Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2023-2024 – Consideration in Detail, June 15, 2023
My constituents want to see meaningful and practical action on climate change. We have the most community renewable energy projects of any electorate in Australia, with dozens of volunteer-led community energy groups supporting their towns to be powered by 100 per cent renewables—communities like Yackandandah, like Beechworth, like Euroa, like Wodonga. Our community energy groups want to improve energy reliability in emergencies, especially bushfires; they want to build the local economy; and they want to contribute to reducing emissions. With these groups, I co-designed the Local Power Plan, a blueprint for regional community energy policy. I then introduced my Australian Local Power Agency Bill 2021, which would scale up community energy across our nation, and I very much look forward to speaking with ARENA in upcoming weeks about implementing important elements of my Local Power Plan, including creating clear pathways to fund community energy projects.
Investing in renewable energy will ultimately reduce the cost of living in households. Electricity and gas prices have soared in the past 12 months, as we, importantly, hear about constantly, and our overreliance on fossil fuels instead of renewables has contributed to this, according to the Climate Council. The rising cost of electricity and gas is one of the biggest contributors to the rising cost of living in my electorate of Indi, and it can really mean that people are choosing whether to pay their power bills or whether to put food on the table. Energy reliability is also a big challenge in my electorate, especially in rural areas at the edge of the grid. In places like Corryong, Euroa and Mansfield, brownouts and blackouts are regular. These are things that you don’t necessarily ever have to encounter in a major city.
My constituents’ calls for meaningful and practical action on climate change and reforming our energy sector are loud and clear. In response, I’ve also introduced the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment (Cheaper Home Batteries) Bill 2022 and advocated for government to provide low-interest loans for home electrification. My cheaper home batteries bill offers a simple solution to help everyday people in their homes to purchase a home battery. Right now, a home battery might set you back about $14,500 all in. By including home batteries under the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme, which already includes solar, my bill would drive that price down by $3,000. I’ve had this costed. This is something that government could get on to. To unlock massive savings for Australian households, to bring power security to regional households and to accelerate our transition to renewable energy, we need to make home batteries cheaper.
I’m pleased the government recognise the urgent need for home electrification in the budget by committing $1 billion towards the Household Energy Upgrades Fund. This fund allows the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to partner with lenders to provide households and low-cost loans to upgrade homes through solar panels, modern appliances and improvements such as double-glazing. Funding to support electrification and energy efficiency for social housing is another really welcome initial investment. But, since the Household Energy Upgrades Fund was announced, we have seen scant detail on eligibility for these low-interest loans and how they will be accessed. My constituents are asking me—there is no detail. Incentives to help homes electrify, like the Household Energy Upgrades Fund, must be prioritised for low-income households so that our transition to renewable energy doesn’t leave the most vulnerable behind. We know the people experiencing financial disadvantage are also those who are most likely to live in dangerously hot or cold homes. They are most likely to be the people requiring urgent medical care due to heat stress, and they desperately need energy efficient homes. The government really need to move faster on this.
I am deeply disappointed the government have failed to introduce incentives for home batteries under the budget. Current market and government expectations and aspirations are that the renewable energy share of our national electricity grid will reach 82 per cent by 2030. But, according to the green energy markets, this figure assumes that the cost of household batteries will be subsidised this decade, and we’re not seeing the government act on this. They are falling well short on this right now, with no direct incentives offered under the budget. This budget was an opportunity for them to endorse my Cheaper Home Batteries Bill—it’s there; use it. My questions to the government are, first: who will be eligible for a low-interest loan, how will it work and when will it start? Second, if the government are serious about supporting homes to be more sustainable and reduce their carbon emissions, why won’t they support my Cheaper Home Batteries Bill?