By Rosalind Scutt
I love quirky statistics, especially those that look difficult to collate and utterly irrelevant like this one: it would take you 31.7 years to count off a billion seconds.
Then there’s the more useful kind, the everyday statistics trotted out by the banks or the Reserve Bank of Australia, the type that tell us what proportion of us are rich or poor (or poor but delusionally rich due to colossal credit card spending — surely the banks’ favourite).
But undoubtedly the most interesting statistic I’ve seen of late (aside from the statistics relating to the IMF Australia-led class action against the banks) is this: “Nearly 13 percent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions are due to home energy use,” (so said the CSIRO in a media release last month).
In an election cycle where the Emissions Trading Scheme was shelved, the insulation scheme failed and Copenhagen Climate Change Conference capitulated, the planet keeps getting hotter. It seems obvious then that new pledges to manage Australia’s response to global warming will play a massive part in winning government.
With this in mind I’m hoping the relevant policy makers will note the incredible achievement made recently by CSRIO in the completion of Australia’s first zero-emission house, the AusZEH.
Designed to fit the Australian climate — and the lifestyle of a typical middle-income family — the AusZEH was officially opened 30km north of Melbourne’s CBD.
“The eight-star energy-efficiency-rated AusZEH showcases off-the-shelf building and renewable energy-generation technologies, and new future-ready energy management systems,” CSIRO said.
“The AusZEH is designed to produce enough ‘zero-emission’ electricity from 6kW solar panels to supply all the operating energy needs of the household so that its net total CO2 or other greenhouse gas emissions is zero,” CSIRO said.
The AusZEH is modelled on Henley’s “Kube” range, from which a six-star house is estimated to cost around $253,900, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. To upgrade to an eight-star rating would cost an estimated extra $20,000. In addition, solar panels cost an extra $20,000. Which all seems rather reasonable.
The director of CSIRO’s Energy Transformed Flagship research program, Dr Alex Wonhas, said the uptake of zero-emission housing in Australia could have a significant impact on reducing emissions nationwide.
Given Australia’s current population projections of 35.9 million by 2050, the building of millions of new dwellings in line with the AusZEH design could single-handedly reduce Australia’s emissions without the need for extra taxes.
“CSIRO scientists estimate that if all the new housing built in Australia between 2011 and 2020 were zero-emission houses, 63 million tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions would be saved,” Dr Wonhas said.
“This would be equivalent to taking all of Australia’s private cars off the road for two years and 237 days, or closing all Australia’s power stations for up to 100 days.”
But having commissioned the research and received the advice, I’m betting two to one the federal government won’t mandate it.