Community, health and research groups including the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) are pushing for new energy efficiency standards to cover rental properties.
Analysis has shown that the average house could save between $667 and $1434 a year if landlords invested $5000 in upgrades including a more efficient hot water heat pump, upgraded airconditioning and LED lights.
State and federal energy ministers are expected to consider the measures at a meeting on Friday, including a work plan to develop a rating tool for existing homes, and a national framework for mandated energy efficiency standards.
They are also expected to explore funding options for upgrades to social housing and for low income homeowners.
“Millions of people are living in homes that are too cold in winter and too hot in summer and cost a fortune to run; people are sadly dying as a result,” ACOSS chief executive officer Dr Cassandra Goldie said.
This year ACOSS and the Brotherhood of St Laurence commissioned a report from the Australian National University to analyse the cost savings that could be achieved from energy efficient measures.
The ANU found a $2000 investment in upgrading a reverse-cycle airconditioner and installing LED lights could save the average household $438 a year.
If $5000 was invested, including on a more efficient hot water heat pump, households could save from $667 and $1434 a year depending on which region people lived in and whether they had a gas or an electric hot water system.
Modelling for the COAG Energy Council also found that if the proposed work plan was introduced by 2022, it could be worth $5 billion in greenhouse gas emissions, which would drop by 52.7 million tonnes by 2050.
It could also create 120,000 jobs across Australia.
“Cutting energy waste by improving the efficiency of our homes is one of the quickest and cheapest ways to reduce carbon emissions,” Renew chief executive officer Donna Luckman said, adding that households contribute 11 per cent of Australia’s emissions.
She said more efficient homes would also reduce the need to invest in new energy sources and improve the reliability of the electricity grid.
“Everyone benefits,” she said.
Dr Goldie said she wanted to see ministers commit to the measures but also prioritise them so they were not “left on the shelf”.
She said the measures would help people on low incomes, who spend on average more than four times their income on energy bills than high income earners.
“Acting on energy efficiency for people on low income is critical to tackling poverty and inequality as well as providing broader benefits for everyone, including job creation, economic stimulus and reduced carbon emissions.”
National Shelter executive officer Adrian Pisarski said renters lived in some of the worst housing and had little control over the energy efficiency of their homes.
“Renters, including those living in private and social housing, face the greatest barriers to improving energy efficiency,” he said.
“They either go without food and other essentials or they limit energy use to the detriment of their health, in some cases people end up homeless because they prioritise energy bills over rent.”