BZE’s plan to cut emissions and power bills in ten years.
Making a difference to cutting energy use and greenhouse impacts at the individual or family level can often seem daunting and out of reach for many of us. As a home owner, I have wondered what exactly I could do to make a difference, and whether the long term savings will cover my investment.
Now the Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) think-tank, in partnership with The University of Melbourne Energy Institute claims to be able to provide the answers.
On an unseasonably warm evening last Monday (12 August) an audience of approximately 300 gathered for the launch in South Brisbane of the BZE Building Plan. The Zero Carbon Australia Buildings Plan is according to BZE, ‘the first comprehensive, nationwide plan to retrofit Australia’s buildings’.
Lead author and Project Director Trent Hawkins was assisted by 100 volunteer engineers, architects, data analysts, and students over three years to develop the plan. The project also attracted partners and company sponsors that add weight to the academic rigour and practical utility of the plan.
The aim is to halve energy consumption in Australia by retro-fitting family homes and high rise office spaces using existing off-the-shelf technologies. Through its modelling work, Mr Hawkins said BZE is able to conclude that across Australia reductions of 53% in residential demand and 44% in non-residential energy use are feasible.
For the family home, the authors claim these reductions can be accomplished by a move away from gas, and investment in such measures as roof and wall insulation, double glazing windows, roof-top solar power collection, LED lighting, air-sourced heat pumps for hot water, and real time monitoring of in-home energy use.
While many of you may be familiar with these options, BZE has done the research to show how these technologies can be integrated with, or replace older technologies. The plan provides the costs and benefits, not only in economic terms, but in terms of the reduced reliance on non-renewable energy sources.
Participating in the launch were Science & Engineering Adj. Professor David Hood AM from QUT, Mark Thomson, Architect & Corporate Sustainability Principal at Schiavello, and Queensland Greens Senator, Larissa Waters.
David Hood told the audience that climate change ‘will bring about near collapse of much of the world’s economic systems’, and yet it was the missing topic at the first Sunday night leaders’ debates. ‘Neither of the leaders raised it’, he said, “so with the main political parties not taking any notice, and not doing anything, it’s up to us’. He commended the research underpinning of the BZE plan which he said provides a practical guideline on how we can get energy efficiency into our homes and in the process, save money.
Senator Waters reminded the audience that governments subsidise the fossil fuel industry by up to $12 billion, and asked us to imagine the impact if this money was invested instead in renewal energy sources. She said the BZE report proves that change can be achieved and ‘we can just get on with it’. ‘There are no logistical barriers, no engineering constraints, often no economic constraints compared to business as usual, but there is a ‘political will’ constraint.’ She encouraged audience members to remind their local political candidates that ‘we have an environmental emergency … and that we have ways for addressing that emergency’. As the mother of a four year old, she said it is inconceivable to her that we can stand back and allow this looming catastrophe to happen.
Mark Thomson concluded the speeches by saying the challenge for those who want to take action, ‘is to make sure the change is well-informed’. The BZE he said has produced more than just a vision: it is a 10 year ‘practical, simple and implementable’ plan, based on current technology.