Victoria’s conservative Baillieu government looks set to continue its work unravelling the green policies of its predecessors, with reports today revealing a contentious new proposal to scrap the state’s mandatory energy ratings for new homes and renovations. Documents obtained by The Age have revealed that Victorian Treasurer Kim Wells wrote to Planning Minister Matthew Guy late last month asking him to detail a plan for removal of the 6-star standard in Victoria as part of the Baillieu government’s bid to cut bureaucratic red tape by 25 per cent by July 2014. This is despite the Coalition’s pre-election 2010 promise to support the energy rating system, and its signing of a national 6-star code last year. The nationally-adopted 6-star energy rating standard requires all new homes and major renovations to meet efficiency standards for a house’s structural components – the roof, floor, walls and windows – and for its lighting, and (in Victoria) the installation of either a solar hot water system or rainwater tank for toilet flushing. The paper reports that Wells’ proposal suggests an voluntary alternative to the current system, in which builders choose an “appropriate standard,” based on consumer demand and “the optimal energy efficiency versus building costs combination” for each property.
The Age says that the Coalition’s proposal backs its proposal with a Master Builders Association report from July 2010, which argued that mandatory home energy ratings may cost homeowners more than they deliver in energy savings; while a Treasury attachment argues that energy efficiency measures “duplicate” the impact of the carbon price. The Gillard government is not impressed. ”Ted Baillieu has it wrong again,” parliamentary secretary for climate change and energy efficiency, Mark Dreyfus, told the paper. “Six-star energy ratings for new homes will help households save thousands of dollars on their bills with houses that use energy more efficiently and are more comfortable to live in… By scrapping the 6-star rating, the Baillieu government will be locking in poorer housing stock with unnecessarily high day-to-day running costs for families.”
Climate department revolving doors
Despite the recently announced massive job cuts, it’s good to know the traffic through the door at the federal government’s Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency won’t be all one-way. One of those who has left the premises is Andrew Ure, the department’s former Director of International Forest Carbon. He’s headed to OgilvyEarth – Ogilvy PR Australia’s sustainability communication practice – where he will replace outgoing managing director of 10 years, Sarah Cruickshank. Cruickshank, meanwhile, is heading in through the Climate Department’s door, to take up the Assistant Secretary role.
Speaking about Ure’s appointment, OgilvyEarth and Ogilvy PR CEO Kieran Moore said the company was excited to get him on board “at a time when Australian companies have sustainability issues at the core of their business strategies.” During his time at the Department, Ure supported the development of Australia’s international climate change policy, and was a lead negotiator for Australia in UN negotiations. He was elected co-chair of the international REDD+ Partnership, a grouping of 80 countries aimed at driving progress on deforestation, and established a work plan to encourage private sector investment in REDD+. He also chaired one of four negotiations under the Kyoto Protocol. “OgilvyEarth clients know that doing more with less is not just good for the environment – it’s good for them and their key stakeholders,” Ure said in a statement. Perhaps Cruickshank can use her PR skills to help sell that message to Australian voters.
CO2 Group hits Queensland market
CO2 Group has announced a new Queensland venture – partnering with Bundaberg Brewed Drinks to develop a carbon offset project at Moura, 300 kilometres west of Bundaberg. The new project will allow the brewing company to reduce its carbon footprint and signifies CO2 Group’s entry into the Queensland market – one which the carbon sink developer believes could be fruitful. The project is being developed with the support of the Queensland Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI) and managed by CO2 Group. DEEDI has provided expert advice, as well as key resources including seed from elite provenances for the planting. CO2 Group CEO Andrew Grant said the project would boost the ongoing diversification of the range of forest carbon projects the company offers and the range of landscapes over which it can offer them. “Traditionally, mallee eucalypts have been used in Australian-based carbon sink plantings and now we are introducing a new species of eucalypt into our planting mix that’s best suited to the Queensland landscape,” Grant said, adding that this project was “particularly positive” for the company, “because it means we are now operating on-the-ground in Queensland, a state that offers enormous potential for carbon projects across a broad range of industries.”
Q-Cells Aust distances itself from German troubles
The Australian subsidiary of the recently bankrupt German solar manufacturer Q-Cells has taken steps to reassure the local market by announcing that it is conducting business as usual, despite the preliminary insolvency procedure of its parent company. In a statement released Monday, Q-Cells Australia stressed that it was incorporated in Australia “and financially and legally a separate entity from Q-Cells SE in Germany.” Oliver Hartley, Q-Cells Australia’s managing director, said in the statement that the company would “continue to service our customers and partners in the same highly responsive way we have become known for,” and reassured that it was “dispatching stock as usual,” with warranties in place. German-based Q-Cells filed for insolvency at the beginning of April, and is looking to be restructured. According to Q-Cells Australia, the administrator aims to ensure the foundation for a continuation of operations. Production in Germany and Malaysia is continuing.