How the National Australian Built Environment Rating System is ramping up the country’s sustainability profile
How efficient are Australia’s buildings? The number of voices asking this question has grown considerably in recent years, with government, businesses and citizens all becoming increasingly concerned with the impact their buildings are having on the greater environment. And, with the Australian Government looking to achieve a 40 percent productivity increase in national energy usage by 2030, the question has become one of national concern.
Set up over a decade ago, the National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) is managed by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage and is stepping up to the challenge of providing the answer to this ever pressing question. By collecting and comparing data, the organisation enables its users to take stock of energy usage and follow up with improvements to boost their future rating.
At its core, NABERS uses a nationally applied rating system to measure the environmental performance of Australian buildings, homes, and tenancies. NABERS takes a number of factors into account when it comes to making assessments; it measures such variables as energy efficiency, water usage, waste management and indoor environment quality. NABERS uses a rating system that goes from one to six stars – the latter representing exemplary, market leading performance, and a one star performance indicating that serious room for improvement is required.
How does NABERS rate the performance of a building? Over a long time period (typically 12 months) the organisation collects data from a range of variables, including energy or water bills, or waste audit. Specifically, the rating considers five key factors which comprise climatic conditions, hours of use, the level of building service provision, energy sources used, and the size and occupancy of the building. Furthermore, the program compares building performance with benchmarks that represent similar buildings in the same location.
For its varied user base, the accredited rating shows both what is working and what needs to be improved; businesses can set targets to be completed in the year before the next review and can thus make meaningful energy changes while saving money.
In order to ensure that its ideology propagates as far as possible, NABERS provides an accredited online ‘Essentials’ training course. The company states: “The course is essential for anyone involved in commercial property, such as owners, managers, tenants, real estate agents, lawyers, valuers, and consultants, as well as professionals in sustainability and energy management. It is also becoming increasingly relevant for professionals working in the finance industry.”
The course consists of six, 30 minute modules that cover every aspect of NABERS ratings. Learners will come to understand more about the objectives of NABERS, how its star ratings work, energy targets, self-assessments and auditing.
Alongside the Essentials course, NABERS also provides training specialised to a number of important industries, particularly for assessors working in shopping or data centres – two key energy consumers that stand to benefit from the transparency that ratings typically bring. The organisation also offers Commercial Building Disclosure (CBD) training that allows recipients to assessors apply for Building Energy Efficiency Certificates (BEECs) on behalf of building owners, conduct CBD Tenancy Lighting Assessments, and provide assessor supporting statements for exemption applications. Knowledge is also disseminated through its website, which makes a number of helpful tools available to users, which are divided into case studies, a resources library, a helpful glossary of terms, and a section dedicated to tips and tricks.
With a clear goal to maintain the current interest in building emissions, NABERS is leading the nation towards a new, sustainable future. By offering so much more than buildings accreditation, the organisation has grown to become a one-stop-shop for people and businesses seeking to learn more and deliver positive, long-lasting change.
Read the January 2017 issue of Energy Digital magazine.
Carbon dioxide removal revenues worth £2bn a year by 2030
Carbon dioxide removal revenues could reach £2bn a year by 2030 in the UK with costs per megatonne totalling up to £400 million, according to the National Infrastructure Commission.
Engineered greenhouse gas removals will become "a major new infrastructure sector" in the coming decades - although costs are uncertain given removal technologies are in their infancy - and revenues could match that of the UK’s water sector by 2050. The Commission’s analysis suggests engineered removals technologies need to have capacity to remove five to ten megatonnes of carbon dioxide no later than 2030, and between 40 and 100 megatonnes by 2050.
The Commission states technologies fit into two categories: extracting carbon dioxide directly out of the air; and bioenergy with carbon capture technology – processing biomass to recapture carbon dioxide absorbed as the fuel grew. In both cases, the captured CO2 is then stored permanently out of the atmosphere, typically under the seabed.
The report sets out how the engineered removal and storage of carbon dioxide offers the most realistic way to mitigate the final slice of emissions expected to remain by the 2040s from sources that don’t currently have a decarbonisation solution, like aviation and agriculture.
It stresses that the potential of these technologies is “not an excuse to delay necessary action elsewhere” and cannot replace efforts to reduce emissions from sectors like road transport or power, where removals would be a more expensive alternative.
The critical role these technologies will play in meeting climate targets means government must rapidly kick start the sector so that it becomes viable by the 2030s, according to the report, which was commissioned by government in November 2020.
Early movement by the UK to develop the expertise and capacity in greenhouse gas removal technologies could create a comparative advantage, with the prospect of other countries needing to procure the knowledge and skills the UK develops.
The Commission recommends that government should support the development of this new sector in the short term with policies that drive delivery of these technologies and create demand through obligations on polluting industries, which will over time enable a competitive market to develop. Robust independent regulation must also be put in place from the start to help build public and investor confidence.
While the burden of these costs could be shared by different parts of industries required to pay for removals or in part shared with government, the report acknowledges that, over the longer term, the aim should be to have polluting sectors pay for removals they need to reach carbon targets.
Polluting industries are likely to pass a proportion of the costs onto consumers. While those with bigger household expenditures will pay more than those on lower incomes, the report underlines that government will need to identify ways of protecting vulnerable consumers and to decide where in relevant industry supply chains the costs should fall.
Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, Sir John Armitt, said taking steps to clean our air is something we’re going to have to get used to, just as we already manage our wastewater and household refuse.
"While engineered removals will not be everyone’s favourite device in the toolkit, they are there for the hardest jobs. And in the overall project of mitigating our impact on the planet for the sake of generations to come, we need every tool we can find," he said.
“But to get close to having the sector operating where and when we need it to, the government needs to get ahead of the game now. The adaptive approach to market building we recommend will create the best environment for emerging technologies to develop quickly and show their worth, avoiding the need for government to pick winners. We know from the dramatic fall in the cost of renewables that this approach works and we must apply the lessons learned to this novel, but necessary, technology.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and International Energy Agency estimate a global capacity for engineered removals of 2,000 to 16,000 megatonnes of carbon dioxide each year by 2050 will be needed in order to meet global reduction targets.
Yesterday Summit Carbon Solutions received "a strategic investment" from John Deere to advance a major CCUS project (click here). The project will accelerate decarbonisation efforts across the agriculture industry by enabling the production of low carbon ethanol, resulting in the production of more sustainable food, feed, and fuel. Summit Carbon Solutions has partnered with 31 biorefineries across the Midwest United States to capture and permanently sequester their CO2 emissions.
Cory Reed, President, Agriculture & Turf Division of John Deere, said: "Carbon neutral ethanol would have a positive impact on the environment and bolster the long-term sustainability of the agriculture industry. The work Summit Carbon Solutions is doing will be critical in delivering on these goals."
McKinsey highlights a number of CCUS methods which can drive CO2 to net zero:
- Today’s leader: Enhanced oil recovery Among CO2 uses by industry, enhanced oil recovery leads the field. It accounts for around 90 percent of all CO2 usage today
- Cementing in CO2 for the ages New processes could lock up CO2 permanently in concrete, “storing” CO2 in buildings, sidewalks, or anywhere else concrete is used
- Carbon neutral fuel for jets Technically, CO2 could be used to create virtually any type of fuel. Through a chemical reaction, CO2 captured from industry can be combined with hydrogen to create synthetic gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel
- Capturing CO2 from ambient air - anywhere Direct air capture (DAC) could push CO2 emissions into negative territory in a big way
- The biomass-energy cycle: CO2 neutral or even negative Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage relies on nature to remove CO2 from the atmosphere for use elsewhere