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Improved energy efficiency could cut the federal government's energy spend by $35 million a year

Improving the energy efficiency of the federal government’s building portfolio could save the Australian taxpayer more than $35 million a year, says the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA).

“As the election campaign heats up, the GBCA is calling on all political parties to outline their policies to improve the energy efficiency, and cut the emissions and costs, of all federal government buildings,” says the GBCA’s Chief Operating Officer, Robin Mellon.

“Improving the efficiency of existing buildings is one of the most cost-effective opportunities to reduce overheads and carbon emissions - and is one of the GBCA’s three policy priorities,” Mr Mellon says.

Electricity used to power federal government facilities in 2011-12 amounted to over 6,200,000 GJ, which generated approximately 1,670,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

The GBCA has calculated the cost of this electricity at $205/MWh, which amounts to an annual power bill of over $350 million.*

“The scale of the energy efficiency opportunity is significant.  A modest 10 per cent improvement in energy efficiency would save more than $35 million per year in electricity costs and be equivalent to the electricity required to power 23,000 homes.  A 10 per cent improvement would also reduce carbon emissions by 167,000 tonnes – the same as taking 46,000 cars off the road,” Mr Mellon says.

“We have solid evidence that Green Star-certified buildings across the country consume 66 per cent less energy and produce 62 per cent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than average Australian buildings, so a 10 per cent improvement is entirely achievable.”

As the cost of energy continues to rise, so will the costs to the tax payer.  The estimated price of electricity in 2023 will be $260/MWh. While there have been some improvements in energy intensity across government, total energy use has not decreased. If the Australian Government continues to consume electricity at the same rate as 2011-12, the power bill in 2023 will be over $440 million.*

“Clearly we cannot afford to spend $440 million a year simply to power our federal government buildings.  This makes improving the energy efficiency of our government buildings a national priority.  A commitment to improving these buildings is just one way the Australian Government can lead by example while saving taxpayer dollars,” Mr Mellon explains.

The Australian Government could consider following the lead of the Victorian Government whose energy efficiency plan is delivering reductions in energy use of up to 40-50 per cent, which could save up to $2 billion over 20 years. The Victorian Government is also committed to a minimum of 5 Star Green Star and 5 Star NABERS Energy-rated office spaces for new leases, which is helping to deliver energy and water cost savings and more productive working environments.

“We call on each political party to outline how they plan to save money, energy and greenhouse gas emissions with policies that set out clear targets, pathways and incremental improvements. 

“A commitment to using the Green Star – Performance rating tool for all government-owned, operated and occupied buildings will help the incoming government to benchmark the performance of all building types and identify opportunities for incremental improvement.

As The Climate Institute’s recent ‘Boosting Australia’s Energy Productivity’ research points out, Australia’s poor investment in energy efficiency is costing the nation tens of billions of dollars in economic growth. A symbolic and significant commitment towards great efficiency would be achieving a Green Star – Performance rating for Parliament House,” Mr Mellon concludes.

* This price is based on the Average Retail Electricity Price projections according to Climate Change Authority modelling. It is acknowledged that Australian Government agencies may negotiate lower prices.