Energy Consumers Australia (ECA) has called on governments to develop a plan to electrify all Australian households and small businesses, starting with ending gas connections for new homes. 

In its submission to the Senate Economics References Committee Inquiry into Residential Electrification, ECA also called for governments to consider introducing mandatory information disclosures on gas appliances to warn consumers about the economic risk of buying a new gas appliance.

New research undertaken by the organisation shows the number of consumers considering disconnecting from the gas network is rising. However, some consumers will face barriers to going all-electric and new ECA CEO, Dr Brendan French, is concerned that without a national plan they could face spiralling bills.

“Our latest national consumer data shows an uptick in those planning to electrify from 16 per cent in 2021 to 22 per cent today,” said Dr French.

“There are clear benefits for consumers from getting off gas. Modelling we commissioned from CSIRO shows going all-electric and swapping to an electric vehicle could cut the average household’s energy bills by $2,250 a year by 2030. That’s without solar panels and a battery, which lifts the saving to $3,500.

“While this is great news for many consumers, people who face barriers to going all-electric could be left behind and unable to access those savings. Governments must make sure those who can least afford to make the switch don’t end up shackled to a fossil fuel gas network that becomes more and more costly for fewer and fewer people.”

Dr French said that Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory have already announced gas bans for new homes, and that now needs to be adopted by all states and territories. 

“Consumers and industry deserve certainty,” Dr French said.

“We need all three levels of government to come together and develop a national plan for households to go all-electric that provides the information, funding and support people need, and identifies the policy changes that will ensure no one is left behind.”

Dr French said that the plan will need to clearly explain to everyone how they can benefit from the energy transition and provide financial support for people to disconnect and buy new appliances. 

“Grants and subsidies will be needed to help those least able to make the switch. Currently, only one in five households believe that the impact of the transition on consumers has been clearly communicated.

“Some consumers will face greater barriers than others, including low-income households, renters and people who live in apartments.

“We often forget that only 52 per cent of Australian households are owner-occupied, stand-alone homes while the other half must negotiate home upgrades with other tenants and landlords.

“It can be even tougher for people in social housing, so we also need to expand support for home and social housing upgrades under the Household Energy Upgrades Fund.”

ECA’s submission also notes that there is already a national shortage of workers in key occupations for electrification so the national plan will need to build industry and workforce capacity, including to upskill gasfitters in electrical work and provide loans to electrical apprentices.

The submission also calls for a government inquiry to understand how small businesses can decarbonise. Small businesses often face high barriers to going all-electric and use more energy than households. Supporting small businesses will create an opportunity to help them manage their bills, and will lower overall energy system costs.

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