Australia is set to get a long-term trajectory for low energy homes and commercial buildings after energy ministers agreed to a pathway to zero-energy and zero-carbon buildings.

The Council of Australian Governments has agreed to implement a trajectory for low energy commercial and residential buildings under which energy performance requirements of the National Construction Code will be progressively upgraded over the long term.

Under the trajectory, substantial upgrades to energy performance requirements under the NCC will be implemented in both the 2022 and 2025 updating cycles of the Code.

This will be followed by increasingly stringent requirements every three years as technology and energy prices change.

The detail of the requirements will be considered during the COAG Energy Council meeting on Friday.

Around Australia, much work has been done toward a pathway under which energy efficiency requirements under the NCC would progressively be tightened over the long term in order to reduce energy bills and contribute toward Australia’s commitments under the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Last year, ClimateWorks and the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC) unveiled a proposed trajectory in relation to which the modelling demonstrated the capacity for substantial gains in energy efficiency at a net financial benefit to building owners.

According to this modelling, stronger energy requirements could by 2050 save households an average of $900 per year in energy costs and reduce cumulative greenhouse gas emissions by 78 million tonnes.

Green building industry groups welcomed the move.

ASBEC Executive Director Suzanne Toumbourou said more energy efficient homes and commercial buildings can deliver more resilience to extreme weather, better comfort and reduce stress on the electricity grid, providing an imperative to act now on improving the energy performance of our building stock.

Toumbourou said the energy performance of buildings isn’t just about energy bills and comfort.

“Almost all buildings built today will still be operating in 2050, at a time when Australia will need to be at or near net zero emissions,” Toumbourou said.

“The National Construction Code sets minimum standards for all new Australian buildings, so it is the best place to start to improve building energy performance.

“By strengthening the National Construction Code we can ensure new buildings are ‘zero carbon ready’ to plug into a net zero emissions economy by 2050.”

Professor Tony Arnel, Chair of ASBEC’s Building Code Task Group and President of the Energy Efficiency Council, said the commitment would provide long-term certainty for the building industry.

If developers and manufacturers know how the Code requirements will evolve over the long term, Arnel said they will have greater confidence to plan and invest in new technologies.

This, he says, will help to deliver better energy performance at lower cost.