A major report on energy efficiency is highlighting a
''particularly problematic'' issue over fuel poverty and a lack
of legal requirements for landlords to provide adequate
insulation for many rental properties.
The report, titled ''Energy Cultures: Implications for
Policymakers'', was produced by the University of Otago
Centre for Sustainability and launched yesterday at a
national conference on energy-related issues in Wellington.
The centre director, Dr Janet Stephenson, said in an
interview that the benefits of more efficient energy use for
individual consumers, families and New Zealand as a whole
were a ''no-brainer''.
The Energy Cultures research project (2009-12) was undertaken
by the centre, and funded by a $1.05 million grant from the
then Foundation for Research, Science and Technology.
The project aimed to examine the ''economically viable
potential for residential electricity savings'', focusing on
household behaviour linked to space heating and hot water
Such heating accounted for about 60% of household electricity
use and offered ''great opportunities for energy
But rental properties raised ''particularly problematic''
Landlords had ''no incentive to make energy efficiency
investments like insulation'' that they would not ''enjoy
personally'' or see reflected in higher rental income, and
tenants had ''no interest in making alterations that will
only pay off over time''.
But research showed rental properties were likely to be
colder than other dwellings.
About two-thirds (65%) of all those New Zealanders aged under
65 who were in poverty were living in rental houses. For
children in poverty, the figure was more than 70%.
There were ''no requirements'' for rental properties to be
''insulated or free from undue heat loss''. Only new
dwellings were affected by the Building Act 2004.
Housing improvement regulations also required dwellings to be
free from dampness, but said ''nothing about cold or heat
loss'' and nothing in the Residential Tenancies Act obliged
landlords to ensure properties were ''warm or habitable''.
An Expert Advisory Group on Solutions to Child Poverty had
recommended the Government reconsider the regulations on the
performance of rental accommodation.
The wide-ranging Energy Cultures report highlighted the
''energy efficiency gap'' between proven energy savings, and
the fact that people often failed to invest in them.
The report identified several main subgroups of energy
consumers, including one group of 19% of consumers, which was
generally wealthier than other groups, but paid little
attention to improving their home energy efficiency.
Another group of lowest energy users had ''very economical
energy practices'' but was hampered by ''substandard housing
and inefficient energy technologies''.
The Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart subsidy programme had
partly addressed some of the latter group's financial
constraints but it should be extended, including to help with
efficient space and hot water heating.
Some of New Zealand's energy efficiency policies lagged
behind other similar OECD countries.
Tradespeople and design professionals influenced household
energy decisions but there was a need for ''better training
in energy efficient products and services'', the report