Promised $1 billion in home energy upgrades yet to reach a single household

The $1 billion allocated to Australia's green bank for household energy upgrades is yet to reach a single home, a senate budget hearing has been told.

The $1 billion allocated to Australia’s green bank for household energy upgrades is yet to reach a single home, a senate budget hearing has been told.

Parliamentary hearings examining the 2024/25 budget instead found no spending from a fund established in 2023 to help Australians save money on power bills.

The fund was set up to provide discounted consumer finance for energy efficiency upgrades, new appliances and battery-ready solar panels.

Assistant Minister for Energy Jenny McAllister said the Clean Energy Finance Corporation has been looking for financing partners and has received a “very enthusiastic response” from the market.

When finalised, the “co-financiers” will provide discounted loans directly to consumers.

Some $300 million has gone to states to develop energy upgrades for public housing, and local council applications have closed for $100 million for sports grounds and other facilities, she told a senate estimates committee.

Quizzed by independent senator David Pocock about how much had actually gone out the door, officials were unable to say how much of the state monies had been spent.

“People around this table can afford to have solar, potentially a battery, induction cook stove, drive an EV and you’re basically not paying anything for energy,” he told the environment committee.

“People who can’t afford that are getting absolutely slammed for energy bills and paying international prices for our gas,” Senator Pocock said.

Meanwhile, the United States in April launched a “solar for all” program that will roll out rooftop panels for nearly one million low-income households as part of a US$US7 billion ($A11 billion) program.

“I’d love to see urgency around helping households with the transition, because people want to do it,” Senator Pocock said.

The $300 rebate for energy bills would be better spent on getting people off expensive power, he said.

Senator McAllister said energy efficiency was a fledgling industry that the federal government was starting from scratch, and the energy rebate was an important cost of living measure.

Luke Menzel, Chief Executive Officer of the Energy Efficiency Council, the peak body for Australia’s energy management sector, acknowledges Australia is lagging the world on energy efficiency.

However, he says the Federal Government could leverage the state based programs that already exist to drive home energy upgrades, "but if and how they plan to work with the states to do that still isn’t clear."

Menzel says what is 'fledgling' about energy efficiency in Australia is residential policy around energy efficiency and electrification.

"We still don’t have national energy performance disclosure for existing homes – we make appliance manufacturers slap a sticker on a thousand dollar fridge to say how efficient it is, but we don’t do it for million dollar homes, which is a little crazy."

Menzel argues the Federal Government needs to be building much more momentum for energy efficiency to assist the renewable energy transition.

"We still don’t have a focused workforce development plan for efficiency and electrification trades, and there are critical minimum performance standards like the ones for heat pump hot water systems that are still missing."

"All that makes standing up a fund like the billion dollars CEFC has been given a lot more challenging than it would be if those things were in place."


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