Low-income households and those in public and social housing will ‘not be left behind’ as the ACT works towards net-zero emissions by 2045.
Under the Territory government’s newly-launched Home Energy Support Program, low-income households are now eligible to receive rebates of up to $2500 for installing rooftop solar panels.
Including an initial investment of $3.1 million to run stage one, the ACT Government has committed a total of $50 million over four years.
By mid-2022, the program will expand to include an additional rebate of up to $2500 for other energy-efficient products, including heating and cooling systems, insulation and hot water heat pumps.
Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Shane Rattenbury said the program is intended to provide real and ongoing cost of living support to Canberrans who need it most.
“Lower-income households tend to spend a higher proportion of their income on energy and feel the impacts of energy price rises the most, but these households often cannot afford to purchase energy-efficient measures that will help them lower their costs,” Mr Rattenbury said.
People who hold a Centrelink pension concession card or Department of Veteran Affairs Gold Card will be eligible for support through the program. They will also have the option to apply for a no-interest loan as part of the Sustainable Household Scheme if they need further support to cover the upfront costs of installation.
The Sustainable Household Scheme, which provides loans for electric vehicles and solar, had so far been very “popular”.
Mr Rattenbury said he believed the combination of the two schemes would help make solar more accessible.
Previously, an “over-subscribed” Solar for Low-Income scheme helped more than 670 households save more than $1000 on their energy bills per year.
It’s hoped the new scheme will be able to deliver similar ongoing savings to people who sign up. “This is year after year of savings, not a one-off payment,” Mr Rattenbury said.
“We are very conscious as a government that as we move to a clean energy transition, as we seek to tackle climate change, we also need to be looking after the low-income households in our city,” Mr Rattenbury said.
“There’s a real opportunity here – as we move to a cleaner, greener future – we can help low-income households save money on their energy bill, too.”
Canberrans who believe they may be eligible are asked to undertake an awareness and information training session before making a call to an accredited provider.
It’s generally understood the ACT has around 38,000 low-income households.
Mr Rattenbury said it’s expected there will be a “modest rise” in ACT electricity bills this year before prices fall next year but the introduction of renewables to the system would drive prices down over time.
The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) welcomed the commencement of the program. CEO Dr Emma Campbell said ensuring all Canberrans have access to safe and affordable utilities is important for social justice and for tackling climate change.
“We know that people on low incomes are most affected by climate change. They can’t afford to escape the smoke and bushfires, their houses are poorly insulated and many struggle to keep their houses safe, warm in winter and cool in summer,” she said.
Dr Campbell agreed it was important the ACT did not leave those on low incomes behind as it transitioned to renewables.