Lower-income households support shifting to electric-only homes, but they will need more assistance from government to do so, according to a new joint report from the Brotherhood of St. Laurence (BSL) and the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Children and Families over the Life Course (Life Course Centre).
The report, ‘Enabling electrification – Addressing the barriers to moving off gas faced by lower-income households’ was launched in Melbourne by The Hon. Lily D’Ambrosio MP, Victorian Government Minister for Climate Action and Energy and Resources. The study focused on households facing energy stress to better understand their attitudes to shifting away from gas and their capacity to electrify their homes, as well as the barriers they face and potential policy solutions.
“Shifting households to renewable electricity from gas is becoming a priority as the imperatives to decarbonise and improve energy affordability grow. Policy plans, such as Victoria’s Gas Substitution Roadmap, can drive this shift. There has been little research exploring the capacity of lower-income households to electrify their homes. Our research sheds light on this critical issue,”Dr Sangeetha Chandrashekeran, Life Course Centre Senior Research Fellow, University of Melbourne.
The report draws on surveys and focus groups with Victorian households facing energy stress to understand their attitudes to disconnecting from gas, and to identify the barriers and enablers to the change. It also identifies policy solutions to achieve equitable electrification.
“Getting off gas will reduce household energy bills and make an essential contribution to reducing Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. However, lower income households are likely to be the last ones left on the gas network, paying more, unless further support is put in place,” said Damian Sullivan, co-author and BSL’s Climate Change and Energy lead.
The research points to the need for a clear plan to move away from gas and accelerate quality retrofits for lower-income homes (including social housing), a one stop shop that provides tailored and trusted electrification information and advice, reforms to help renters electrify, and subsidies for low-income homeowners.
“Renters face some of the biggest barriers. Even if they can afford to, they’re often not allowed by their landlords to switch to electric appliances, and many were afraid to even ask. Electrification and energy efficiency upgrades are essential because they lead to robust energy bill reductions, which last over time, unlike one-off payments,” said BSL’s Mr Sullivan.
- Most participants supported the transition away from household gas
- Housing tenure is a key factor in electrification
- Energy preferences were mixed and linked to current usage
- Cost saving and environmental benefits drive moves to electrify homes
- Awareness of electrification programs lags behind that of other schemes to assist with energy costs
- Households’ interest in and capacity to electrify vary
Implications for policy
- To enable the transition from gas to electricity for lower-income households, policy makers will need to address:
- the multiple stressors that may prevent households from prioritising electrification
- the need for better targeted promotion, accurate information and trusted advice tailored to people’s financial circumstances
- the split incentives that can be a barrier to electrification for renters and rental providers
- capital barriers to installing electric appliances
- access to solar panels and energy efficiency upgrades for renters and lower-income households
- a plan for the future of the residential gas network, to increase certainty
- meaningful ways to include the people facing major barriers in the planning for electrification.
This study involved researchers from the Life Course Centre at the University of Melbourne and the Social Policy and Research Centre at the Brotherhood of St. Laurence. It was funded by Energy Consumers Australia and supported by the Australian Government through the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Children and Families over the Life Course (Project ID CE200100025). Additional financial support was received from the Melbourne Energy Institute at the University of Melbourne.
Read more on this research in The Conversation.