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Supporting a just transition to a carbon-free Canberra

Rebecca Vassarotti 24 June 2019 21

Transitioning to a carbon-free city.

There is a strong consensus across the Canberra community about the need for us to work to address climate change. Government has shown leadership through initiatives such as the implementation of the 100 per cent renewable electricity target which we will meet next year.

As well as strong support for this work, there is an understanding that there are costs to this transition to a carbon-free future. The community seems comfortable with these costs if they are modest and transparent. Despite a lot of commentary around the costs of this transition, it does seem the case that on an average basis, the cost of transitioning to renewables has been only one component of the significant year on year price increases for electricity that consumers have faced.

A key challenge for all of us, Government and community, is to ensure that fairness and equity underpin this transition. We need to actively work to ensure that everyone is supported to transition, and those who are least able to bear costs of this transition are fairly treated through this period.

For low-income households, concessions and rebates will continue to be one way that price increases can be managed for these households. The recent increase in the level of the rebate for eligible households will make a difference for these households. It won’t however deal with the longer-term issues of how to reduce energy use and costs.

In the early days of designing incentive schemes to promote the shift to renewables, benefits often flowed to people with the capacity to invest in the upfront costs of new technologies and programs such as feed-in tariffs and solar subsidies did flow to higher income households. But things have been changing in recent years. Initiatives such as the solar rebate scheme for lower-income households mean that there will be more opportunities for lower-income households to access rooftop renewable energy – not only generating electricity from renewables but reducing household costs.

For most low-income houses one of the best investments will be improving energy efficiency. This is a real issue for a city where much of our housing stock has not been built for the climate, and includes ageing inefficient heating and cooling. For some time, the ACT Government has required electricity retailers to achieve energy savings in households and small to medium businesses. As part of this, it has mandated that 20 per cent of this activity must be targeted to priority households,which are those eligible for energy concessions (which flow as a result of being a low-income household); households experiencing financial hardship; households who are accessing energy retailers or other hardship programs; and those who are in social, community or disability housing. Recently, the Government reviewed this target and after stakeholder consultation, increased it to 30 per cent. This means that there will be greater access for those most likely to be struggling with energy costs to access a range of supports to improve energy efficiency in their property and reduce costs. This increased target will make a big difference and will be welcomed by community groups.

But what else needs to happen? There are some simple changes that would make a real difference to low-income households, particularly in public housing stock where there is significant renewal already happening.

Replacing old, inefficient heating and cooling can reduce energy use, emissions, costs and in many cases increase health and wellbeing, comfort and liveability. Another idea is to look at the type of energy that households are using. Many houses continue to be duel fuel properties (with both electricity and gas), which means higher costs, continued emissions and having to pay out two supply fees. A commitment to moving towards single fuel properties would be a win for the environment and for households.

How we support everyone in our community to reduce our energy use and transition to energy sources that are free of carbon emissions will continue to be an important discussion for us all.

What other ways do you think we could support everyone to reduce their energy use and ensure a fair transition to a carbon-free future?


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21 Responses to Supporting a just transition to a carbon-free Canberra
Capital Retro Capital Retro 10:58 am 28 Jun 19

“these systems are always gamed though.”

Indeed they are. I know people who go to Vinnies with a sob story about their electricity bill and then immediately go to The Salvos with the same story, collecting money at both places.

It’s a good little earner.

Kim Uriarau Kim Uriarau 5:11 am 28 Jun 19

Govt should pay the electricity bill for pensioners.

    Kim Uriarau Kim Uriarau 7:11 am 28 Jun 19

    Ian McLeod reviving a benefit. End of story. If the bills are too high, send out a team to assess and provide solutions.. maybe if they foot the bill they might be more inclined to fix the broken system..

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 5:59 pm 27 Jun 19

“A commitment to moving towards single fuel properties would be a win for the environment and for households.”

It’s interesting that the push is now very obviously on against gas, even though many of the recently built residences in Canberra have gas heating and/or cooking.

Will the owners/renters of these homes eventually be penalised and faced with expensive and disruptive conversions, or will those costs be socialised?

maxblues maxblues 2:30 pm 27 Jun 19

Hahaha hahaha. Kevin Vaughan thinks nuclear reactors are more attractive than solar farms! Even if you think they are, worrying about aesthetics is not going to save the world!

Roger Mungummary Roger Mungummary 1:51 pm 27 Jun 19

You mean jacking up energy prices while pensioners get $75 whole dollars to pay for a week's heat for the whole of winter. Bloody disgrace

Cary Elliot Johnson Cary Elliot Johnson 9:57 am 27 Jun 19

Solar rebates stay stagnant for home owners, electricity prices go up, equals no incentive to connect to solar. Electricity providers continue with the greed

    Domenic Fabbo Domenic Fabbo 8:46 pm 27 Jun 19

    Cary Elliot Johnson that’s why I decided not to get solar panels.....

bj_ACT bj_ACT 9:20 am 27 Jun 19

How about stopping your wealthy inner south residents from regularly flying overseas.

Those carbon savings from that one initiative would cover a lifetime of car and electricity use for the outer suburban working poor who don’t qualify for many of the subsidies and can’t afford the changes you promote.

It’s a bit rich to talk about a carbon free canberra when high carbon consuming elements such as plane flights and imported consumables aren’t counted in the 100% carbon free target.

Harper Pirsig Harper Pirsig 8:52 am 27 Jun 19

We need a population conversation and population cap if we are serious about climate change, and other equally important issues such as urban sprawl, pollution of waterways and deforestation. People do these things, and more people, means more environmental damage.

    Steve Hampson Steve Hampson 9:07 am 27 Jun 19

    Harper Pirsig so in your opinion, we cant tranform our habits and technology enough to avoid needing an artificial population cap? I don’t know if there are good studies on this, but an artificial population cap just seems like a very bad thing to have to implement, and probably goes against what I believe should be a fundamental human right.

    Harper Pirsig Harper Pirsig 9:39 am 27 Jun 19

    Steve Hampson well then you aren’t genuinely concerned about the environment, if you are happy for our planet’s 8 billion people to become 9, 10 and 11 billion in a very short time. You either genuinely care about flora and fauna, or you don’t. Humanity needs to restrict itself from devouring our planet. Much of what is proposed to deal with climate change and other equally serious environmental problems, like deforestation and river/ocean pollution, will not be solved while the planet’s population goes unchecked. Who needs drinking water? People. Who needs energy, electricity and transport? People. Who pollutes rivers? People. Who relies on food production? People. Who cuts down forests? People. Who builds new suburbs sprawling tens of kilometres from city centres? People. We all can’t live in eco-friendly high rise mega-cities, that’s decades in the making at best and possibly a fantasy. Most mega-cities are swimming in their own poo and their city plumbing can’t even keep up. Poo goes into the Thames after a big rain. Human rights is a convenient excuse. It’s your human right to have how many kids exactly, as many as you want, three, four, six, ten, how many? Seriously, the climate change solutions are not a solution for all environmental problems and if we are serious about not trashing our planet we need to voluntarily and selflessly compromise some of our social, cultural and religious expectations. I am talking about starting a conversation so people see the need and are willing to self sacrifice some of their ideals.

    Greg Hutchison Greg Hutchison 6:05 pm 27 Jun 19

    I agree. The worlds population is increasing too fast. Australias population is small by world standards but ours had been increasing much too quickly just to satisfy the demands of business. We could really makes a difference with our emissions by cutting immigration in half. Note we would still be increasing out population but by a more manageable rate

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 6:22 pm 27 Jun 19

    Steve Hampson Maybe in the short term technology would allow a greater population, but what happens after that, with the population still increasing? However, in reality, technology, health, schools are not keeping up, and if what has to be kept up with keeps getting bigger, how is that managed? No, a foolish idea.

Mathew Hoole Mathew Hoole 8:20 am 27 Jun 19

I have the solution. Tax everyone at 100% except the political class, and ban everything... except for the political class. C02 problem solved.

Michael Cameron Michael Cameron 7:58 am 27 Jun 19

There is climate change coming, is called Spring! Oh, and wasn't it back in the '70's or '80's that we were headed for another ice-age?

Lin Van Oevelen Lin Van Oevelen 7:30 am 27 Jun 19

When I was a kid in Belgium in the 70s during the oil crisis, the government offered massive subsidies to households to improve energy efficiency. This included mainly wall and roof insulation, lowering ceilings (more relevant there with the old terrace houses), double glazing and insulating window coverings like roller blinds. That scheme made a massive difference and continues to do so. Most households there use a fraction of the energy to heat their houses than we do despite it being much colder there in winter.

We have to go a bit further than replacing light bulbs...

    Gwg Heldon Gwg Heldon 8:09 am 27 Jun 19

    Lin Van Oevelen I think all new houses should have double glazing here in Canberra, as a minimum. Having lived in both a double glazed and single glazed house, I know what I prefer. Especially with the current prices we pay for electric.

    Lin Van Oevelen Lin Van Oevelen 6:09 pm 27 Jun 19

    I lived in plenty of houses with a mould problem, but the main cause was damp ground (almost always started in the basement, except for that rental that had roof tiles missing) and poorly finished walls.

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 6:16 pm 27 Jun 19

    Lin Van Oevelen The worst house I lived in for mould, did have damp ground underneath.

    Lin Van Oevelen Lin Van Oevelen 6:46 pm 27 Jun 19

    Julie, and come to think of it, the house with the worst mould (with mushrooms growing on the wall even!) did not have double glazing, probably no wall insulation and was draughty AF.

    My relatives all live in old houses with good insulation and never had a mould problem, presumably because their walls were properly damp proofed at some stage.

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