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JOINT STATEMENT: Energy efficiency is a machine for creating jobs. Time to start it up.

Countries around the globe are facing an unprecedented health emergency and economic challenge. Australia, faring better than many others on the health front, is nevertheless in the midst of its greatest economic crisis in decades.

We are several months in, and it is already tough out there. However between now and Christmas the full brunt of this economic shock will hit millions of Australians.

Businesses are going to the wall. Households that were comfortable just a few months ago are suddenly struggling to pay their bills. And already vulnerable Australians are put under even more pressure.

Dealing with the worst of these impacts requires a multifaceted response, by business, government and civil society. Our organisations believe a central element of the response should be a major government stimulus program focused on improving the energy efficiency of businesses and households.

Why?

Put simply, energy efficiency is a ‘jobs machine’.

That is how it was described by the International Energy Agency (IEA) last week, and the data backs them up. The Special Report on Sustainable Recovery, produced by the IEA in partnership with the International Monetary Fund, includes a comprehensive analysis of energy related stimulus options. Energy efficiency in buildings – both retrofits and new builds – topped the charts.

Here in Australia, we’ve run the numbers. A major drive to improve the energy efficiency of buildings and industry could deliver over 120,000 job-years of employment.

It’s a machine that can be started quickly. Governments can scale up existing programs, or partner with the many businesses and NGOs that already have robust delivery systems in place that can be ramped up rapidly while ensuring quality control on the ground.

Importantly, this effort will build momentum for something we have already decided to do; the jobs created now will be essential to implement the COAG Energy Council’s national plan for zero energy (and carbon) ready buildings for Australia.

However the energy efficiency jobs machine doesn’t just create jobs:

  •        It eases energy bill stress on struggling households in a period of unprecedented financial stress;
  •        It makes our businesses more productive and resilient to shocks, especially energy intensive businesses; and
  •        It is a source of plentiful, low cost emission reductions at a time when our national government and every state and territory is committed to identifying and unlocking such opportunities.

The benefits of energy efficiency are so profound it is our strong view we can’t afford not to have this machine running at a time of unprecedented economic crisis.

That’s why this we jointly convened a National Summit on energy efficiency and Australia's economic recovery. The event made both the need and the opportunity crystal clear.

We have some high performers, especially among the newest buildings and the most sophisticated energy users. But our homes, schools, hospitals, commercial buildings and factories are often far below the standards that would be accepted in the countries of our global competitors, full of draughts, leaks and outmoded appliances and equipment. As a result our energy bills are higher, our health outcomes are worse, and our energy systems and our environment are put under greater strain.

Many Australians have never lived in a home that is cheap to run while being warm in winter and cool in summer. They have never worked in a building where structure, equipment and practices support high energy productivity. They don’t know what they are missing. But we can change that.

We can create tens of thousands of jobs at the moment when we need them most. Lower energy bills for businesses and households. Make our buildings healthier and more comfortable, and position Australian businesses for the twenty-first century economy.

But none of this will happen without decisive action from government. Now is the perfect time to act.

Energy efficiency is a machine for creating jobs. Time to start it up.

 

QUOTES FROM THE NATIONAL SUMMIT: ENERGY EFFICIENCY AND ECONOMIC RECOVERY, HELD 1 JULY 2020

Dr Cassandra Goldie, CEO of the Australian Council of Social Service:

“If you’re looking for consensus – broad-based support for something – I’ve not seen anything like what we’re seeing in terms of support for investment in energy efficiency.”

“Many people on low incomes don’t use their heaters at all in the winter, they turn off their hot water systems, they go without meals and medicine and even then they struggle to pay their electricity bills,” said Dr Goldie, “Government investment in energy efficiency for low-income homes is a smart way to create tens of thousands of jobs that otherwise wouldn’t be created and improve the lives of 3 million people living below the poverty line.”

Luke Menzel, CEO, Energy Efficiency Council:

“My big take out from the Summit today was the role of energy efficiency in lowering carbon intensity so we have the headroom we need to drive economic growth on the other side of this crisis.”

“This is so crucial; faced by both global recession and dangerous climate change, energy efficiency is a solution at the nexus of these dual challenges.”

Ken Morrison, Chief Executive of the Property Council of Australia:

“The reason why we have put this energy efficiency package forward is that one, it’s a jobs machine, and second it’s one of the cheapest tools to help us cut emissions and meet our Paris targets”

“It doesn’t make sense that when you buy a fridge you get rating about its performance, but you don’t get the same information when you’re making the biggest purchase of your life. If that was fixed it would drive so much change.”

Tennant Reed, Energy, Climate and Environment Policy, Australian Industry Group:

“Ai Group are backing and barracking for energy efficiency upgrades, because they are a way to score five goals off one kick. You can grow jobs, you can cut costs, you can improve health, you can strengthen energy systems and you can slash emissions at the same time”

“Efficiency upgrades are not the only thing we should be doing to lift ourselves out of the ‘rona recession, but they are a big opportunity.”

 

Media contacts

Australian Council of Social Service: ACOSS Media, 0419 626 155

Australian Industry Group: Tony Melville, 0419 190 347

Energy Efficiency Council: Holly Taylor, 0481 346 145

Property Council of Australia: Matt Francis, 0467 777 220