Consumers want energy-efficiency facts on homes

Zero carbon house, South Australia
Zero carbon house, South Australia

Research shows there is significant support for a national voluntary home energy efficiency disclosure system, designed to empower consumers to rate and value homes with lower running costs and health, comfort and sustainability benefits.

Funded by the CRC for Low Carbon Living (CRCLCL), the research showed 92 per cent of housing consumers want energy efficiency details revealed in building inspection reports, 82 per cent at open inspection and 72 per cent in property advertising. Around 50 per cent of home buyers and renters willing to pay for this information, according to the data.

The two-year research project also revealed 90 per cent of building professionals and tradespersons supported providing this information at the time of sale or lease.

Called the EnergyFit Homes Project, the research was carried out by teams from the CSIRO and Common Capital and overseen by CRCLCL program leader Dr Stephen White.

“The research’s key focus was to understand industry and consumer support for a national voluntary disclosure system that would measure, benchmark and communicate information on the energy performance of existing homes, especially at the time of sale or lease, and provide recommendations on how to implement such a system,” Dr White said.

“The results overwhelmingly show such a system would be accepted in Australia. It would also bring financial benefits. For example, in Europe and North America where mandatory home energy rating schemes exist, the value of energy efficient homes rose between 3 per cent and 14 per cent when high energy efficiency performance was disclosed to buyers.”

The study’s key recommendation was a single, national home energy rating system be established and delivered by the market with credible, independent oversight by government, industry research and consumer groups. This system would provide ratings, information and tips on the energy efficiency and comfort of homes, and could be delivered at low cost, by a broad range of trained existing building trades and property professionals.

The recommended system design is estimated to deliver a net public benefit of between $42-$535 million, 158GWh-1827GWh in annual electricity savings, $63-$733 million in annual household bill savings, and $437-$5068 million for industry from additional investments in household energy efficiency.

Lead research author Henry Adams – a policy specialist on the project and director of Common Capital – said it was time an energy rating system for consumers was introduced, similar to what has been created with GreenPower or NABERS for commercial buildings.

“A national home energy ratings system is a no brainer: Government, industry and consumers alike agree that we need a common language to understand and communicate the comfort, efficiency and running costs of existing homes,” he said.

Luke Menzel, CEO of the Energy Efficiency Council (EEC) – which recently launched Australian Energy Efficiency Policy Handbook and also helped fund the study – said smart energy use can drive economic growth and improve health and wellbeing across the board, including the residential property market.

“Disclosure of home energy performance is a basic consumer protection. A national voluntary disclosure scheme would help inform home buyers and renters on two critical issues – comfort and ongoing energy costs – that are really hard to judge before moving into a new home,” he said.