Energy Efficiency Summit Wrap 07 October 2022
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Perhaps it shouldn't be surprising given the word is right there in the Summit title, but speaking to attendees after the event, the overwhelming impression was just how much of it there was on the day.
The commitment, inspiration and above all, the shared sense of purpose that permeated every aspect of the afternoon's panels and presentations felt like the jolt this moment in time was asking for, and needs.
Against the current backdrop of extreme energy prices, and with extreme weather continuing to dominate the news cycle, the Summit brought some of Australia's foremost energy efficiency experts together with Assistant Minister Jenny McAllister and California Energy Commissioner Andrew McAllister for an afternoon of ideas, and the expectation of real outcomes.
"We want to lead"
The stage was set by EEC CEO Luke Menzel, who outlined the incredible opportunities energy efficiency presents to address many of our most pressing problems. “It’s the one resource we have to put downward pressure on bills," Luke said. “And it’s not okay we’re leaving the productivity benefits of energy efficiency on the table."
The EEC CEO's comments were reinforced by Chairman and CEO of Siemens Australia Peter Halliday, who spoke of "the three interconnected opportunities on the demand side": businesses and supply chains, rapid digitisation and electrification, and smart policies and collaboration – points that turned out to be the perfect entree for Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Jenny McAllister.
"We want to lead," said the Assistant Minister. "“For too long, Australia’s efforts at reducing emissions and cutting energy costs have lacked a national plan that will deliver a high energy performance economy.”
And with this, the Hon Senator introduced the day's key announcement: a new federal government commitment to a National Energy Performance Strategy.
“We’re acting to put in place a strategy that will help us create a high energy performance economy, meet our emissions reduction targets, and enable us to put downward pressure on energy prices,” Assistant Minister McAllister said.
“And we’re doing this important work in consultation with state and territory governments, businesses, households and community groups across the nation.”
"It may look like rocket science, but we have a lot of rocket scientists"
After starting his keynote with the wry acknowledgment that "You’re never a prophet in your own land,", California Energy Commissioner followed the Assistant Minister by picking up what became a point made several times through the day.
“I'm struck by the spirit of collaboration and newness, which is palpable," the Commissioner said.
He then gave the audience a whirlwind tour of California's increasingly aggressive energy efficiency goals, including 100% carbon-free electric retail sales by 2045, a doubling of efficiency standards by 2030, and automated demand flexibility. "It's doable – now," he said. "It may look like rocket science, but we have a lot of rocket scientists.”
Leaders' Panel L to R: EEC's Luke Menzel, Ai Group chief Innes Willox, acting ACOSS CEO Edwina MacDonald, PCA's Ken Morrison, Senator the Hon Jenny McAllister and California Energy Commissioner Andrew McAllister.
Getting down to business
Both McAllisters returned to the stage for a leaders' panel with CEOs of the four convening organisations - ACOSS, Ai Group, EEC and Property Council Australia. Reiterating the collaboration noted by both the Assistant Minister and California Commissioner, the CEOs found a lot of common ground.
"Energy Efficiency is front and centre of industry thinking," said Ai Group's Innes Willox, with PCA's Ken Morrison in agreement that business is absolutely "up for the conversation."
ACOSS' Edwina MacDonald was first to make another key point of the Summit, that low income housing is in urgent need of energy efficiency upgrades, and should be first in line.
"Applying an equity lens to all this addresses multiple things at once," she reminded the audience. "Energy affordability and security, poverty and health, and climate change."
At the conclusion of the panel, the four convening organisations released a communique co-signed by supporting partners that include the ACF, ASBEC, BZE, ECA and many more.
L to R: ACOSS's Kellie Caught, Tagentyere Council's Vanessa Davis, Ben Milsom of Plenti, Climateworks Centre's Margot Delafoulhouze and CHIA's Wendy Hayhurst.
Efficient, Electric and Affordable: Creating Better Homes
ACOSS' Kellie Caught led the first of three specific expert panels, with Tagentyere Council researcher Vanessa Davis, Ben Milsom of Plenti, Climateworks Centre cities system lead Margot Delafoulhouze and CHIA CEO Wendy Hayhurst.
In a wide-ranging discussion, each panellist made powerful points on the huge impacts of energy efficiency and standardisation on residential homes, with the greatest impact being social and low income housing. Vanessa Davis explained that for people with chronic health conditions that require medicine to be kept cold or dialysis machines to keep running, energy poverty is quite literally life threatening.
"Housing is an investment, not a welfare service" said Wendy Hayhurst. Not just for residents, added Margot Delafoulhouze, but to kickstart markets and bring industry up to speed.
L to R: Frankie Muskovic, David Palin, Carlos Flores and Davina Rooney.
Zero emissions commercial buildings
Alongside NABERs' national manager Carlos Flores, GBCA CEO Davina Rooney and Mirvac's David Palin, PCA's Frankie Muskovic led a panel that took a few moments to acknowledge some of the things Australia is already getting right.
“NABERS and green star ratings changed the market," said Frankie. "We can be knowledge exporters in this space. We already are.”
While these programs are worth celebrating, there's plenty to be done, particularly around disclosure that pushes business, and construction codes.
“The construction code is critical, because whatever we leave on the table now, we’re going to have to retrofit in future,” explained Davina.
L to R: Alison Reeve, Jon Jutsen, Sharon Champness, Holly Taylor
Heavy Industry, Lighter Loads
Rounding out the Summit, the EEC's Holly Taylor led Grattan Institute's Alison Reeve, RACE to 2030's Jon Jutsen and Molycop's Sharon Champness in a discussion on energy efficiency measures in the industry space, summed up by the point that as assets in the industrial sector are so long lived, the big facilities built this decade are still going to be around in 2050, when we should be at net zero.
As Alison said, the government's coming strategy will, well, need to be strategic. "It will sound flippant, but that's the case. It needs to set priorities and targets … and focus on behavioural change in business, as behaviour change is the hardest part of policy."
That rounds out our Summit wrap, but before I leave you, I'd like to leave the last words to Energy Consumers Australia CEO Lynne Gallagher, who remarked after the Summit to our CEO Luke Menzel that, "We’ve been doing this a long time. We’ve been in these rooms before, and back then, it felt like we were the only people who cared.
"This is the first time we've all felt this level of passion, and this energy – the sense we’re on the march. If there’s one thing I think people should take away, it's that we’re going to do this."