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New ASBEC report finds electrification is key to net zero buildings

New ASBEC report finds electrification is key to net zero buildings

The Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC) has released a new report – Unlocking the pathway: Why electrification is the key to net zero buildings.

The report’s results attest 100 per cent electrification is the lowest cost, fastest emissions reduction pathway for Australia’s built environment.

Its findings show electrification would save $49 billion between 2024 and 2050 over the ‘business as usual’ strategy of electrification, gas and offsets. It would also save 199 Mt Co2-e before offsets.

Ken Morrison, Chair of ASBEC’s Net Zero Buildings Task Group and Chief Executive of the Property Council of Australia says that Australia needs to transition the economy at the least cost despite the built environment already having the technology to decarbonise.

“This report finds 100 per cent electrification is the lowest cost option to decarbonise our built environment, but lowest cost does not mean no cost,” says Morrison.

“Our detailed analysis by building type, geography and lifecycle reveals that electrification, while necessary, is not always cost-beneficial. Failing to acknowledge and address these costs will significantly impede the transition to net zero building operations.”

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Speaking at the launch of the report, ASBEC Executive Director Alison Scotland acknowledged the elevated commitment from Australian governments to act.

“Australia is now taking strong action on climate change, with a national emissions abatement target of 43 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 and a net zero target by 2050,” Scotland said. “Australia now has a roadmap to deliver cleaner, more affordable energy to households and businesses.”

“But as our grid decarbonises, we must turn our attention to other sources of emissions. The built environment is responsible for a quarter of Australia’s emissions. This means decarbonisation of our buildings is an essential strategy to cut emissions and strengthen Australia’s future as a renewable energy superpower.”

The ASBEC report, an output of the Rapid and Least Cost Decarbonisation of the Built Environment project, is backed by a building-level technical report by DeltaQ and modelling of least-cost decarbonisation options by SPR.

SPR modelled three ‘plausible but divergent’ decarbonisation scenarios: 100 per cent electrification; a combination of electrification and green hydrogen; and a ‘base case’, representing ‘business as usual’ of electrification, fossil gas, green hydrogen and carbon offsets.

The modelling was applied to new and existing residential buildings and commercial buildings (hotels, offices and retail) in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. The three scenarios were modelled over the period FY2024 to FY2050.

“ASBEC’s work confirms that relying on a business as usual approach to decarbonisation will require investment in offsets,” adds Morrison. “A strategy based on offsets is the most expensive and uncertain option for the economy and the worst outcome for emissions reduction.”

“The report also recommends that electrification, which is available now, should be pursued rather than waiting for green hydrogen to drive transformation. By electrifying buildings now, hydrogen can be reserved for industries with high intensity energy requirements.”

Electrification of Australia’s built environment will require government action, and ASBEC’s report includes six clear policy recommendations. These include an upgrade to the National Construction Code, a national plan to phase out fossil gas, and incentives to address capital cost constraints.

“Electrification is the least-cost option to drive down emissions, but it is not a no cost option,” says Morrison. “The built environment must electrify, and public policy can smooth the pathway, so this happens at speed.”

The Australian Government, through the Department of Climate Change, Energy and Water, and the NSW Government, through the NSW Office of Energy and Climate Change, provided financial support for ASBEC’s Rapid and Least Cost Decarbonisation of the Built Environment project.

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