The Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS), the Property Council of Australia (PCA) and the Energy Efficiency Council (EEC) all share the goal of ensuring that energy bills are affordable for homes and businesses. In February 2018 these groups commissioned YouGov Galaxy to survey on the views of Australians on energy policy, with a focus on energy efficiency.
Many Australians are struggling with high energy bills. Helping homes and businesses save energy is a highly effective way to reduce energy bills while improving energy security and sustainability.
Our survey found that a remarkable 88 per cent of voters want governments to invest in energy efficiency, making it the most popular policy option that we tested. Good energy efficiency policies and investment are critical to ensure that the transition in our energy system is smooth, fair and affordable.
In many parts of Australia electricity prices have almost doubled and wholesale gas prices have more than tripled over the last decade. This is creating significant challenges and anxieties for many households and businesses, particularly low-income and disadvantaged households who spend a greater proportion of their income on power bills but have less choice and control to reduce them. In January this year over 83 percent of voters were concerned or very concerned about their electricity bill.
Energy prices have been driven up by multiple factors, including expenditure on the electricity network, the retirement of old generators and the development of gas export terminals in Queensland. Action is essential to address problems in electricity and gas markets, but there are no quick, simple and popular options that can substantially reduce the price of each unit of energy.
While it will be challenging to return gas and electricity prices to the level they were at in the early 2000s, we can dramatically cut consumers’ bills. The International Energy Agency reports that energy efficiency programs in many other countries have cut households’ bills by 10 to 30 per cent in recent years. Our survey confirmed that most consumers are concerned about their total energy bill, rather than the cost per unit of energy.
Improving consumers’ energy efficiency will also deliver wider benefits to the energy system. Investing in energy efficiency provides cheap, reliable ‘energy capacity’ that improves energy security and lowers the price of electricity and gas. However, successive Australian governments have paid relatively very little attention to energy efficiency, particularly compared to our international peers.
A large body of evidence shows that homes and businesses need support to tap into their full potential for energy efficiency. Energy market rules, energy ratings, access to capital and incentives can encourage or discourage energy efficiency. Consumers’ choices are also often limited by other people’s choices, such as landlords, builders and manufacturers.
Public support for government action on energy efficiency is very strong, and rated higher than other policy interventions. Our survey found that:
- 90 per cent of voters believe that it’s important or very important for governments to help reduce households’ and businesses’ energy bills.
- ‘Investing in energy efficiency’ was the most popular energy policy option available to governments. It’s popularity cut across party lines, with support from 90 per cent of Coalition and 89 per cent of Labor voters.
- Voters had mixed views on other key energy policies, like support for new coal-fired generators and reducing incentives for renewable energy.
- Voters support a wide range of energy efficiency policies for homes and businesses.
SOURCE: YouGov Galaxy. “Energy Billls & Energy Efficiency: Survey of community views*.” April 2018
*This research was commissioned by the Australian Council of Social Services, the Energy Efficiency Council and the Property Council of Australia.
Produced by the librarians at the Brotherhood of St Laurence in Melbourne, Australia