So there I was scrolling through my twitter feed when I saw this:
Something u wont see reported in The Australian #CarbonEmissions.New report finds insulation scheme will save billions http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/breakfast/new-report-finds-insulation-scheme-will-save-billions/4258678 …
The ‘new’ report mentioned in that segment can be found here.
The thermal insulation of ceilings has long been recognised as one of the most significant and cost effective means for improving the thermal performance of residential buildings. Such insulation has been demonstrated to:
• Improve thermal comfort for the occupants
• Reduce space conditioning energy consumption
• Reduce heating and cooling fuel costs to householders
• Reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with space conditioning
• Mitigate against the impact of peak loads on power supply networks
• Improve health outcomes for occupants
• Improve the value of the property
I have no doubt that list is correct – yet all those benefits, with the possible exception of the greenhouse gas reduction, are private benefits. They are good reasons why individuals should pay to insulate their own homes.
Yet that isn’t what the report suggests.
Historically, both nationally and internationally a number of barriers have meant that the market has failed to significantly increase the proportion of insulated homes, despite considerable investment in marketing programs. ICANZ believes that all governments should therefore continue to include ceiling insulation retrofit as a key policy measure for reducing residential energy use.
But what happened the last time government tried this?
In 2009-10 the Commonwealth government, as part of its response to the GFC initiated the Home Insulation Program (HIP). The objective of the HIP was to retrofit ceiling insulation to the uninsulated dwellings of Australia. Unfortunately that program encountered difficulties and was terminated half way through leaving an estimated 0.8 – 1.4 million households without ceiling insulation.
Hundreds of house fires and four deaths are decribed as having “encountered difficulties”. But we digress …
In hindsight, it is little wonder that the program encountered difficulties. In an average year, approximately 200,000 new and existing dwellings are fitted with ceiling insulation (75% new dwellings and 25% retrofit of existing dwellings). In the first year of the HIP, 1.2 million existing dwellings were retrofitted – a six-fold increase in the level of delivery previously managed by the industry. The capacity of the industry was clearly overstretched and, unsurprisingly, less than optimal outcomes resulted. The rapid growth in demand for labour (a goal of the program in the context of the global financial crisis) led to some poor outcomes in terms of opportunistic business practices and reduced levels of staff training.
This time those hundreds of house fires and four deaths are described as “less than optimal outcomes”. That is, of course, true. Not to mention the 700,000 or so inspections that had to occur. But read on …
The issues with the HIP related to the design of the program delivery and NOT the measure itself. The schools program (also a stimulus measure initiated in 2009) experienced similar shortcomings related to the pace of its delivery, including cost overruns and defects in roofs, despite this there is no suggestion that governments will abandon the building of new school facilities into the future.
Okay – fair comment. People paying to put insulation into their own homes is not a problem and the private sector can and should be able to do that. The issue becomes the government paying to put insulation into homes quickly. Government cannot do that well and should not do that either. Just as the report indicates there were problems with the school halls too – that wasn’t a bug it was a feature.