A new report from the Climate Council demonstrates that targets hit their mark, and I’d suggest this is as relevant for national targets as it is for portfolios, buildings or organisations.

The Climate Council’s recent report, The Australian Renewable Energy Race, finds that those states with a favourable policy environment and with established renewable energy targets winning the renewables race.

South Australia, having already met its 2020 renewable energy target of 33 per cent, now sources more than a third of electricity from renewable sources and a quarter of homes have solar PV panels. South Australia has installed more large-scale renewable capacity since 2001 than any other state, and has now set a 50 per cent target.

The report finds the ACT is also “punching above its weight” with a target of 90 per cent renewable energy by 2020, and a feed-in tariff scheme attracting investment in large-scale projects.

No other Australian state has a current target to increase renewable energy, and during 2014 the federal government made moves to water down the Renewable Energy Target (RET). The GBCA, just like many other industry bodies, made our reaction perfectly clear.

On a positive note, NSW’s Minister for Environment and Heritage, Rob Stokes MP, declared in July that the Baird Government intended NSW to be “Australia’s answer to California,” with investment in solar for government buildings and a better climate for renewable energy solutions.  Unfortunately, this has yet to generate significant change within the state.

Renewable energy targets have been found to stimulate innovation, set a direction for industry and provide the impetus to invest in new technologies.  Independent modelling commissioned by the Climate Institute, for instance, has found that abolishing the RET could diminish investment in renewable energy by almost $11 billion.

More than 21,000 Australians are currently employed in the renewable energy industry and this may increase to 32,000 in 15 years with a strong and consistent policy environment.

With 2014 the hottest year on record, climate change is getting harder and harder to ignore. While national action has stalled, the action of some state governments demonstrates that setting goals and targets – and sticking to them – can deliver real, lasting change. So what does this mean for our built environment?

Around Australia, more than 800 Green Star-rated projects consume, on average, just a third of the energy used by traditional, non-green buildings. From green schools that complement geothermal energy with hydro power from the grid, to bank buildings complete with wind turbines and co-generation plants, to apartments with heliostats and entire communities tapping into precinct-wide tri-generation systems, energy targets encourage investment in technologies and solutions that are being found in buildings across Australia.

For our nation to grow its renewable energy industry, and to deliver better, greener buildings, we must have clear standards, benchmarks and targets. The building code sets the standards, Green Star sets practice benchmarks, and policies such as the RET set the targets, which help us do better.

The bottom line is simple. The property industry has made considerable investment in recent years in renewable energy technologies. As the Property Council of Australia points out, installed capacity of solar panels on commercial buildings increased nine-fold from 2010 to 2013. The RET has been a driver of good technology – and future investment in greener buildings depends on it.