With no industry or public consultation, the WA Energy Minister, Dr Michael Nahan yesterday abolished the Program Facilitation and Review Branch of the Public Utilities Office (PUO) as of May 30 2014.

The Association of Building Sustainability Assessors (ABSA) is appalled that the Energy Minister would make such a short-sighted decision to divert resources and expertise from this important function of the PUO.

“The PUO Program Facilitation and Review Branch was responsible for many valuable energy efficiency initiatives that helped to mitigate the impact of rising energy costs on WA householders,” Sid Thoo, Chair of ABSA said.

“These programs included developing policy and technical advice to assist the rollout of recent six star energy efficiency standards for new homes in WA,” Thoo said.

“By abolishing this Branch of the PUO, there is no longer a dedicated WA government agency overseeing this National energy efficiency initiative – we are now at the mercy of bureaucrats in Canberra who don’t understand the implications it has for the WA building and construction industry.”

According to ABSA CEO Rodger Hills, a critical outstanding issue that will now remain unresolved is the accreditation of house energy assessors under the scheme.

“At the moment in WA, there are no regulations that mandate the use of qualified assessors to conduct house energy ratings,” said Hills.

“We have documented evidence of individuals who have completely erroneous – even falsified – energy ratings on new homes. For the past 18 months ABSA had been working closely with the PUO to resolve the matter; it’s a concerning consumer protection issue, and we now have no point of contact in government.

“We’re concerned that certain lobby groups have been putting pressure on the Government to reduce so-called green tape. But without the important functions of this branch of the PUO, ultimately WA households will pay higher energy costs and have no guarantee that their new homes will be energy efficient, while big energy polluters continue to receive kickbacks and subsidies to keep doing business as usual,” Mr Hills said.

“The Minister apparently wants to create a ‘level playing field’ for all stakeholders in the energy industry, but ultimately it is the WA taxpayer that shoulders the burden of bad policy decisions. Energy costs for WA households have skyrocketed by almost 50% since 2008 – what about a level playing field for the end user?

“We are very concerned about the impact that this ill-considered decision will have on Western Australian families,” Rodger said.

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About ABSA: The Association of Building Sustainability Assessors (ABSA) is a not-for-profit national membership organisation representing building and design professionals who specialise in assessing the environmental impact of buildings. ABSA’s vision is to improve sustainability through the design and use of buildings.

For more information about ABSA visit www.absa.net.au