Mr Speaker, in my electorate of Indi, getting a cheap and reliable supply of electricity to very household, is a real challenge.
In the bushfires, communities like Corryong got completely cut off from electricity when the power lines to Wodonga burned down.
In towns on the edge of the grid like Euroa, and Mansfield, it’s common to experience power surges that damage appliances, and even have total blackouts.
And we know that many households, especially in the regions, struggle to pay the power bills.
Wodonga is in the top 30 postcodes in the state for forced electricity disconnections.
In fact, regional areas make up 40% of forced disconnections in Victoria, even though we make up only 25% of the population.
Other towns in Indi like Cudgewa and Marysville also rank among the top postcodes for disconnection rates.
This Bill tackles these challenges by making home batteries cheaper for all Australians.
Because having a battery in your home means lower power bills.
It means taking back control from the power companies over your power usage.
And it means that when the power fails, your battery kicks in and keeps the lights on.
But right now, batteries are too expensive.
They are out of reach for most Australians. My Bill will help fix that.
At the Federal level, the Small-Scale Renewable Energy Scheme, introduced by the Howard Government, has been key to accelerating the deployment of rooftop solar and driving down the price.
My Bill builds on this Howard Government framework and updates it for the 2020s.
In short, my Bill adds home batteries as eligible technology to create certificates under the scheme.
This means that when you install a home battery, you earn certificates, which you can then on-sell to electricity retailers who are required to purchase them.
The effect of this is my Bill will drive down the installation cost of a home battery.
Right now, a 13.5kWh Tesla Powerwall 2 might set you back around $15,000.
That’s just way too much for most Australian households to even consider.
My Bill could drive down that price by around $3000.
Under my Bill, as under the existing scheme, the precise amount you will save depends on how big your battery is and how you use it.
But the fundamental point is this: to unlock massive savings for Australian households, to bring power security to regional households, and to accelerate our transition to renewable energy, we do need to make home batteries cheaper.
The Government has an existing policy mechanism that could do this.
My Bill will get it done.
We know that when we make it easier for Australians to go renewable – they jump at the chance.
Around a third of Australian homes have rooftop solar, the highest uptake in the world bar none.
But the number with batteries is less than 1%.
And we know that the next step in the renewable energy boom is building storage.
Batteries soak up that extra renewable energy when it’s cheap and plentiful and smooth out our grid at night when we need it.
And the savings for households are huge.
Energy entrepreneur Saul Griffith, has just today, released his book for Australian households to save money by going electric.
His analysis shows that a fully electric household would save around $5000 a year in petrol costs, in power bills, in heating bills.
That’s a massive economic windfall that is sitting here right for the taking.
And we know that getting batteries into Australian homes is the biggest barrier to capturing those savings.
I am grateful for Saul’s work which has been instrumental in shaping this Bill.
And I am looking forward to hosting him this Friday in Wodonga to show him how Indi is leading the nation in the renewable energy boom.
In the 2000s, the Howard Government saw a role for Government in driving solar power.
In the 2020s, it’s clear there is a role for Government in making batteries more accessible to Australian households.
And we know how to do this. This Bill will get it done.
Now I know that if we are to really unlock the potential of home batteries, we also have to invest in our workforce.
Right now, too many solar installers, especially in regional areas, struggle with the long wait times to get an inspector out to certify the safety of home battery installations.
Because installers can’t get rebates until they get that safety certificate, we need more safety inspectors.
That means we need to invest more in skills in regional areas.
We need to be training up more sparkies and electrical engineers in regional centres to take up the jobs that we desperately need people to fill.
Recently, mr Speaker, I met with Alistair Neely, who runs the small business Elect Solar in Wangaratta.
Alistair has built his business from the ground up.
And he trained in the local Wangaratta TAFE.
He told me that if we could introduce incentives for home batteries like I am doing with this Bill, it would be a boon for his business – if he could get the workforce.
And even if we make batteries cheaper, we still need to put them in reach of the people who would benefit most from them.
That’s why I’m calling for the Government to introduce a new program of no-interest loans for low-income households to purchase solar and battery installations.
Now that would be a game-changer for slashing power bills.
I’m also pleased to have worked with ACOSS on this draft legislation, and ACOSS have put forward their own amendment which would provide additional rebates to low-income people for the cost of power.
And that’s something this House should debate.
Mr Speaker, in my electorate of Indi, there have been 42,000 installations of solar panels, heat pumps and solar hot water systems that have been supported through the existing scheme.
That’s tens of thousands of households who are benefitting from cheaper, cleaner power in Indi alone.
Expert analysis by Green Energy Markets suggests this Bill could drive the instalment of up to 2 million batteries by 2030.
That would be the equivalent of six Hazelwood power stations worth of capacity into Australian homes, bringing cheaper more secure power to millions and acting as a massive electric sponge, soaking up excess daytime solar, and balancing the grid.
We need to do for home batteries what we did for solar panels – put them in the reach of millions of Australians so people can take those practical, sensible steps to not only tackle climate change, but to make the smart economic choice for their families.
This Bill would get it done.