CANBERRA, AAP – Many Australians are racking up huge power bills in homes that are too hot during summer and freezing in winter, but that could change.
The independent Climate Council is calling for a better national construction code, warning that even a short delay in strengthening energy efficiency will lock in higher power bills and carbon emissions for decades.
The energy efficiency advocates also want minimum standards for rental properties, an overhaul of public housing, and gas to be banned from new housing developments by 2025.
The Tent to Castles report released on Thursday found living in a 7-star, all-electric house in any capital city would save occupants on average $450 per year on heating and cooling costs compared to the current 6-star standard, which many older homes do not meet.
Health expert Hilary Bambrick said it was appalling that cold houses contribute to six per cent of Australia’s deaths per year – double the rate in Sweden where winter temperatures reach minus 30 degrees.
“If we urgently update our new build standards as well as upgrade poorly built existing homes we’ll all be much happier and safer, and as a country we’ll be contributing fewer emissions,” Professor Bambrick said.
For every new home built to 7 stars, the emissions saved each year are equivalent to taking a car off the road for a year, according to the report.
Economists calculated the economic benefits of avoiding these emissions over a ten-year period at up to $3.5 billion.
Report co-author Nicki Hutley said Australians cop some of the most expensive energy bills in the world, with 85 per cent experiencing bill shock last year, because homes are built to higher standards elsewhere.
“A Tasmanian home built today uses more than double the energy of a similar sized house built in Ireland,” she said.
Money could also be saved on the electricity grid because demand would reduce, the report found.
With 1.1 million homes expected to be built in Australia over the next five years, higher standards could result in reduced need for network expansion and lower capital costs.
State and territory ministers are preparing to meet in July to review regulations that govern minimum energy efficiency standards in new homes.