Open letter to Energy Ministers about Energy Efficiency

Improving energy efficiency of existing home to create healthy, safe and affordable homes

To COAG Energy Ministers,

The 40 organisations supporting this letter are urging COAG Energy Ministers to improve the energy efficiency of existing homes by supporting the measures and activities outlined in this letter at the upcoming Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Energy Council meeting on 22 November 2019.

We have welcomed previous statements on the importance of improving energy efficiency for existing homes and the Energy Council’s support for the consultation process for the Trajectory for Low Energy Existing Homes. The upcoming COAG meeting is an important opportunity to reconfirm this commitment and agree on actions that will deliver substantial benefits to people, the environment and the economy.

Support for Improving Energy Efficiency in Existing Homes[1]

Everyone deserves to live in a home that is safe, comfortable and affordable. Improving the energy efficiency for existing homes is one of the most effective ways to reduce the size of energy bills and the risk of homelessness, as well as improving health and wellbeing, reducing deaths from extreme heat and cold, especially for the 3 million people who live below the poverty line.

Improving the energy efficiency of existing homes will also reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve the reliability and security of the energy grid, reduce energy costs through reducing peak demand, create thousands of jobs, and improve economic productivity. For example, if all recommendations from the Report for Achieving Low Energy Existing Homes Version 5.0 were introduced by 2022 in all jurisdictions, it would deliver benefits with a net present value of $5 billion and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 52.7 MtO2e by 2050 (based on conservative assumptions and a very limited selection of the total range of benefits).[2]

Importantly, in an environment of economic uncertainty, accelerating implementation of energy efficiency measures for existing homes will help boost investment and job creation by the private sector.

There is strong community support for energy efficiency measures in Australia[3] and many of the measures proposed for Australia have been successfully implemented in New Zealand, the European Union and several American states. Early implementation of a systematic and comprehensive plan to improve the energy efficiency of existing homes will deliver substantial benefits to people, the environment and the economy and should be seen as a high government priority for immediate action.

While we support the Trajectory for Low Energy Existing Homes Report’s proposed intermediate action plan, there are two areas that need strengthening:

  • Policies and measures to support people on low incomes

People on low incomes are most at risk of high energy bills and poor health outcomes as a result of inefficient housing. Positive outcomes for low-income Australians must be prioritised by implementing mandatory minimum energy efficiency standards for rental homes including specific measures to support implementation in public, Aboriginal[4] and community housing. There is also a need for an ongoing financial support scheme to assist low-income owner-occupiers assess and improve the energy efficiency of their homes.

  • Clear commitment from COAG to implement energy efficiency measures

We would also like to see COAG Energy Ministers commit to implement energy efficiency measures, not just give support for an Interim Action Plan. While we understand jurisdictions will need to undertake a Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) before implementing measures, we would argue the benefits have been established and the RIS should go to the “how” and “when” the policy or measure should be implemented, not “if”. Too often we have seen governments walk back from policy before specific commitments to targets or program/policy outcomes have been made.


In light of the above, we are urging you to support our calls and agree to the following at the COAG Energy Council meeting on the 22nd of November 2019:

  • Endorse the proposed Intermediate Action Plan laid out in the report for Trajectory for Low Energy Existing Homes, in the time frame recommended.

In addition, we are calling on the COAG Energy Council to commit to:

  • Improve the energy efficiency of existing homes in line with the goal of achieving zero energy (and carbon) ready new homes.*[5]
  • A process to develop long-term and interim targets for improving energy efficiency for existing buildings over time, in line with the goal of achieving zero energy (and carbon) ready new homes.*
  • Introduce mandatory disclosure of home energy performance at point of sale.#[6]
  • Introduce mandatory energy efficiency standards for rental properties including private, public, Aboriginal and community housing.
  • Prioritise financial support for low-income owner-occupiers to improve energy efficiency of their homes and agree to establish an ongoing scheme to support low-income owner occupiers to undertake energy efficiency audits and upgrade the energy efficiency of their homes.
  • Prioritise improving the energy efficiency of all public, Aboriginal and community housing and agree to work with Housing Ministers on a plan including to collect data, set targets, and provide additional funds to upgrade or replace with more energy efficiency housing.
  • Develop a social marketing campaign ahead of introducing new measures to accelerate support and uptake of measures and improve their effectiveness.

We note that any national agreement should not hinder initiatives in individual states that may seek to implement solutions on a faster time frame or with more ambitious outcomes.

Australian Council of Social Service

ACT Council of Social Service

Anglicare Australia

Australian Health Promotions Association

Better Renting

Brotherhood of St Laurence

Climate Health Alliance

Co Health

Community Housing Industry Association Australia

Community Housing Industry Association Victoria

Conservation Council SA


Council of the Ageing

Doctors reform Society

Energy Efficiency Council

Environment Centre NT

Environment Victoria

Ethnic Communities Council of NSW

GEER Australia (Group of Energy Efficiency Researchers)

Life Without Barriers

NSW Council of Social Services Nature Conservation Council

NT Council of Social Service

Public Health Association

Public Interest Advocacy Centre

Queensland Council of Social Services


Services for Australian Rural and Remote Allied Health

Shelter National

Shelter NSW

Shelter TAS

Shelter WA

St Vincent de Paul Society

Tasmanian Council of Social Services

Salvation Army

Uniting Communities

Tenants Union NSW

Victorian Council of Social Service

Western Australian Council of Social Service

Yarra Energy Foundation

Appendix 1:
All Australians deserve a healthy, safe, affordable home