An overwhelming number of Australians support a national voluntary home energy efficiency disclosure system, which could deliver a net public benefit of up to $535 million a year, new research published by the CRC for Low Carbon Living has revealed.

The two-year EnergyFit Homes Project, which was conducted by CSIRO and Common Capital, found a massive 92 per cent of consumers wanted energy efficiency information made available in building inspection reports, while 82 per cent wanted it made available at open inspections and 72 per cent in property advertising. However, only half of those surveyed said they were willing to pay for this information.

Industry also seems to be onboard, with 90 per cent of building professionals and tradespersons interviewed supporting the provision of energy efficiency information at the time of sale or lease.

“The research’s key focus was to understand industry and consumer support for a national voluntary disclosure system that would measure, benchmark and communicate information on the energy performance of existing homes, especially at the time of sale or lease, and provide recommendations on how to implement such a system,” CRCLCL program leader Dr Stephen White said.

“The results overwhelmingly show that such a system would be accepted in Australia.”

Big financial benefits

Dr White also said energy efficiency disclosure would have financial benefits.

“For example, in Europe and North America where mandatory home energy rating schemes exist, the value of energy efficient homes rose between three per cent and 14 per cent when high energy efficiency performance was disclosed to buyers.”

The study’s recommended system design of a “single, national home energy rating system” was estimated to deliver a net public benefit of between $42-$535 million a year, saving between 158-1827 gigawatt-hours in electricity, and between $63-$733 million in annual household bill savings, while providing between $437 million and $5 billion to industry due to additional investments in household efficiency.

The study recommended the system be established and delivered by the market with “credible, independent oversight by government, industry research and consumer groups”, and said it could be delivered at low cost by a broad range of trained existing building trades and property professionals.

Henry Adams – lead research author and director of Common Capital – said the rating system for consumers could be similar to what has been created with GreenPower or NABERS for commercial buildings.

The news is timely because industry insiders are expecting an imminent announcement from NABERS regarding a new tool for residential energy efficiency, though it is expected to be limited to the multi-residential space.

“A national home energy ratings system is a no brainer,” Mr Adams said. “Government, industry and consumers alike agree that we need a common language to understand and communicate the comfort, efficiency and running costs of existing homes.”

The research findings were welcomed by the Energy Efficiency Council, whose chief executive Luke Menzel described home energy performance disclosure as “a basic consumer protection”.

“ A national voluntary disclosure scheme would help inform home buyers and renters on two critical issues – comfort and ongoing energy costs – that are really hard to judge before moving into a new home,” he said.