Zali Steggall MP supports People Power Plan motion to electrify households

18 March 2024


I strongly support this practical motion calling for the funding of a people's power plan to accelerate the electrification of households. We are facing the twin challenges of emissions that urgently need to come down and households with high power costs, and this motion tackles both. Firstly, let's acknowledge the climate crisis we are in: 2023 was a year of record temperatures, and, so far, in 2024 the temperatures just keep rising. Earlier this year was the hottest January on record in the world's oceans. Secondly, households face a cost-of-living crisis, with high energy prices driven by ageing coal-fired power and expensive gas. The recent ACOSS Heat Survey report indicates that over 1.8 million low-income homes can't afford the electricity to cool or warm their homes, putting them even more at risk of the health impacts of climate change. First Nations respondents were even more likely to be struggling to pay for essentials, such as energy and other bills.

It is a frustration of renting, not being able to take greater control of power via rooftop solar. Renters need better visibility on the energy efficiencies of rental premises, and the same goes for small businesses, who are often also renting. They are incredibly frustrated. In particular, the government's legislation giving small businesses access to instant asset write-offs and energy incentives to decarbonise has stalled for months, and yet it is due to end—even though it has not even taken effect yet—at the end of this financial year. It's ridiculous, and I call on the government to urgently extend the program.

I echo the call of the member for Wentworth for the government to implement policies that incentivise landlords and provide rebates to low-income households to install rooftop solar PV and batteries. Australia is the continent with the most abundant solar and wind. We must make sure that all Australians can take advantage of the bountiful supply that we have. We need to go faster to tackle climate change and emissions reductions. We need to reduce emissions by a minimum of 75 per cent by 2035 to have any chance of keeping warming in check. We need an equitable, long-term approach. We can't leave behind huge sections of our community—in particular, renters and low-income households.

We need measures to incentivise landlords, home builders and people in regional and rural communities to decarbonise. Decoupling energy from fossil fuels will deliver savings and provide Australians with energy independence and protection from inflationary pressures. This is a no-brainer. By helping households decarbonised, we can reduce the average power bill by some $1,100 to $1,800 a year with rooftop solar, by around $500 to $1,600 a year with more efficient electrical appliances, and by even more with insulation and improved energy efficiencies, yet we hear nothing from the government on improved building standards or mandatory codes. Even the social housing and the HAFF bill were silent on ensuring the coupling of measures to ensure energy efficiency.

This is a cost-of-living issue, but it is a health issue ultimately, as we are witnessing more and more extreme weather events more and more frequently. We know heat will bring health risks, and that adds more pressure to the system. It is a no-brainer for the government, in this May budget, to increase its support for the Household Energy Upgrades Fund and deliver an electrification-of-households program, a people's power plan. We can be ambitious; the government needs to do things like interest-free loans, which can offer a low-cost way to encourage homeowners and landlords to immediately access the savings from rooftop solar and accelerate emissions reduction. We need the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme; it was slated to end in 2030 and it needs to be extended. It supports consumers directly to use renewable energy to lower their bills.

Thirdly, it should pursue small-scale renewable energy and battery projects, currently specifically excluded from eligibility for support from the Capacity Investment Scheme. This should be looked at as well. We know that we need some 15 gigawatts of storage by 2030. This can be achieved by having 30 per cent of households which have solar taking up batteries as well. Where is the government plan to deliver that? We have success stories about this in Warringah, from Colormaker Industries to Free TV Australia, and we have Zero Emissions Sydney North and Solar Alliance all working hard to electrify our households and small businesses. The government absolutely must do more.