We all know productivity is important when it comes to maximising the bang for your buck on a building site.

The same is true on a bigger scale for the energy we use, as a sector and as a nation.

Anyone who has ever managed a budget can tell you that controlling your overheads will help to bring expenditures down and improve your overall productivity. Right now, Australia has the opportunity to do just that with our national energy bill, and the building industry is well placed to be front and centre of this effort.

The building sector is one of the major contributors to Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. Emissions from power used on sites, together with emissions involved in creating all the materials used by the industry, contribute around 23 per cent of Australia’s total emissions.

An increase in energy productivity would lower this figure. Energy productivity means increasing the amount of output for every unit of power consumed. The building sector is the sector where actions to reduce emissions can come at the lowest cost, with cost-effective technologies already available.

Improving our energy productivity isn’t just about addressing climate change. It’s a crucial way of helping our economy.

In just 10 years, Australian energy costs have grown by a massive 67 per cent. Powering our country now costs us around $120 billion every year – that’s 8.2 per cent of our total GDP. To put it in perspective, it’s the same as the entire bill for all the labour done in the state of Queensland for a year.

Reading those figures, it’s not hard to see that improving our energy productivity will help improve our overall national productivity.

The world’s biggest economies see energy productivity as a major priority. The G20 Energy Efficiency Action Plan says that energy efficiency is a serious concern for G20 member states. As consumers of 80 per cent of the world’s energy, they know that improving energy productivity “can drive economic activity and productivity, strengthen energy security and improve environmental outcomes. It can also cut costs for businesses and households [and] drive business efficiencies.”

Our government is on the case too, with the Australian Government’s Energy White Paper to be released this year. This will set out the government’s vision for an “integrated approach to energy policy to reduce cost pressures on households and businesses, improve Australia’s international competitiveness and grow our export base and economic prosperity.”

With the building sector producing nearly a quarter of all emissions and boasting the lowest cost for emissions reduction, it’s obvious this policy will have important ramifications for the building sector.

ASBEC has used the combined expertise of leaders from across the building sector to identify the things Australia needs to do to improve energy productivity:

  1. Drive energy productivity. This could include tax incentives for building retrofits, higher standards in the Building Code and improving Minimum Energy Performance standards.
  2. Remove barriers to distributed generation, by maintaining the Renewable Energy Target, making it easier to connect to the grid, and improving returns and support for distributed generation.
  3. Create a building industry workforce that can deliver energy productivity, by working with government, industry and education providers to target critical skills gaps.

Improving our energy productivity will help us do the same on a national scale – for everyone’s benefit.