NABERS continues its global impact with Germany, the next country to study its commercial property transformation potential, after the UK and New Zealand adopted the scoring tool. But could we also get powerful programs from Germany in return?
The complementary energy efficiency approaches of Australia and Germany have created an ideal climate for collaboration between countries to achieve better results for both, with the methods for achieving this outlined in a co-produced report released today.
Australia’s most important commercial energy efficiency rating standard, the Australian National Built Environment Assessment System (NABERS), has aroused immense interest among German officials as a very effective tool to emulate or adopt entirely.
Likewise, the highly successful German financial housing incentive program, piloted by the National Promotion Bank kfW, is being studied to help Australia strengthen energy efficiency standards for existing homes.
A collaborative report produced by Australia Energy Efficiency Council (EEC), the German-Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and an independent German research group, adelphi, suggests that countries’ contrasting approaches in the residential and commercial sectors leave the door wide open to apply each other’s lessons.
The report entitled, Further, faster, together: Opportunities for collaboration between Germany and Australia on energy efficiency in buildings, was commissioned by the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy (BMWI).
Director General of the EEC, Luc Menzel spearheaded Australia’s engagement with Germany on energy efficiency and was instrumental in producing the report.
“We spent six months diving deep, to really gain a solid understanding of the building energy efficiency market in Germany to complement what we already know here in Australia – and the result was pure poetry,” said said Menzel. The fifth state.
According to Menzel, the structure and inclusiveness of NABERS really appealed to the German side, which lacked a comparable program in its commercial construction sector.
“The Germans are incredibly excited about what we have accomplished here with NABERS and Commercial Building Disclosure – this light regulation and the well understood and collaborative process that surrounds NABERS. The deep investment that the industry has in it is truly a world leader, ”Menzel said.
executive director of the German-Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Christoph von Spesshardt In Germany, while much had been done to reduce emissions in the residential sector, commercial buildings were lagging behind.
“There are around three million commercial buildings in Germany, of which around 700,000 are office buildings. They only represent 13 percent of the existing building stock, but they account for 47 percent of the building sector’s emissions, ”said von Spesshardt.
“I think that with NABERS, it’s a very interesting instrument to combine market measures with transparency and really leave it to all stakeholders, even to the big city, the care of getting involved and this kind of the incentive is so good.
“Learning from NABERS or even considering adopting NABERS, as New Zealand and the UK have done, is something that I really hope will take place in Germany,” he said. he declares.
What we can learn the other way around – programs for urgent housing market transformation
Unlike Australia’s success, Germany runs a very effective financing program for residential energy efficiency upgrades – an area where Australia lags far behind foreign best practice.
Germany’s approach has been to make residential energy performance improvements eligible for large government grants and interest rate reductions, creating an ecosystem of building experts designed to guide homeowners through the process. along the renovation process.
The higher the energy rating sought by homeowners, the more interest rate relief and direct financing become available, up to approximately AU $ 40,000.
According to von Spesshardt, the widely available incentives are so powerful that 50 percent of new buildings completed in recent years meet an energy rating above the minimum standard.
Indeed, each customer entering a bank in Germany looking for a loan for a renovation, an extension or the purchase of a new house is offered this option.
“Banks always have the conversation: ‘I can offer you this subsidy or I can offer you this reduced interest rate, if at the same time you improve your energy performance.’ So it’s an incredible success in improving performance in Germany, ”said Menzel.
He noted that there were already smaller-scale programs in Australia, led by groups such as the Clean energy finance company who worked with banks to support funding for energy efficiency upgrades, and Australia was now in a position to dramatically scale up those processes.
“This is where poetry comes in,” said Menzel, “We have the opportunity, through this collaboration with Germany, which has been running this home finance program for 15 years, to learn from the best in the world. world.”
“Hence the title of this report, we can go further and faster together if we work together on this truly crucial agenda.”
Sticks, carrots and tambourines
This is not the first time that von Spesshardt has passed on the success of the German residential efficiency program to Australia. Talk to The fifth state in 2017, he described Germany’s extremely successful regulatory environment as “sticks, carrots and tambourines”.
Sticks are tightly defined energy efficiency benchmarks for new buildings, carrots are the availability of subsidies and preferential interest rates for energy efficiency improvements, and tambourines are spreading the word about the benefits of l energy efficiency for the environment and for homeowners.
Another result of the German approach is that with considerable sums of public money going into the sector, compliance monitoring is built into the system.
“For these specific houses in Germany, each is checked to make sure it delivers the promised energy performance rating, as the compliance threshold is higher because the government is giving money to achieve a higher result,” Menzel said.
“The German government sees the built environment as a critical infrastructure in the energy transition that must be upgraded on a large scale in order for it to meet its climate goals. And I think that’s something we can learn from here in Australia.
There is a framework between the governments of the countries to facilitate engagement in the field of energy, Australian-German Energy Working Group, which meets at least once a year to define priority areas.
Hydrogen is one of the main areas of collaborative engagement and it was recently announced that countries will work together to establish an “Hydrogen Agreement between Australia and Germany”.
At the last in-person meeting in 2019, the group identified energy efficiency as another crucial area for collaboration and exploration, which resulted in the commissioning of this week’s report and the creation of a subcommittee co-chaired by Menzel and von Spesshardt.
“Working together to take advantage of the information generated on both sides of the world will really help us go further, faster, reducing energy bills and carbon emissions along the way,” Mendel said.
“Whether Germany learns principles from NABERS and adopts its own system, or like the UK we actually see NABERS taken over in Germany, this is a conversation that will unfold over the next few years.
“But I think we can say with some confidence, they are very interested in learning from Australia’s leadership in this space.”