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Poor households are locked out of green energy, unless governments help

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The Conversation

A report released this week by the Australian Council of Social Service has pointed out that many vulnerable households cannot access rooftop solar and efficient appliances, describing the issue as a serious problem.

It has provoked controversy. Some have interpreted the report as an attack on emerging energy solutions such as rooftop solar. Others see it as exposing a serious structural crisis for vulnerable households.

The underlying issue is the fundamental change in energy solutions. As I pointed out in my previous column, we are moving away from investment by governments and large businesses in big power stations and centralised supply, and towards a distributed, diversified and more complex energy system. As a result, there is a growing focus on “behind the meter” technologies that save, store or produce energy.

What this means is that anyone who does not have access to capital, or is uninformed, disempowered or passive risks being disadvantaged – unless governments act.

The reality is that energy-efficient appliances and buildings, rooftop solar, and increasingly energy storage, are cost-effective. They save households money through energy savings, improved health, and improved performance in comparison with buying grid electricity or gas. But if you can’t buy them, you can’t benefit.

In the past, financial institutions loaned money to governments or big businesses to build power stations and gas supply systems. Now we need mechanisms to give all households and businesses access to loans to fund the new energy system.

Households that cannot meet commercial borrowing criteria, or are disempowered – such as tenants, those under financial stress, or those who are disengaged for other reasons – need help.

Governments have plenty of options.

  • They can require landlords to upgrade buildings and fixed appliances, or make it attractive for them to do so. Or a bit of both.
  • They can help the supply chain that upgrades buildings and supplies appliances to do this better, and at lower cost.
  • They can facilitate the use of emerging technologies and apps to identify faulty and inefficient appliances, then fund their replacement. Repayments can potentially be made using the resulting savings.
  • They can ban the sale of inefficient appliances by making mandatory performance standards more stringent and widening their coverage.
  • They can help appliance manufacturers make their products more efficient, and ensure that everyone who buys them know how efficient they are.

To expand on the last suggestion, at present only major household white goods, televisions and computer monitors are required to carry energy labels. If you are buying a commercial fridge, pizza oven, cooker, or stereo system, you are flying blind.

The Finkel Review made it clear that the energy industry will not lead on this. It clearly recommends that energy efficiency is a job for governments, and that they need to accelerate action.

It’s time for governments to get serious about helping everyone to join the energy transition, not just the most affluent.

Source: The Conversation. Reproduced with permission.

  

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  • George Darroch

    Well said. This is everyone’s energy revolution.

    If people fall behind and feel that they can never participate, they’ll rightly feel disdain. Let’s not have that happen.

    We need a large reboot of household energy efficiency, with insulation again at the centre.

  • solarguy

    I was just thinking about this problem the other day Alan and here is a possible answer to the problem, first I will start with a solution for those who own their home:

    The government could offer interest free loans including a small grant in addition to facilitate the purchase of a PV system for those who’s income is below a certain threshold.

    For landlords as you described.

    On energy efficient appliances like fridges encourage manufactures to make Eutectic fridges. 2yrs ago I replaced my 520lt Kelvinator which was using 2.8kwh/day, with an Electrolux of the same size which uses only 800wh/day. Imagine the efficientcy gain of a fridge like this that’s Eutectic. It may perhaps use as little as 400wh/day.

    Air conditioners that don’t have a COP of 4.5 or better to be banned by a certain date.

    These are but a few of the things I have been thinking about, but education by the government to the people on choosing energy efficient appliances and home design.

    • Rod

      I was just about to bang on about huge fridges when I saw your figures for the Electrolux. That is amazing,
      The educating people is a bit trickier. There is so much good free info out there but people would rather moan than learn.

      • solarguy

        Yeah, I know but there has be a way to reach them cost effectively. And you know with regard to refridgeration, I’m happy as Larry with my Electrolux, but they could be even so much better, using eutectic tech. Google it man, it will blow you away!

        • Rod

          Yeah, I did but all I got was boat fridges! Maybe I should try harder.

          So yours is just a fridge no freezer?
          I am in the market for a small fridge/freezer but in the retail space the best I can see is something like the Samsung inverter about 230L which gets around 500W/day

          • solarguy

            No my Electrolux is a fridge /freezer 520lt. And you will find Eutectic on boat websites etc and people who use them off grid, ducks guts!
            Try and see if Samsung have an inverter type around 520lt with a freezer, non Eutectic, as the main manufactures haven’t caught on to this yet, but hey should.

    • Alastair Leith

      Like the “Top Runner” scheme in Japan where the product with leading efficiency rating in each product class is set as the benchmark all other must meet within n years. Applies to RCACs, fridges, TVs etc

      • solarguy

        Alistair, you know it pisses me off when I get a call from a punter who asks me to give him/her a quote for solar at their already half constructed house and the same old story appears once again, wer’e getting ducted air, town gas for space heating and hot water. And all or most of the bed rooms are to the north and the living rooms to the south and or west.

        Oh for FOX SAKE, I say to myself, why don’t these people do their bloody home work, even contact me long before they approach a builder, but then again some do, but disregard what I tell them.

        Just recently a lass called me and said to get power to their property was going to cost $50K, so I asked the usual questions. 1st one was what air con are you wanting:
        answer 20kw 3phase ducted and the house was at lock up stage. Ah derr……………..

        So I said perhaps $105K, if you want to run the ducted, if not a lot cheaper. Look what more can I say……………………nobody knows what there doing, the building industry or the punters………………it all just shits me to tears.

        • Alastair Leith

          Yeah our building industry, to quote my former landlord, is run as organised crime. Where to start? Regulations weak as they are are not being met in the domestic building industry, You know in WA they don’t even have inspections for foundations reo or framing or anything, not even random occasional ones. Couldn’t believe it when I was told that. And some inspectors in the industry are known as the gotos for dodgy approvals I’m told. Where to start?

  • Brunel

    Each poor voter must be given a $900 “electricity bill help cheque” annually. If Gillard did that, she might have won the 2013 election.

    It would have really helped the poor.

    • Ren Stimpy

      The cost of solar panels comes down by about that amount annually. The demand for solar in the brackets above them causes a reduction in the price of solar for them. When solar is inevitably cheap enough for low earners and the poor to buy, they’ll be able to collect several years of accumulated $900 cheques all at once.

      • Brunel

        Especially if they reside in a block of flats.

        • Ren Stimpy

          Soon enough solar systems will be cheap enough for even renters to buy.

          • Brunel

            Do you know what an apartment block is?

          • Ren Stimpy

            Yes a building with a huge flat roof.

          • Brunel

            And 500 people under the roof.

          • Ren Stimpy

            500 people under a strata management that could reduce their cost of power.

      • Hettie

        Anxiously awaiting installation of my solar system, due 15th August.
        5KW plus 1 Enphase 1.2 KWh battery. Should just about eliminate my power bill, including poles and wires cost, of approx $120 per calendar month.
        $500 deposit, 104 x fortnightly payments after surrender of STCs – $45 – 50. After 4 years – $zero.
        This pensioner is a happy camper.

        • solarguy

          Hettie, sorry to give you the good news, but your Enphase (1) battery won’t be the answer to your dreams, because you will only be able to draw 270wh at a time. Ok for a couple of lights and the T.V.

          If you can cancel the battery now, I think that will save disappointment, but go with the 5KW PV.

          • Hettie

            The battery is a $199 special deal, and will make a difference. As my total usage is only around 10 kwh/day, the excess generated should cover poles & wires. Heating and hot water are gas. The battery also brings a monitoring package.
            So no, I won’t be cancelling it.

          • Joe

            Hettie, stay the course. Perhaps you can report back at some stage on the success or otherwise of the Enphase Battery. I am thinking of installing Enphase batteries down the track so your experience would assist.

          • Hettie

            Thanks, Joe. Yes , I shall certainly report on system performance. As I have been with Powershop for about 20 months now, reading my own meter every week or two, I have a very good idea of my consumption rate. A smart meter is in place noe, but not yet in Transgrid’s system, which could take another couple of weeks. Time of use charging adds another layer of complexity

          • solarguy

            Check the fine print on the STC price as their not going to gift you their profit margin of $768.

          • solarguy

            I beg you consider other, better deals out there other than Enphase batteries. If the grid goes down the damn things are useless to you. I can’t make any money out of this, but I’m offering you free advise as an CEC accredited designer and installer. Don’t waste money on Enphase!

          • Joe

            Solarman, appreciate your passion and the feedback. I am not in a hurry for home batteries at the moment and I can also wait for the costs to drop. I am aware that Enphase currently don’t have blackout protection but that may change with the next generation release. I had The Envoy S-meter installed when I did my last lot of solar panel additions…love The Envoy. Enphase batteries would then complete proceedings for me and the modular idea where you can start small and add extra battery capacity later is also appealing.

          • solarguy

            Also consider this about Enphase batteries Joe, only 270wh can be drawn out of each of them, so if you want to run an air conditioner you may need up to 8 of them and at $2k a pop, will turn out to be very expensive.

          • Joe

            Solarman, thank you for your concern. I haven’t set my mind totally on Enphase, I will be hunting around other batt makers when the time comes for battery install.

          • solarguy

            Hettie, I’m not trying to rubbish your purchase. The excess sent to the grid will help with the SAC charge, but the battery, well the cost is hidden in the deal, as they cost much more than that.

    • Pixilico

      More than that, it can boost the economy as a whole when low interest rates can’t do it.

    • Peter G

      Not so. Electricity disconnections are a very bad look in the press and are not as common as one would think in much of Australia. There are schemes already in place to divert those claiming hardship from being disconnected.

      • Brunel

        “it is ok for a few murders to take place” and “ok for a few to be without electricity”.

    • Joe

      Brunie dear, why do you have this on going fetish over “$900.00 cheques”. Every post you put up includes your nonsense about $900.00 cheques. At risk of repeating myself, As PM, Kevin Rudd’s $900.00 cheques were a stimulus measure to help save Australia’s economy from crashing during The GFC. Please also note that Julia Gillard did not stand at the 2013 General Election Kevin Rudd was Labor Leader at the 2013 General Election.

      • Brunel

        This is an article about poverty…so I mentioned something that would really help the poor. And you have a problem with that.

        I know that Gillard and Abbott are massive liars who got knifed by their own parties.

        • Hettie

          No, Gillard did not lie. She promised no carbon TAX, but, and this was consistently edited out of the video clip, “Make no mistake, I will introduce a carbon PRICE, moving to an emissions trading scheme…”
          The liars were Abbott, and the Rudd dominated press office, both determined to destroy Gillard, even at the cost of also destroying the Labor government.

          • Brunel

            She lied about not wanting to be PM, lied about when she wrote the change of PM speech, lied about not wanting a Big AUS, lied about pokies reform.

          • Hettie

            And your evidence for those claims is…?
            And were those election promises?
            And what of all Abbott’s promises on the eve of the 2013 election, and Turnbull’s promises of leadership and economic responsibility on taking over as PM?
            However, none of this is relevant to the affordability of solar panels to the poor, which is, after all, the topic of the article above.
            I am not sure why I am bothering to dignify your ravings with a reply. Possibly it’s because I’m tired and should be going to bed.

          • Brunel

            Scroll up – I said both Abbott and Gillard are big liars.

          • Joe

            Thank you young Hettie for once again putting on record what the “Big Lie” actually was about Julia Gillard’s quote. Julia Gilliard delivered EXACTLY what she promised! The BIG LIE was Abbott / Liberals/ Murdoch Press editing the full quote from Julia and then presenting the ‘edit’ as a lie / broken promise. It continues to amaze me that when I present the full quote from Julia people today still say that she lied. It just proves that if you tell a lie often enough that people will believe it ( the lie ) as being the truth even if there is proof to counter the lie.

        • Joe

          Brunie dear, you are all over the shop with your item. An article about poverty is fine. But then you draw the imaginery longbow by again bringing up your $900.00 cheque fetish nonsense. As well, bringing in the 2013 election where Julia G was no longer Labor Leader and she did not stand for re election to Parliament. So at least please get your information correct.

          • Brunel

            Maybe I should call you nonsense.

            Alaska gives out anti-poverty cheques.

          • Joe

            Brunie dear, the world is full of ‘what ifs’ so the question about Julia and 2013 election is totally irrelevant. On the Alaska business, I can once again assist you with the proper information. Alaska does not hand out “anti-poverty cheques”. What Alaska does is to pay a distribution / dividend out of their ‘Alaska Permanent Fund’ which is a sort of ‘sovereign fund’ like Norway has with its oil industry revenue. Alaska’s Permanent Fund receives Alaska oil industry revenue. Alaska’s Permanent Fund pays a yearly distribution to all residents…it is not an anti poverty payment….all residents receive a share of the State’s wealth.

          • Brunel

            The Alaska cheques help the poor every year and a recent poll says most want taxes to rise to keep the cheques in place if the oil price crashes.

            Rudd’s $900 cheque helped poor me.

            Thanks for calling it irrelevant and a fetish. Not.

          • Joe

            Brunie dear, I’m sure that people were helped in Australia and are being helped in Alaska, but the payments are not “anti poverty cheques”. Call things what they really are and don’t make up a story. Your last sentence is another example of you making stuff up. CHECK again what I actually wrote that is “irrelevant”.

          • Brunel

            Ok, do not call them anti-poverty cheques, call them something else and mail them out.

  • Noel Wauchope

    Not totally locked out of green energy. For example – there’s Powershop, which can supply renewable energy to customers, without them having to install solar panels. That’s a good solution especially for renters.

  • Ian

    There needs to be star ratings on all hot water systems for a start…. Stars that rate across all energy input types.

    Its crazy that what is often the largest single source of cost is currently immune from efficiency measures or obligations.

  • Robert Westinghouse

    Lots the government could/should do, but they want to keep the average Australian poor, by making essentials and compulsory items (elect, gas, CTP, health insurance…) far more expensive. Thus widening the poverty trap and widening the gap between rich and poor. I hate politicans…

    • solarguy

      You mean you hate right wing pollies, there the bastards mainly responsible.

      • Robert Westinghouse

        If the shoe fits wear it….All I see is my standard of living falling down the toilet….drain the swamp. I want Australia for all Australians, not for Singapore Power, the Chinese and get the Americans out of my face. My children sound like septic tanks due to too much US TV. They are selling us out….

        • solarguy

          Are you kidding me, what the f&*$k am I supposed to do about that. Your in control of your children and if your std of living is going down the shitter, then fight for it by voting for Labor next election or at least the Greens.

          • Robert Westinghouse

            Mate…I am with you….but there are still too many voting for the bastards who are selling our country. Viva la revolution…

      • Hettie

        More sensible to hate the fossil fuel lobbyists who own the government, buying their complicity with huge donations to election campaigns.

        • solarguy

          Hell hate them too. If the government had any integrity they wouldn’t be bought, would they