Building and Appliance Energy Efficiency Research: Opportunities for EU-Australian Collaboration

Alan Pears and Rosalinda Bustamante

European Union (EU) and Australian institutional structures, past policy measures and present policy approaches related to building and appliance energy and climate response have much in common, and important differences. Both the similarities and differences provide fertile ground for increased future research collaboration. 

Both the EU and Australia have structures with overarching governance, funding and influence: The EU has the European Council, European Commission and European Parliament, while Australia has its national government and parliament. The National Cabinet, which replaced the Council of Australian Governments in mid-2020, provides a forum for the Prime Minister to engage with state and territory leaders . The EU Member States and Australia’s states and territories have substantial powers and roles to determine detailed design and implementation of policies as well as their own emission targets.  

Both the EU and Australia face challenges in dramatically scaling up action to cut carbon emissions associated with appliances and buildings, as well as adapting to more extreme climate conditions and managing equitable transitions. Both have substantial stocks of existing buildings and equipment that will maintain high levels of emissions unless operating efficiency is optimised and/or they are renovated or replaced.  Climates and availability of renewable energy vary widely across both regions.

Key differences exist. The EU sets strong climate targets and develops comprehensive Directives with specific expectations of outcomes from Member States. In Australia, state and territory governments have committed to stronger targets than the national government, while community groups, state and local governments and business groups act independently and in coalitions to develop and implement measures. 

In broad terms, the EU has more emphasis on ‘top down’ and EU level coordinated policy, though implementation varies widely across Member States. Australia has diversified approaches that are more ‘bottom-up’ and fragmented. In some areas, national policy has evolved based on lessons and pressure from below, for example appliance efficiency policy was initiated by two state governments in the mid-1980s and became national legislation only a decade ago. Renewable energy policy involves a mix of national, state-based, business-driven and community initiatives reflected in, for example, a high level of ‘behind-the-meter’ rooftop solar adoption. Substantial energy retailer obligation schemes exist in some states and territories.

In both the EU and Australia, diversity in approaches at the Member State and state and territory levels provides valuable lessons from ‘pilot projects’ that can be built upon and applied more broadly. However such projects can also create confusion, higher costs and complexity!

This paper reviews relevant past and represent policies in the EU and Australia within broad categories that were established after initial research. 

The recording of the launch of this report can be found here.

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