Energy Efficiency

Energy Efficiency

(Private Members Statement, 01 June 2023, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)

My constituents want the energy network to quickly transition to 100 per cent green renewable power to prevent the most devastating impacts of climate change. It is essential that changes to generation, transmission and storage are combined with energy efficiency and electrification to reduce demand and enable all power to be clean and green. But energy efficiency and electrification are largely being left to individuals to implement. We urgently need action, planning and targets to achieve outcomes and ensure everyone can reduce their energy use at home, regardless of means.

Making homes more energy efficient not only reduces demand on the power system but also reduces household costs. I welcome agreement between the Commonwealth, States and Territories to increase energy efficiency standards in the Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme [NatHERS] to seven stars, commencing in October. Seven-star homes use 25 per cent less energy to heat and cool than six-star homes, cutting bills, demand and greenhouse gas emissions. But we need to go further than seven stars and ban gas connections in all new homes. Gas is a fossil fuel that produces massive greenhouse gas emissions and is vulnerable to global market impacts. Current work to replace liquid gas with renewable alternatives provides no guarantees and we need to urgently prepare for a future of electrification.

Connecting to gas now will only delay making homes sustainable while setting home owners up for significant costs to disconnect in the future. New gas connections are especially problematic for apartment buildings, which will require complex and costly efforts to decommission and install alternatives. Importantly, work needs to go beyond decarbonising new homes because most people live in homes that have already been built. The vast majority of existing homes are below a three-star NatHERS rating. We urgently need policy and investment to update these homes to prevent massive bills and unhealthy homes and to bring forward greenhouse gas reductions. Renters have the least means to make their homes energy efficient as they cannot make structural changes to the properties they live in. We need mandatory minimum energy efficiency standards for all rental homes.

In 2019 the Council of Australian Governments Energy Council agreed to establish a national framework for minimum energy efficiency standards in rental homes. Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory have commenced work to adopt provisions. But across New South Wales, most rental homes remain expensive, uncomfortable and unhealthy. Many changes are simple and can be easily adopted without significant burden on property owners. Measures like insulating ceilings, providing window coverings, sealing doors and windows and providing efficient heating and cooling are examples of ways to quickly update rentals so that they are healthy, efficient and affordable.

The Government should commence a program to retrofit all public housing properties to the highest energy and water efficiency standard possible, including installing solar panels. As some of the poorest in our community, public housing tenants have the least means to make their homes energy efficient, with many unable to even make basic efficiency choices like purchasing energy efficient small appliances, adding to the drain on energy bills. Decommissioning gas in rentals should be part of the State's energy transition plan. As the price of gas increases, those who can will disconnect, increasing the cost of delivering gas through the network. This in turn will lead even more people to disconnect, with further price rises. Those with the least means will be the last to leave, paying inflated prices that they cannot afford. They will also be at risk of losing services before they can arrange alternatives. We must prepare for this scenario and protect the most vulnerable through a program that provides subsidies and incentives to decommission gas.

The cost of investment in a new, decarbonised electricity network is being borne by consumers while project proponents are set to make huge profits from new renewable generation, transmission and storage. Consumers should not be forced to subsidise infrastructure that will produce private windfalls, and the Government needs to establish a more equitable share of costs. Everyone should have access to affordable and sustainable energy. I call on the new Government to work to achieve equitable access to energy efficiency and electrification, and healthy, affordable homes for all.

Let's work together to celebrate and protect our great city!