Parliament Updates

Zali Steggall speaks about the urgent need for household electrification

21 June 2023

I rise to speak about the urgent need for household electrification. The warnings are clear. Global warming is still accelerating and we are due to tip over to 1.5 degrees as early as 2027, so we must accelerate ambition. That is why I've called on the Albanese government to be more ambitious with its emissions targets and pushed it to commit to 75 per cent emissions reduction by 2035 as our next NDC commitment under the Paris Agreement.

Reducing our emissions requires the biggest collaborative effort by every sector of society. Forty-two per cent of our emissions comes from households. Electrification of households and cars is key to reducing our emissions and will have the biggest impact on climate this decade. During a cost-of-living crisis it will also significantly lower household costs.

Electrification of homes means that when a household gas appliance such as gas space heating, gas hot water heating or a gas cooktop needs replacing, it enables and encourages replacing it with an electric alternative. It won't happen overnight. However, the government urgently needs to lay out a plan and give Australian households the confidence to get started and the assistance they need. In our homes, gas heating is the No. 1 guzzler of energy, accounting for 40 per cent of our home energy. Swapping gas heating for a split cycle air-conditioning system will save Australians about $400 a year, and it's about four times more energy efficient than gas. If we combine getting off gas with sealing gaps and insulating walls and ceilings, these three things will reduce household energy use by 30 to 40 per cent. Over 80 per cent of the measures in the USA government's Inflation Reduction Act went to supporting household electrification and will result in reductions in emissions and huge cost-of-living savings. The USA government recognises this, and the Albanese government needs to as well.

There are a number of ways in which this can be done. The Australian government should also come to the party with, for example, tax breaks and incentives for landlords so that people who are renting or living in strata accommodation can also benefit through this transition off gas. Also we need to ensure that we have supply and choice, so I call on manufacturers of gas machines to make pledges to phase out new models of gas appliances and prioritise expanding electric ranges. We have seen this in the car industry with pledges around phasing out ICE model vehicles. We need to see it in cooktops and in all those appliances.

In Australia we have the biggest uptake of rooftop solar in the world. Almost one in three homes has rooftop solar. That's 3.2 million households. The uptake of household batteries, however—whilst increasing; it's up by 55 per cent on last year—is still currently only one battery for every seven solar systems installed. This uptake in installing household batteries has been spurred by surging power prices with Australians turning to solar and batteries to ease their dependence on the grid. But the obvious barrier is cost. A 10-kilowatt battery is around $10,000. So Australia needs to get an ambitious renewable energy storage target to drive that small-scale battery and complement the capacity mechanism that was announced by the government. We could also look to support small-scale technology certificates. If one in five households that already have rooftop solar could also get batteries, we could already achieve 30 per cent of our storage needs.

Additionally, we need to look at heat pumps, community battery projects and vehicle-to-grid technology. Heat pump hot water systems work with rooftop solar to capture excess solar energy and turn it into hot water. It's like a home battery, and it stores that excess energy for later use. In terms of community batteries, the government has committed to some 400 batteries, and we need to see that expand. Vehicle-to-grid technology is another energy storage option available to some electric vehicle owners. This technology allows an EV to be used to power your home. Another area which we don't talk about enough but which is incredibly important is our green building standards. We are behind. That urgently needs to be reviewed and improved. We need to ensure we have incentives so that any homes built from now on are energy efficient and effective and also climate resilient.