PIAC’s Energy + Water Consumer Advocacy Program (EWCAP) has welcomed the Commonwealth, state and territory government agreement to improve residential energy efficiency standards in the National Construction Code. The changes, supported by a joint community and industry campaign, will lift minimum NatHERS energy efficiency ratings from 6 to 7 Stars and require homes to meet an ‘energy budget’ by using energy efficient appliances, solar PV, or thermal efficiency.
‘This decision helps to ensure new homes will be fit for the future, and better able to support health, wellbeing and community resilience in through the impacts of a changed climate,’ says EWCAP Program Director Douglas McCloskey.
‘Energy efficiency is crucial in reducing emissions and the costs of upgrading the grid. 7 star homes take 25% less energy to heat and cool than the current 6 star standard, which means lower energy bills from day one and lower energy system costs for decades to come.’
It is estimated that this uplift in energy standards will cut emissions by up to 78 million tonnes and reduce the cost of grid upgrades by up to $12.6 billion by 2050. This demonstrates how improved housing energy efficiency is a win-win: for the climate and for energy affordability.
The NSW Government has confirmed it will implement the improvements from October 2023 for new housing and renovations over $50,000 . This result comes after a major community campaign, joined by PIAC, where 105 organisations across the consumer, energy, health, climate, community and property sectors called on governments to lift standards.
While the agreement is welcome, it highlights the need to tackle the bigger issue of existing housing, much of which is at or below a 3 star NatHERS rating.
‘Many people in NSW are living in housing that is inefficient, and little better than a shack or tent if you are trying to heat or cool it. Measures are urgently needed to prevent unhealthy conditions and huge energy bills, particularly for renters,’ says Douglas McCloskey.
The Healthy Homes for Renters coalition is supporting the implementation of minimum energy efficiency standards for rental properties, which is one of the next important steps in ensuring everyone has housing that supports their health and wellbeing, and everyone can benefit from the lower bills that more efficient homes enable. You can listen to PIAC Policy Officer Thomas Chailloux explaining on 2SER why minimum standards for rental housing are important and how you can join the campaign to implement them.
While the commitment to lifting building efficiency standards is welcome, the NSW Government has refused to enforce basic accessibility standards across new home builds which have been included in the National Construction Code. Until these standards are adopted in NSW, many people with disability will remain forced live in inadequate accommodation that doesn’t provide basic accessibility features like a step-free entrance and wider door frames and corridors to enable ease of movement. The refusal to require these basic standards for new home builds is a missed opportunity to make housing in NSW more safe and secure for everybody.