Zali Steggall speaks on the importance of electrifying houses

21 November 2022


I thank the member for Wentworth for this motion and I strongly support it. Household electrification is something we must talk more of. The largest portion of our domestic emissions comes from our households—42.2 per cent—then it is businesses and, of course, industry. But almost all of these emissions in our households come from energy—the machines in our daily lives such as petrol cars, gas heaters, gas water heaters, gas stoves and the fossil fuel power plants supplying most of Australia's grid network electricity. Electrification of households, homes, cars and businesses is the key to reducing our emissions. It's how we will have the biggest impact on climate this decade. The frustrating part is that we have the technology. This is not something we need to wait for. It is all there; it's the low-hanging fruit. We just need to find the political will to roll it out at scale.

So let's look to households' energy use in more detail. What does electrification mean? We need to move from fossil-fuel powered to electric and replace every appliance machine as it nears its end of life, with heat pumps for hot water, heat pumps combined with reverse cycle air conditioning for space heating and cooling, induction cooking in the kitchen and, of course, electric cars for transport.

The savings are huge. Based on the calculations by Saul Griffith's Rewiring Australia, each household can save nearly $3,500 per year, which is $34,500 over the 10-year lifetime of appliances, by going electric. At the moment, in the absolute crisis of cost of living, it should be an absolute No. 1 priority to transition as many households as possible and in particular lower socioeconomic households that are struggling with power prices and the cost of living.

There's a considerable upfront cost; there's no denying this. And many households are not able to do that. So we need to supply low- or zero-cost loans for this transition, especially for households on lower incomes. To fully electrify Australian homes, an investment of some $12 billion is needed over five years in Australian homes and vehicles, but this would reap $300 billion in household savings by 2035. This is huge, and the benefits are clear. Individuals will save thousands of dollars a year and be protected from fossil fuel costs that are spiralling out of control. We would absolutely be insured against the geopolitical influences that impact energy costs. We would immediately reduce our carbon emissions and fulfil more ambitious climate targets. We'd reduce air pollution and ensure energy security for our country—that is, no dependence on overseas oil. In a similar way, Australian businesses will profit from this transition to all-electric, and they need to be supported.

Of course, transition from gas and oil powered appliances and machines will lead to an increased demand for electricity, so we will have to decarbonise the grid at the same time. So we need to decrease demand to as low as possible, but we also need to focus on energy efficiency measures to reduce that demand. For that, we need to incentivise energy efficiency measures through zero-cost loans and subsidies. It can be things like LED lighting, insulation or appliances with higher star ratings. These are all low-hanging fruits that we absolutely can do. There are many in the electorate of Warringah working on this, such as companies like Emerald Planet in Brookvale and so many more. They are looking at electrifying so many of our local businesses. Australia is so well placed to meet this increased demand for renewables with our abundant solar and wind. We absolutely need to support solar PV and protect the rights of solar owners and go further and incentivise all households and businesses that can install solar and batteries.

Of course, storage is a major issue and that is why, early in 2023, I'll be introducing a private member's bill to make sure that we set an energy storage target. We must do this to incentivise and drive investment. There are many storage solutions that can be achieved through a renewable energy storage target that includes home batteries and electric car batteries with vehicle-to-grid technology. This would be a game changer because it would make batteries on wheels of our transport. There are currently very few vehicle-to-grid trials and the rollout across Australia needs to be accelerated. We have access to about 20 million car batteries once all vehicles are transitioned. The opportunities are really incredible, and local groups like Solar Alliance Brookvale are doing amazing work in Warringah, as many others are around the country. I urge the government: electrify everything.