy efficiency rating using qualified assessors, while the Queensland scheme requires completion of a sustainability declaration (essentially a checklist of key sustainability features) by the homeowner.

At the moment, we're consulting the public and stakeholders about the different options to find out what will work for them. We expect to finish this consultation in late September and refine our options in light of what we hear. No decisions have been taken yet on a final scheme design.

The important thing to remember is, the mandatory disclosure proposal is designed to help households, and we'd be happy to hear from anyone that has ideas, feedback or concerns as part of the consultation process that's underway.

The process for providing written submissions is fully explained on my department's website, which also provides the link to the full regulation impact assessment document, which I encourage people to read to better understand the details of this issue.

It's not just business and industry that will move Australia to a clean energy future, householders will also have an important impact simply by making choices about how they use energy around their home. This measure will provide homeowners and renters with more information, empowering them to make more informed choices to save money on their energy bills.