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admin 25.11.2015

Today, Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) and several cosponsors introduced a bill in the House that would provide considerable support for renewable energy in the 2012 Farm Bill. As grasslands and wetlands disappear at alarming rates, many species of wildlife lose their habitat: some bird populations are declining at alarming rates.
As an alternative to corn ethanol, Farm Bill energy programs explore newer, more sustainable biomass crops, such as native grasses, which are less degrading to soil and water than corn ethanol, and can even provide habitat for wildlife. The Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) and the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) are a win-win because they give incentives for local development of more sustainable energy sources and are also  good for local economies.
REAP helps farmers become less reliant on fossil fuels by providing grants for on farm energy audits and renewable energy projects. Please ask your Congressional representative to show their support for sustainable, renewable energy by becoming original cosponsors of this marker bill. Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask for your Congressional representative’s office. Housing affordability is a growing issue in most Australian cities and, until recently, the additional cost of sustainable improvements was seen by some as a barrier to their inclusion in our homes. Affordable housing is any type of housing that is rented or purchased at a cost within the financial capacity of a household (generally less than 30% of gross household income). Some sustainable features that add to the initial capital cost of a home are cost positive from day one when savings from reduced energy bills offset additional mortgage payments.
Affordability of features that improve sustainable performance should therefore be considered across the life span of the home. Most energy and water saving improvements increase affordability over the life span of the home. The following graph and the next table show capital costs and consequent savings of simple energy saving improvements for an existing home, even before recent energy price rises (ACF et al. An efficient hot water service, which shows the highest initial cost in this study, delivered the biggest annual savings. Although the initial cost of all these improvements was significant, annual net savings exceeded $300 and payback periods for some items were three to four years (ACF et al.
Energy poverty is already a considerable issue in Australia and many other developed countries. Environment Victoria estimated that retrofitting 1 million low income Victorian homes with a variety of basic energy and water-saving measures (depending on need) could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 3 million tonnes and save 32.5 billion litres of water each year (Noble and Martinelli 2009). An average investment of $2,800 per household could reduce energy and water bills by up to $600 per year.
Increasing house size is a substantial contributor to housing unaffordability in Australia.
The number of people in each Australian household is shrinking but house size is growing — we are building much larger houses than we need. Initial costs such as land and house purchase prices, finance costs, stamp duties, legal fees and inspection reports determine what you can afford in your budget. Limited land supply and speculative investment practices (particularly during high demand periods) have a direct impact on property price increases that then become permanent (Horne et al. The table shows that initial costs relating to sustainable features may be affected by a number of factors. Smaller, smarter floor plans are arguably the most effective way to reduce initial and ongoing costs and increase housing affordability. Smaller, smarter floor plans are arguably the most effective way to reduce initial and ongoing costs.
Ongoing costs affect affordability for householders (owners and tenants) living in and operating the home. With the exception of efficient user behaviour, sustainability improvements are among the few housing features capable of reducing operating costs.
LCC facilitates analysis of the real cost comparison of purchasing or building and living in a home over its life span. When applied to the range of housing options or upgrade features being considered, this simple formula gives a useful indication of whole of life costs to inform decision making beyond the initial purchase price. Could I spend more of my initial budget on features that will save money as soon as I move in and add other features later that don’t save money? Neither does it factor in improved comfort, health and amenity during occupation of the home. The next owner of your home is likely to value your sustainable improvements and be prepared to pay a premium for them. Remember, you or someone else will be living in the home for its entire life and the next owner is likely to value your sustainable improvements and be prepared to pay a premium for them. Recent research by RMIT identified a lack of clear cost–benefit information available to consumers, practitioners and policy makers about low and zero emission housing. Designers, consumers and builders should therefore cost a range of scenarios to determine the most cost effective housing solutions in their climate by varying the contribution of thermal performance, appliance efficiency, renewable energy and water efficiency. The cost effectiveness of all but the first two factors varies with different house types and climates. In more extreme climates, higher NatHERS ratings usually deliver the most cost effective outcomes. In existing homes, thermal performance can and should always be improved to at least 5 stars NatHERS. Improve thermal performance to at least 5 stars NatHERS by adding insulation, shading and draught proofing, and zoning areas to be heated and cooled.

The table gives an overview of indicative heating and cooling energy use for homes with various NatHERS star ratings in a range of cities and climate zones, and highlights the current 6 star NatHERS standard mandated under the Building Code of Australia (BCA). The total heating and cooling load for each star band have been set for each climate zone taking into account the extremes of the local weather conditions. Note: BASIX in NSW provides flexible compliance paths to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40%.
The table demonstrates how similar NatHERS star ratings in different climates require substantially different amounts of heating and cooling energy to maintain equivalent thermal comfort. These ranges reflect the diversity of climate variations in each climate grouping — particularly in diurnal temperature ranges and solar or cool breeze access. Greywater diversion or recycling of shower and bath: from $3,500 for drainage separation and simple diversion system to garden to $10,000 for a system to treat and recycle for laundry and toilet flushing.
These allowances are indicative only and subject to change due to factors such as currency exchange rates, inflation, market forces and economies of scale, and local installation costs. A study commissioned by Sustainability Victoria and the Cape Paterson Ecovillage (Szatow 2011) suggests that sustainable technology has reached a tipping point where the financial benefits of building and living in environmentally friendly homes now outweigh the initial costs over the lifespan of the home. Research by the NSW Government indicates that the cost for a new dwelling to comply with BASIX ranges from $1,114 for a Sydney high rise unit to $21,902 for a single detached house in the Southern Highlands with no gas. The total per dwelling benefits expected to accrue to households by 2050 is estimated at $3,273 for a Sydney high-rise unit to $14,661 for a large Sydney house relying on solar power to pass BASIX (Planning NSW 2009). Research by Sustainable Windows Alliance into the cost–benefit of improved glazing in thermal performance upgrades for new housing reported findings from state capital cities. Each star corresponds to a reduction in (mostly) heating energy requirements of approximately 20–30% on the pre-improved level. A Darwin house would typically use up to eight times more energy to maintain thermal comfort than a Brisbane house with a similar star rating due to cooling requirements during the hot humid summer. In all climates, the most affordable glazing solution in thermal performance terms is to reduce the total area of glass — particularly east and west facing. In all climates, the most affordable way to improve the thermal performance of windows is to reduce the total area of glass.
Growing global demand for sustainable technologies is generating economies of scale that increase affordability. Large housing developments can also deliver cost reductions through bulk purchasing and availability of trades who are skilled in sustainable construction (see ‘Cape Paterson Ecovillage’ above). Prefabricated or transportable homes are emerging as promising alternatives to assist with housing affordability. The homes are made with one to five bedrooms and being modular can be added to easily to meet the changing needs of families.
Read this section in conjunction with Home automation and Smart meters, in-home displays and smart appliances.
The Australian Government committed to the goal that, by 2020, the majority of Australian households, businesses and other organisations would have access to smart technology to better manage their energy use; the Victorian Government mandated that digital electricity meters (smart meters) be installed in all Victorian households and small businesses by the end of 2013.
Time-of-use or smart metering varies electricity cost according to demand and allows consumers to see how much electricity they use, when they use it and how much it costs. Energy management systems can substantially reduce household electricity and transport costs. These systems are rapidly developing to increase both efficiency and affordability and will likely offer a cost effective improvement option for all housing as smart metering and grids become available.
When combined with plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), energy management systems substantially reduce household electricity and transport costs, and maximise returns on any investment in on-site generation, storage and smart appliances while reducing peak demand. The Green Star — Communities rating tool is able to assess and certify the sustainability of community-level projects. The aim of the Green Star — Communities Econ-5 ‘Affordability’ credit is to encourage and recognise projects that promote housing and living affordability. Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) and Choice.
The National Wildlife Federation played a key role in developing BCAP, which helps to pay the costs of establishing and growing biomass crops near energy facilities.
Farm Bill sustainable biomass programs benefit wildlife and local economies.BCAP recipients such as the Show Me Energy Cooperativein Missouri plant perennial native grasses and forbs that provide a fuel source which protects wildlife habitat and conserves soil. The program also provides grants and loan guarantees to small businesses and farmers and ranchers located in rural areas to help them purchase renewable energy systems, make improvements in energy efficiency, and perform renewable energy feasibility studies.
However, well-designed, climate appropriate sustainable improvements make a home more affordable over its life span. These costs include rent or mortgage payments, rates, property taxes, insurance, repairs and maintenance that are the responsibility of the resident (Gabriel et al. Other energy and water saving features with higher initial cost deliver significant returns within the life span of the home or appliance.
This life cycle costing (LCC) typically focuses only on economic cost, though increased comfort, health and amenity are clearly significant benefits from sustainable improvements (see ‘Life cycle costing’ below). A household spending 10% or more of total income on energy requirements, or unable to consume energy required to meet basic living requirements due to financial constraints, is considered to be energy poor (Moore et al. This clearly presents both a responsibility and an opportunity to investors and landlords that will be rewarded at point of lease or sale. House size affects initial purchase cost, materials consumption and ongoing heating, cooling and maintenance costs, and environmental impact. House and land prices are highly variable depending on location, type of house or unit, land and house size, market demand and market appeal.

These costs are driven primarily by transport and energy costs, interest rates, insurance costs, maintenance and repair costs, council rates, and waste disposal and water charges.
It does not take into account advantages such as environmental benefits versus the cost of doing nothing (Garnaut 2008).
Health care costs can be significant (including the need to take leave from work to care for sick family members) and comfort and amenity can reduce the pressures for more costly entertainment options. It depends on the quality and durability of the home, the likelihood of planning changes that might see it demolished and the length of time you plan to live in the home. In general terms, the cost of improving thermal performance during construction or renovation is much lower than doing it later. While adding marginally to initial cost (2012 estimates are 0–10% of total cost depending on performance level and design innovation), growth in demand is seeing sustainability features increasingly reflected in property values. Their research focused on life cycle cost–benefit scenarios for a variety of energy efficiency standards for Victoria including various combinations of energy efficiency, appliance efficiency and renewable energy (Horne et al. For example, householders with limited or expensive thermal upgrade options may find that upgrading major appliances (heating, cooling and hot water service) and installing solar photovoltaics to be the most cost effective option for eliminating energy bills — particularly in more benign climates. RMIT found that in Melbourne across a 50 year time-horizon, an 8 star NatHERS thermal performance with 3kW of solar photovoltaics and a solar hot water service provided cost-optimal outcomes for achieving a zero emission home (Moore et al.
Steps include adding insulation, shading and draught proofing, and zoning areas to be heated and cooled.
Each star band facilitates comparison of home energy use in a given climate zone and indicates differing energy requirements between climates zones to achieve similar thermal comfort levels. NatHERS assessments are accepted as part of this flexible compliance protocol, but heating and cooling caps are not mandated. Take these variations into account when determining the most cost effective energy or carbon reduction solution for a given site and climate zone. Save significantly on costs by minimising the floor area requiring conditioning through improved thermal performance — a 25% smaller conditioned area more than offsets the additional cost of a MEPS best practice heating and cooling system.
Some state and local government regulations limit the use of greywater recycling or impose strict compliance and maintenance conditions making it among the least cost effective water saving options. 2011) and Cape Paterson Ecovillage (Szatow 2011) research projects both focus predominantly on Victorian conditions. A 9–10 star rated Darwin home would have similar cooling energy requirements to a 6 star Brisbane home but would be relatively expensive. And in the relatively new field of sustainable building, research and innovation are rapidly developing new and more cost effective solutions.
Factory construction reduces costs through bulk buying, waste reduction and elimination of many site-related costs. These programs have experienced delays, but smart grids and meters are likely to be available to most Australian homes in the medium term.
Consumers can thus save money by using less power when electricity is most expensive and choose when to export any they generate or store on site to the grid at peak price.
As part of its best practice benchmarks, the tool requires a development to provide ‘diverse and affordable living’ through a diversity of dwellings, buildings and facilities that reflect the socioeconomic needs of the community and include access to local services including transport, food, health and conveniences. The affordability credit rewards the number of housing affordability strategies implemented in the project, from lot diversity to the promotion of affordable housing stock. Tell them you would like your representative to become a cosponsor of the Rural Energy Investment Act. Net annualised savings over the life of the improvement indicate the most cost effective savings.
Efficient appliances last 10–15 years and it’s most cost effective to upgrade them when they are purchased or replaced, rather than replace them for the sake of upgrading. However, many of the RMIT findings are currently being adapted to other climate zones throughout Australia. A growing number of Australian companies offer attractive, flexible, factory built options that are manufactured to high construction standards from quality eco-materials and finishes. Cost benefit pathways to zero emission housing: implications for household cash-flows in Melbourne. Future policy directions from zero emission housing in Australia: implications from an international review and comparison.
Procedure for accrediting software under the nationwide house energy rating scheme: software incorporating the Australian Government endorsed calculation engine. Towards climate safe homes: the case for zero emissions and water saving homes and neighbourhoods. Although excluded from some studies, utility payments for energy and water are a critical affordability consideration.
The cost of on-site generation and energy management systems decreases each year while efficiency increases. Limited research findings for other states and climates are outlined below but no definitive cost–benefit studies are yet available. Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute National Research Venture 3: Housing Affordability for Lower Income Australians, Research Paper 1.

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