Navigating Energy Efficiency in Australia: Bridging the Gap Between New and Existing Housing – A Discussion


Australia faces a distinct challenge in its energy efficiency landscape, characterised by a stark contrast between new and existing housing. The recent adoption of a 7-star energy rating for new homes has widened the divide, particularly affecting existing housing, most of which, especially those constructed before 1990, lag with an average energy efficiency of around 1.57 Stars.

Practicality vs. Academia in Energy Efficiency

The national conversation presents two prevailing perspectives: a practical approach that advocates for affordable, feasible upgrades and an academic viewpoint pushing for more aggressive, innovation-driven measures.

The Challenge with Existing Housing

The energy efficiency gap becomes more pronounced when considering the existing housing stock. Most Australian homes, particularly the older ones, fall significantly short in energy efficiency compared to new constructions, impacting national energy efficiency goals and increasing the environmental footprint.

A Closer Look at Policy and Practical Implications

Recent scrutiny of the proposed changes to the National Construction Code (NCC) 2022 reveals concerns. While well-intentioned, the requirement for a 7-star energy rating in new builds may inadvertently exacerbate the affordability crisis in first home ownership due to heightened compliance costs. Considering that only 109,890 dwellings were built in 2022/2023 (*HIA Top 100 2022/2023), attention to the existing housing stock, which exceeds 10 million homes, is critical.

Although aligned with The Paris Agreement’s carbon emission benchmarks, the changes may not fully leverage the benefits of upgrading existing homes. A more balanced approach would involve a gradual increase in the efficiency of new builds alongside focused efforts on retrofitting existing homes, thus offering a more comprehensive strategy for carbon emission reduction.

Strategies for Improvement

A mix of policy initiatives and practical solutions is needed to bridge this gap. Incentives like grants or tax rebates could motivate homeowners to adopt energy-efficient renovations. Additionally, awareness campaigns and educational initiatives can significantly promote the importance of energy efficiency in existing homes.

Achieving a balance between practical and academic perspectives on energy efficiency means setting ambitious standards for new constructions and, at the same time, prioritising the upgrading of existing homes. This is particularly important as families and older individuals continue to suffer through cold winters and hot summers in inefficient homes. Addressing this issue is imperative to ensure that no one is left behind.

This approach is crucial for reducing Australia’s carbon footprint and achieving a sustainable future where everyone is afforded comfort and protection.

The need for action is evident, requiring coordinated efforts across government and private sectors to enhance the energy efficiency of Australian homes -making a significant difference in the lives of those most affected by extreme temperatures.

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