Australia places its big bet on renewable energy superpower opportunity

15 May 2024

The federal budget lays strong foundations for Australia’s future as a renewable energy superpower, with flow-on benefits for the built environment, says the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA).

“This is a clear, measured budget that meets the political moment and takes important steps to position Australia for a central role in the global net zero economy,” says the GBCA’s Chief Executive Officer, Davina Rooney.

“Viewed in the light of last year’s budget – in which billions were directed to initiatives that will strengthen sustainability in the built environment – we are pleased with the priorities outlined. Accelerating the energy transition is an urgent national priority, and the budget reflects this.

“The Australian Government is placing a big bet on the ‘renewable energy superpower’ opportunity. The $22.7 billion ‘Future Made in Australia’ package, combined with a range of smaller but strategic measures, will help us to nurture new industries and grow our green skills base, deepen net zero trade and international engagement, and strengthen sustainable finance frameworks. These are all positives that will support a sustainable built environment.”

Among the budget measures welcomed by the GBCA:

  • Sustainable finance: $17.3 million over four years (and $3.1 million ongoing) to promote the development of sustainable finance markets in Australia. This includes $10 million for ASIC to continue its action against greenwashing, as well as funding to improve data and measures to enhance transparency and trust in sustainable investments.
  • Carbon credits: $48 million over four years to improve the Australian Carbon Credit Unit Scheme following the Independent Review. The GBCA has championed measures to strengthen the integrity and transparency of carbon offsets, and to support the participation of First Nations groups, for several years.
  • International leadership: An additional $76.2 million over five years will support Australia’s continued engagement in international climate change and energy transition issues, including a bid to co-host COP31 in partnership with Pacific nations.
  • Net zero:  $399.1 million over five years in additional resourcing to support an “orderly and positive transition” as the economy decarbonises. This includes $209.3 million to expand the Net Zero Economy Authority.
  • Circular economy: $23 million to continue the delivery of the federal government’s circular economy agenda. This includes the development of a new national circular economy framework, which aligns with the GBCA’s work to develop a Circular Economy strategy for the built environment.
  • Consumer engagement: $47.7 million over four years for programs that maximise consumer and community benefits of the energy transition by boosting the supply of renewable electricity from rooftop solar, home batteries and other energy resources.
  • Nature positive: An additional $40.9 million over two years to continue implementation of the Australian Government’s Nature Positive Plan. This bolsters the $172.5 million over four years allocated last year for various initiatives, and directly aligns with the objectives outlined in the GBCA’s Nature Roadmap discussion paper.
  • Green skills: Among the ‘Future Made’ investments is $55.6 million over four years to establish the Building Women’s Careers program to drive structural and systemic change in traditionally male-dominated industries of national priority, including clean energy. There is also $90.2 million for 20,000 additional fee-free TAFE training places to increase the pipeline of workers desperately needed for construction and housing.
  • Net Zero in Government Operations: $2.1 million over four years to support the Net Zero in Government Operations strategy helps to embed the government’s commitment to leadership and will have an important flow-on effect to industry and the supply chain. GBCA is pleased to be supporting the government with the climate positive pathway provided through Green Star.

The $3.5 billion allocated to energy relief represents a “missed opportunity,” Ms. Rooney notes.

“While the $300 rebate per household will provide short-term relief from cost-of-living pressures, we need to be thinking long-term. By electrifying and improving energy efficiency now, we will make Australian homes more comfortable and cheaper to run, reduce emissions and help households prepare for a hotter climate, while cultivating green skills we can export to the world.

“We can take inspiration from the Inflation Reduction Act in the United States, which has directed billions of dollars to incentives for building electrification that is saving money, slashing emissions and building green skills.

“The $300 energy bill relief may capture the headlines, but the real highlight is the Australian Government’s systematic work to lay the foundations for Australia’s renewable energy future,” Ms. Rooney concludes.