30 Apr 2020
As part of an ongoing series supporting our advocacy with governments around Australia we will be inviting regular contributions from our elected representatives to share their perspectives on current challenges and opportunities in the delivery of a more sustainable built environment. We are pleased in this issue of Green Building Voice to hear from WA Minister for Mines and Petroleum; Energy and Industrial Relations, the Hon Bill Johnston.
The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting so many facets of the Western Australian community and the McGowan Government is doing everything possible to minimise these impacts, including ensuring we maintain essential energy services.
We are working closely with the energy industry, as well as the Commonwealth and other State and Territory Governments, to ensure we maintain secure, reliable and affordable electricity supplies throughout this challenging period.
Like all businesses, energy providers are taking a range of measures to protect their staff and ensure essential services continue to be maintained.
Horizon Power and Western Power workers are repairing outages and carrying out important maintenance on the network that is necessary to ensure reliability through this crisis.
They will continue to undertake these important works to minimise the potential for longer unplanned outages prior to the winter season.
We ask that the public show understanding and support for these workers.
While maintaining essential energy services is the primary focus at the moment, it is also important to continue working towards long-term improvements in the way we source and use energy.
The McGowan Government is committed to working with all industries towards achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
This will require sustained commitment and investment in changing the way we use energy.
Energy efficiency will play an important role in successfully making the worldwide transition to an affordable low-emissions energy future.
As a member of the COAG Energy Council, Western Australia has supported national measures to improve energy efficiency through the National Energy Productivity Plan (NEPP).
These include the Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme, the National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) and the Equipment Energy Efficiency program.
A key component of the NEPP is the Trajectory for Low Energy Buildings (the Trajectory), which maps out initial steps towards zero energy ready residential and commercial buildings.
An Addendum to the Trajectory, released by the COAG Energy Council in November 2019, details a range of initiatives focused on improving energy efficiency in existing buildings.
These include developing a national framework for the disclosure of energy efficiency in residential buildings and a national framework for minimum energy efficiency requirements for rental properties. I’m keen to examine how these advances could be implemented in Western Australia.
A national approach to these measures is the best approach to provide consistency and certainty for industry and to better utilise the resources required to develop these policies.
We need to work to ensure the national approach fits the needs of all States, so this will minimise the need for variations to fit the special circumstances of States like Western Australia.
Government can also lead improvements in commercial building energy efficiency by increasing the stringency of performance guidelines for government-owned and leased buildings.
The Western Australian Government has office accommodation standards that specify targets for Green Star and NABERS ratings for sustainable new buildings and office fit outs.
The potential for improving building energy efficiency to reduce energy bills and reduce emissions is substantial and well-recognised.
There is also a unique and developing crossover between energy use in buildings and distributed energy resources.
Measures to deliver zero energy residential and commercial buildings will involve improving energy efficiency and sourcing energy from renewable sources.
This means managing distributed energy resources will be vital.
The risk of grid instability is rising as the number of residential solar panels continues to rise – almost one in three households in Western Australia are utilising the sun’s power.
Managing distributed energy resources, including those installed on buildings, is an important part of responding to the challenges facing the modern electricity grid and achieving zero energy buildings.
In response to this and to enable the transition to growing levels of renewable and other low‑emissions energy sources, I launched Western Australia’s Distributed Energy Resources Roadmap in April.
The Roadmap will help guide the integration of rooftop solar panels, batteries and electric vehicles into Western Australia’s main electricity grid.
You can find out more at www.brighterenergyfuture.wa.gov.au
Additionally, the Electricity Industry Amendment Bill recently passed State Parliament paving the way for installing approximately 20,000 standalone power systems in the coming decades as a safer, more reliable and cost-effective solution to replacing aging poles and wires.
Western Australian government utilities are at the forefront of developing new and innovative ways to exploit distributed energy resources in remote locations using microgridsand standalone power systems.
We have a lot of work to do to not only get through the COVID-19 pandemic, but also transition our energy systems to a cleaner and more energy efficient future.
I’d like to end by thanking the valuable contribution by industry participants, including Green Building Council of Australia, during this process.