Thursday, 11 September 2008

Carbon trading profits | Investing in energy efficient homes

In all the discussion of what are meaningful carbon abatement targets for Australia’s proposed carbon trading scheme, most of us have missed one of the Government’s most radical initiatives. It would seem that the Australian Government has decided to link carbon trading profits directly with investment in improving the energy efficiency of Australia’s stock of existing dwellings.

Both the general principles and the specific details have been kind of dribbling out, mainly in speeches by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, Peter Garrett. On August 2, at the Appropriate Technology Retailers Association of Australia conference, Melbourne, he outlined a commitment of more than $1 billion to household and community energy efficiency and renewable energy in the Government’s first Budget, stating:
This is about deploying technologies where they are needed most, for example the $150 million Low Emission Plan for Renters, providing rebates for installing energy-efficient insulation in rental homes.

It’s about helping households make smarter choices for energy efficient products by expanding, accelerating and strengthening energy rating labels and standards for appliances, like televisions.

It’s about transforming markets away from the most inefficient and costly products, for example through the accelerated phase-out of inefficient lighting, through rebates for solar hot water systems to replace inefficient systems, and working with the States and Territories to phase-out the most inefficient systems over time.

And it’s about integrating these approaches with innovative financing arrangements, like Green Loans, a $300 million commitment to deliver Green Renovation packs, sustainability assessments, and low-interest loans for energy and water efficiency – including solar PV - to up to 200,000 households from early 2009.

By August 29, in a speech to the Association of Building Sustainability Assessors (ABSA) National Conference, he hinted at the most important investment the government is proposing to make: subsidising or perhaps paying in full for energy ratings and advice to householders. After speaking about the benefit of solar hot water, adding insulation, and other well proven strategies, he went on:
It begs the question – if we know it’s so good, why aren’t we all doing it already? And part of the answer is Australian households need advice – professional, impartial advice - on the most effective ways to reduce their energy and water usage and financial help to make those changes. That’s why the building sustainability assessment profession has a critical role to play in helping Australian households make effective and practical changes to their homes to reduce their energy use and save on energy bills.

Through the Government’s $300 million Green Loans program, from early 2009, Australian families will be able to access a high quality subsidised expert assessment of their home’s energy and water use.

They will sit down at their table with a trained professional and receive tailored advice, based on their home and their circumstances.

They will immediately benefit from energy and water savings from the Green Renovation Kit that will be delivered.

They will be guided to low interest finance options to undertake the improvements recommended and to rebates for which they’re eligible.

They will understand which appliances incorporate cost-saving energy and water efficient technologies through efficiency labelling.

And they will know what small changes they can make in running their home – like curtains, door seals, energy efficient lighting and low-flow showerheads – to save even more energy and water and reduce costs over time.

Later in the conference, one government official suggested that the real plan is to go a lot further: to introduce quite quickly the mandatory declaration of home energy ratings at time of sale or letting ─ as has been the requirement in the Australian Capital Territory for some years. The government is clearly committed to all of us being better informed about saving energy in the home, and is willing to overcome consumer and industry resistance to the up-front cost of that extra effort. By paying for it directly from its profits from carbon trading.

I wait with bated breath for the official announcement.

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