A nationwide plan to transform Australia’s existing building stock into models of energy efficiency and renewable power generation has found that residential and commercial energy use could be cut in half, and could reach zero emissions from their operations, within 10 years.
The The Zero Carbon Australia Buildings Plan – a joint effort from climate think-tank Beyond Zero Emissions and The University of Melbourne Energy Institute, set to be launched on Thursday – sets out a strategy to retrofit Australia’s buildings, to reduce energy bills, generate renewable energy, increase comfort levels, and make workplaces more productive.
The plan finds the residential building sector would be able to achieve a 53 per cent energy use reduction overall, with some typical home categories seeing over 70 per cent reduction. Commercial buildings are estimated to be able to reduce energy use by 44 per cent overall.
A key element of the plan involves buildings going gas-free, with gas appliances deemed “too inefficient and polluting” compared to modern electric appliances which can replace them – namely heat pumps, or split-system airconditioners, as they are more commonly known.
Solar also features heavily in the plan, which says Australian households could effectively be transformed into renewable energy power stations, able to generate more than their whole annual demand from rooftop PV panels.
The report – which is slated as the next step in the Zero Carbon Australia transition first outlined in BZE’s Stationary Energy Plan, from 2010 – says that Australia’s existing buildings are not adequately designed to meet many of the challenges we face today – often being unnecessarily cold in winter, hot in summer, and expensive to run.
“We now have the technologies and know-how to make our buildings far more comfortable, while protecting us from rising electricity and gas bills,” the report says. “This plan contains detailed bottom-up research, modelling and analysis into Australia’s existing buildings and energy consumption. We have collaborated extensively with industry, ensuring our recommended suite of retrofit measures is practical and widely applicable.”
Under the plan:
– Residential energy use is halved. The measures in this plan will, together, reduce the residential sector’s annual energy usage by 53%.
– Homes become renewable energy power stations. There is enough solar exposed roof space on residential buildings to install 31 GW of rooftop solar photovoltaics. This installation will allow the average Australian home to generate more electricity than it uses over a year.
– Australian buildings go gas free. The use of fossil gas (conventional fossil gas, coal seam gas, shale gas & others) is completely removed from the buildings sector. Fossil gas appliances are replaced with higher- efficiency electric alternatives, eliminating gas bills and leading to significant reductions in energy use while avoiding the climate and environmental damage caused by gas.
– Households save money. Households currently spend approximately $15 billion per year on electricity and gas bills. The ZCA Buildings Plan will eliminate gas bills while significantly reducing electricity costs. The full upgrade can save $40 billion over the next 30 years.
– Non-residential energy use nearly halved. The energy used in non-residential buildings, on average, can be reduced by 44%. 2.5 GW of rooftop solar photovoltaics can be installed on non-residential buildings and the total cost is equivalent to business as usual over 30 years.
– Energy freedom is achievable. The plan shows that with the above actions, households and businesses can achieve energy freedom by generating more energy than they use and removing gas as an energy source.
– Tens of thousands of jobs will be created. From residential retrofits alone, around fifty thousand jobs can be created in the trades sector employing people to fix Australia’s buildings.
– The transition to 100% Renewable Energy is now $37 Billion cheaper and 15% more achievable. By detailed testing of the assumptions used in the ZCA Stationary Energy Plan, we show we need 15% less (excluding rooftop solar contribution) stationary renewable energy. By rolling out energy saving measures and rooftop solar we can make the transition to 100% renewable energy for Australia easier and cheaper.