June 21, 2023
The calls for households to move away from fossil fuels and towards electrification are just becoming louder. Many in the community are, in fact, way in front of government in pushing for this. I recently joined over 130 people in my electorate at the Renewable Electrification Community Forum, hosted by Wangaratta Landcare and Sustainability, led by Russell Sully and John Naylor. We heard speakers from Rewiring Australia, social enterprise energy retailer Indigo Power, and solar specialist Solargain. Attendees used their precious Sunday morning to hear the case for home electrification, and this case is strong.
Just this week the Grattan Institute released a report saying, if we have any hope of getting to net zero carbon emissions by 2050, then Australian households must get off gas and electrify. This might seem like an impossible task that lies ahead, but it’s not. It’s a big task, but we have solutions in front of us. This requires electric cooktops, home heaters, water heaters and cars, and installing batteries in our homes to store the electricity these appliances need to run. This must happen in houses, apartments and businesses. It must happen for landlords and renters alike. It must happen in the cities, and it must happen in the regions, and it must enable low-income people to share in the benefits of this transition.
And there are multiple benefits to home electrification. Firstly, importantly, in this cost-of-living crisis that we face, this is cheaper. An analysis by energy entrepreneur Dr Saul Griffith shows that a fully electrified household would save $5,000 a year in petrol costs and power bills.
Electrification is also healthier. We know that using gas releases pollutants that cause asthma and other problems, but, with high upfront costs, we cannot expect individuals to electrify on their own. The Grattan Institute says that more than half of Australian households face significant barriers to upgrade to electric; therefore, the government can and must do more to support households to do this.
I’m pleased that the government is committing $1 billion towards the Household Energy Upgrades Fund to provide households with low-cost loans for solar panels, modern appliances and double glazing, and I have called for this for a long time. But since this announcement we have seen scared detail on the eligibility for these low-interest loans and the how and when that they can be accessed. We need more detail; we need it soon. Any incentives to help homes electrify must be prioritised for low-income households so that our transition towards renewable energy doesn’t leave the most vulnerable people behind.
When we talk about household electrification, home batteries are also an integral part to this. 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 Green Energy Markets, this figure assumes that the cost of household batteries will be subsidised this decade, and the case for government support is clear. Since being elected, I have twice introduced my Cheaper Home Batteries Bill. This bill offers a simple solution to help homeowners purchase a home battery. By including home batteries under the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme, my bill could drive down a battery’s cost by around $3,000. The scheme has worked for solar. It’s driven the cost of solar panels down by about 80 per cent over the past 10 years, and we now have one of the highest rates of household solar in the world. We could do the same for the home batteries.
Like electrification of appliances, a home battery can improve household savings and reduce our national emissions. They provide a reliable energy source during times of emergencies like bushfires and storms when powerlines go down. We know about this in our electorate of Indi. Places like Corryong and the alpine areas know too well the experience of blackouts during crucial emergencies. We know that if households were given some help to buy a battery, the uptake would improve. Local councils like Indigo Shire in my electorate were part of the Project EDGE, which provided financial support for about 130 households in places like Beechworth, Worrigee and Yackandandah to take up batteries. We know that with a government nudge, with significant support—more than a nudge, a big nudge, actually—everyday Australians will want to engage with home electrification. Let’s get on with the job.