'Originally based on the BREEAM and LEED rating schemes, the Australian Green Star is a perfectly adapted national, comprehensive environmental system for buildings that has since been adopted by New Zealand and South Africa.'
Australia is the world's sixth-largest country, roughly 80% larger than all the EU-25 countries put together. The country is rich in mineral resources, including coal, oil and natural gas. In terms of climate change, Australia's emission intensity is very high due to the widespread use of coal and the presence of numerous energy-intensive industries.
Australia's approach to addressing climate change is technological, and it is seeking to develop new technologies that will provide economic progress with reduced emissions. There has been widespread implementation of domestic solar panels which has proved popular among the population. In terms of renewables, Australia has a successful renewable support scheme and some of the lowest prices for renewables internationally.
The Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS), introduced in 2006, uses computer simulations to assess the potential thermal comfort of Australian homes on a scale of zero to ten stars. The scheme is intended to set national residential energy standards, with the major components for evaluation including elements such as home layout, window orientation and shading, and climate suitability. Houses built in 1990 average about 1 star on the NatHERS scale. Before the introduction of national energy efficiency regulations for houses in 2003, less than one percent of Australian houses achieved NatHERS 5 stars. Many well designed houses are now being built with ratings over 6 stars.
Lilyfield Housing Redevelopment
The Lilyfield Housing Redevelopment, located in Sydney's Inner West, has set a new standard of design for social housing. The project was led by Housing New South Wales and was awarded a 5 Star Green Star certification by the GBCA in 2010. The redevelopment involved the construction of 88 apartments in six blocks.
The design includes passive solar design features, with all apartments having north or east facing living areas and natural cross ventilation, avoiding the need for air conditioning on the development. Roofs on north-facing homes are tilted and designed with an overhang to maximise solar gain during the winter and avoid overheating in summer. Solid floors are exposed to winter sun so that their thermal mass contributes to energy efficiency. Low-e glass is installed on the east and west facades.
Solar technologies, solar hot water (gas boosted) and photovoltaics are installed on the development, which includes energy efficient lighting both outdoors and indoors. Lighting in communal areas has daylight and occupant sensors. The ‘green’ features within the development help save an average of AU$213 per unit – representing a 25% decrease in annual energy bills.
In a 2008 white paper titled the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, the Australian government reiterated its commitment to meet a long-term target of a 60% reduction in GHG emissions by 2050 based on 2000 levels. In July 2011, the government announced its plan to put a price on carbon, and released the 'Securing a Clean Energy Future' strategy, which includes measures such as a national energy savings scheme, the Low Carbon Communities initiative, Low Income Energy Efficiency Program and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.
The National Appliance and Equipment Energy Efficiency Program (NAEEEP), established in 1992, aims to reduce energy demand through efficiency in appliances and equipment. This program covers minimum energy performance standards (MEPS) and energy labelling systems.
In January 2003, measures to increase energy efficiency were introduced into the national Building Code of Australia (BCA). The 2006 revision of the BCA was amended to include Energy Efficiency Provisions for Housing and these measures have since been adopted in all states and territories.
Most recently, the Council of Australian Governments requested that the existing efficiency requirements in the BCA be made more stringent. The BCA 2010 now requires that all new housing must be built to a 6 star energy rating under the NatHERS scheme and the phasing-in of mandatory disclosure of residential building energy, greenhouse gas emission and water performance to buyers and renters by 2012.
The Green Star rating system was launched by the Green Building Council of Australia in 2003. This voluntary, national scheme assesses the environmental impact of buildings at the design or construction stage based on nine categories. Green Star ratings are only available for developments achieving Four Star (Best Practice), Five Star (Australian Excellence) and Six Star (World Leadership).
The Solar City scheme trials energy options such as energy efficiency measures for homes and businesses, solar technologies, and community education about better energy usage. Different cities around Australia can apply to take part in the scheme, and in doing so, can take advantage of the $75 million available for the program. Several cities have already been chosen and made considerable advances, including Adelaide, Perth and Alice Springs, among others.
The Renewable Energy Bonus Scheme is available to home-owners, landlords and tenants for replacing electric storage hot water systems with solar or heat pump hot water systems. Under the scheme, households can claim a rebate of $1,000 for a solar hot water system or $600 for a heat pump hot water system. This scheme has not been as popular as expected at a national level, however regional implementations of this scheme have been highly effective for individual households.