Net zero buildings

Make new buildings net zero, and

electrify established ones

Did you know that Australian buildings account for around 20% of our emissions?

This comes from the electricity and energy that’s used in buildings. We need to get emissions from Australian buildings down to net zero, and we need to do it by 2030. The good news is – it’s relatively straightforward, and would save money on reduced bills too!

Traditionally, Australia has had incredibly poor energy efficiency standards, meaning that many Australians live in homes that are little better than glorified tents: freezing in winter and stifling in summer. 

But… good news! The National Construction Code has just been updated and the minimum star rating for new homes has been increased from 6 to 7 stars. This is a great first step. The next update should include a plan for all new buildings to be net zero over a year through a combination of built-in measures like good insulation, all-electric appliances and enough rooftop solar. 
Improving energy efficiency in the building sector is Australia’s most cost-effective climate solution.
In the building sector, most of the ways to achieve zero emissions are already established and commercially competitive. Plus, solutions that are currently developing could also further reduce costs.

What needs to happen by 2030?

We need to electrify our buildings, which means making sure everything is running off electricity rather than fossil fuels like gas. We need to design homes that are better at staying cold in summer and warm in winter. And we need to use energy-efficient appliances and household solar. 

What are the benefits?

Doing all of these things and getting our building emissions down to net zero would be:

Better for the climate: Energy efficiency opportunities could cut the average energy consumption of buildings by more than one quarter by 2030 and more than half by 2050 at little to no additional cost

Better for our health and comfort: No one likes sweating through summer or freezing through winter. This would mean our homes are more comfortable to live in. Plus, poorly-insulated homes result in us getting sick more often. Improving this would be a major win for our health

Better for our hip pocket: Using less energy also reduces energy bills

Of course, there are a lot of buildings and homes that are already built. So what do we do about these?
For established buildings, gas appliances (including heaters, hot water systems and cooktops) should be phased out and replaced as soon as possible; with gas appliance replacement bans coming into effect from 2025. There are many things governments can do to support this, like amending the National Gas Rules to make the costs of disconnecting from gas affordable, transparent and consistent. Governments can also introduce programs that support households with the upfront costs of new electric appliances, such as low or zero interest loans. We need to make sure that there are enough new electric appliances to meet the increased demand that will result from a blanket gas appliance replacement ban, with a focus on supporting Australian manufacturers.

Case Study

Germany has been incredibly proactive in planning and funding their energy transition.
The German Coal Commission was established 2018 to meet the country’s 2030 emissions reduction target and phase out coal-fired power by 2038. The plan includes €40 billion (A$67 billion) to diversify regions economics and create new jobs as coal is phased out, alongside €5-7billion in compensation to workers for early retirement and €5-10 billion to pay power station owners for early retirement of their plans and access to a wider national upskilling fund. 
Energy workers