Electrifying the future

Burwood Brickworks, VIC. Frasers Property Australia and Australand Holdings. 6 Star Green Star - Communities v1.

25 Mar 2022

Start preparing for a future where rooftops are a resource, where an electric vehicle is a big battery and where virtual power plants become income streams for building owners.

Last week, our audience at TRANSFORM heard how building owners are already leasing their rooftops to third parties and car park operators are exploring discounted parking to EV owners. They heard how virtual power plants could bring together a building’s distributed energy resources – rooftop solar, batteries, electric vehicles and smart appliances – into a single power source, connected to the energy market.

Australia is in prime position to leverage its already significant investment in small-scale renewables, said the Smart Energy Council’s Dr Gabrielle Kuiper. She has just published a report on virtual power plants and the future of energy retailing, and estimates that Australian consumers have spent around $15 billion on residential rooftop solar. A further $140 billion was ahead as Australians electrified their cars.

We need to think differently about distributed energy, Gabrielle observed. An EV battery is six-to-10 times larger than a wall battery, she said “and you get a free car”. Bringing these distributed resources together will deliver “faster, cheaper decarbonisation” and create new sources of value.

EVs are heading our way at speed, said Paul Sansom, Managing Director of Volkswagen Group Australia. The car of the future will “function as a power source on wheels”. Volkswagen is planning to invest an eyewatering $115 billion in EV R&D by 2025 alone, Paul noted, and almost all the brands in its stable – which includes Audi, Lamborghini, Bentley and Porsche – will be electric by 2040.

But is the property industry responding with buildings that are fully electric and EV-ready?

The GBCA launched a new resource at TRANSFORM: A practical guide to electrification. Developed in partnership with Cundall and supported by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and NSW Government, the guide lays out the case for electrification and dispels the myths.

The biggest barrier to electrification is not technical, it is to overcome an industry and consumer mindset that gas is more efficient than electric. The Energy Efficiency Council’s CEO Luke Menzel called gas the “elephant in the plant room”.

TRANSFORM offered several case studies of where the market was moving. All of Cbus Property’s apartments will be 100% electric, said Chief Executive Officer Adrian Pozzo. Why? An “intergenerational” shift is underway, he noted. The average age of the superfund’s members is 39 and they are looking for action on climate.

Plan for a future without gas, is the message.

To achieve a world-leading 6 Star Green Star rating, any new building or major refurbishment must be fossil fuel free – and this will apply to 5 Star buildings from 2023 and 4 Star buildings from 2026.

Similarly, NABERS will soon introduce a Renewable Energy Indicator, which will disclose the amount of renewable energy used by a building. Only all-electric buildings running on 100% renewables will achieve a 100% score on NABERS’ indicator.

The Property Council's General Manager for Sustainability and Regulatory Affairs, Francesca Muskovic told TRANSFORM’s audience she was still having conversations with building owners and projects teams who were pursuing gas, despite NABERS, Green Star and regulation “changing rapidly”. “Don’t do it. Be bold. Pursue electrification instead,” she said.

Download the GBCA’s new resource:

A practical guide to electrification