Battlers’ power pain
ENERGY BILLS HIT THEM HARDEST
FAMILIES who earn the least are spending more of their household expenditure on energy than the average household, a new report on the State’s energy sector shows.
The Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre report author professor Alan Duncan said the report revealed the extent of energy poverty within Western Australia.
“WA households are now spending an average of $1,791 on energy each year, which can account for more than 10 per cent of household spending for low income families,” Professor Duncan said.
This compared with three per cent of expenditure for typical families on middle incomes and below two per cent for those families with incomes in the top quarter of income distribution, he said.
While roof-top solar power is a solution for many households seeking to deal with rising electricity costs, Professor Duncan said low-income households were only one quarter as likely to have rooftop solar as those with median wealth.
“There is some evidence to support the claim that high energy costs lead to compromises in other life aspects. While average household energy costs have increased since 2010-11, spending on health and groceries have both reduced in this same period.”
The report, entitled Power to the People: WA’s Energy Future also found that WA has been slow in adopting largescale renewable energy technologies, with the majority of renewable energy generated by roof-top solar installed on homes.
Canning Vale is third place in the State’s top solar postcode in WA with 6659 installations, with Mandurah at the top with 10,566 installations.
“While renewables only account for 7.1 per cent of WA's total electricity consumption, total current capacity from roof-top solar as a combined power source is around 730MW. That capacity is expected to reach a potential of 2,000MW by 2022, making it the second largest combined power source in the State, after Muja Power Station,” Professor Duncan said.
He said there was a need to revisit incentives for new solar installations, with landlords having little financial motivation to install solar on rental accommodation, and homeowners deterred by the initial upfront costs involved.
Professor Duncan said WA's regulatory framework needed to be future-proofed, flexible and adaptable to different energy futures.
“Whatever direction is taken, consumer protection must remain critical as energy markets evolve.”