Bat­tlers’ power pain

EN­ERGY BILLS HIT THEM HARD­EST

Comment News (Armadale) - - News -

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.”

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