BY GAVIN DUFTY
Policy and Research Manager, St Vincent de Paul Society Victoria
We are currently transitioning from a fossil fuel to a zero carbon economy, probably in less than 30 years.
Even by 2030, at least AU$1.5 trillion of investment will be needed on large-scale infrastructure, such as transmission lines and renewable energy generation.
Additionally, most households will be making their own investments. For example, if five million households spent $50,000 on energy improvements such as electric vehicles, converting reticulated gas to electric appliances, home batteries, and other smart home energy technologies, there will be an additional $250 billion worth of direct household spending.
This transformation of our energy system, and hence the foundations of our economy, will impact every household now and in the future.
This presents huge opportunities for inclusion and equity, but also creates enormous risks, potentially leaving low income and other disadvantaged households behind, excluded from new technologies and burdened with disproportionate costs and low value services and products.
Consumer-focused investments in the transmission and distribution networks, and large-scale renewable generation, must be coordinated in order to support all households, not just those with new technologies.
Renters in high-rises, many of them public housing tenants, must be able to access low-cost renewable energy. People with special needs, such as disability, pensioners and single parents, must have the opportunity to access low-cost renewable energy. And we must not load the cost burden on future generations.
In short, we need to ensure the costs are allocated fairly and equitably.
In the past, households with new technologies have been able to avoid costs, with these being reallocated to other consumers.
We need to ensure that as energy efficient technology comes further into play, it is coordinated in a way that supports all households, not just the privileged. We need future-focused and clear pricing platforms for both associated costs and rewards.
The lagging pace of the current regulatory framework is creating potential inequities. Governments need to review and ensure that their complementary measures, such as energy concession frameworks, and other supports for low income and disadvantaged households, are well targeted, appropriately funded and durable through this energy transition.
Finally, as governments move to outlaw new (primarily piped gas) connections and phase out gas use, we should ensure we have the right policy settings to ensure nobody is left behind.
Transitioning households to all-electric homes or zero carbon alternatives
will carry significant costs, including stranded assets risk and the managing of depreciation costs of the current gas networks. It also has huge implications in terms of costs to retrofit households.
St Vincent de Paul Society is deeply concerned about the potential for an inequitable transition to net zero and we need to ensure that all Australians are able to participate in the no- carbon future. The most vulnerable must not be left to face increased costs in a new economy.