13 September 2022

Handful of Whitlam homeowners pick up $10,000 rebate for all-electric builds, hopes of more to follow

| Lottie Twyford
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Three people at Whitlam

Suburban Land Agency CEO John Dietz, Ngunnawal elder Aunty Violet Sheridan and Minister for Housing and Suburban Development Yvette Berry at the official opening of Whitlam back in 2020. Photo: Suburban Land Agency.

Fewer than 20 Whitlam households have so far taken up the Territory Government’s offer of $10,000 in exchange for building a gas-free, solar-powered sustainable home on their block.

Suburban Land Agency officials said this morning it is still early days, with many houses still under construction in the area.

The agency will, however, survey residents in the region to find out which factors might be stopping them from taking up the offer – which may range from a cultural preference for cooking with gas to a dislike of light-coloured roofs.

Buyers are eligible for the rebate if they build homes meeting the requirements such as solar panels, a pale-coloured roof, an electric hot water, heating, cooling and cooking system and an electric vehicle charging point.

Most of the steps would need to be undertaken during the planning and building process and proof of each step is required – but people are not being asked to apply until after the build has been completed.

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SLA program manager Rob Thorman said officials had anticipated around 50 per cent of Whitlam residents would apply for the scheme.

SLA acting deputy CEO Joey Lee said residents could save up to $18,000 over 10 years if they put those measures in place – in addition to the rebate.

“The uptake is something that we will continue to monitor. It’s still early days and a lot of the residents are still in the process of building,” he said.

Mr Lee further told a committee inquiry into the Territory’s gas-free future that the agency had been working to develop more all-electric precincts and homes since 2018 when the estate development code was altered to allow a gas-free suburb trial.

Whitlam stages one and two had followed this with an incentive program for new residents – an offer of $10,000 in return for building an energy-efficient home.

READ ALSO ‘Urinate behind a tree’: construction industry a hostile place for menstruating women

Mr Lee confirmed future greenfield stages of Whitlam would not have gas connections nor the next stages of Jacka in Gungahlin. Community batteries were also being investigated for the latter.

The Suburban Land Agency is the Territory’s land development and delivery arm.

Its officials appeared this morning as part of an inquiry into the so-called Climate Change and Greenhouse Gas Reduction (Natural Gas Transition) Amendment Bill 2022.

The legislation in that bill only sets up the power for the relevant minister to ban gas connections in new suburbs. It has not yet been decided how these rules would apply to infill developments and whether they would affect knock-down rebuilds.

It’s anticipated that ban will come into effect next year ahead of the broader target of an entirely gas-free Territory by 2045.

Shane Rattenbury

Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Shane Rattenbury reiterated that the transition away from gas would be gradual and orderly. Photo: Lottie Twyford.

Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Shane Rattenbury has described this tranche of legislation as “stopping the problem from getting any worse”.

That problem is the 3500 odd new gas connections that come online annually.

Mr Rattenbury has identified it would be problematic to continue building new houses with new appliances with a gas ban looming over households.

This legislation is different to previous changes to the Territory plan, which just rolled back the mandate to supply new suburbs with gas connections, allowing greenfield development Ginninderry to come to life.

The government expects the existing gas network to play an important energy role for at least the next decade and it wants the transition to be “an orderly one”.

An online hub called Powering Canberra has been designed to help the community with the transition.

The Suburban Land Agency was contacted for further comment by Region.

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So people building in Whitlam; an expensive suburb, are receiving a $10,000 grant
to make “green” building choices.

Can the rest of us get $10,000 to make “green” choices for our homes?

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