ACT Council of Social Service Inc.

Justice | Equity | Social Inclusion | Reconciliation

Media release: ACT Budget needs to invest in improved energy efficiency to protect low and middle income households

28 February 2019

This is the last day of a record breaking hot summer. Extremely cold weather is only a few months away. Now is the time for the ACT Government to take further action to reduce human induced climate change, mitigate the impacts of a more unstable and changing climate, and set up a just transition to a low emission future.

Susan Helyar, Executive Director of the ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS), said today, “ACTCOSS has been working with colleagues in services working with people experiencing significant financial hardship, renters in energy deficient housing and advocates for a safe climate to build awareness and encourage government and business to take action to reduce exposure to extreme weather events and to unaffordable energy bills. We have seen improvements in the focus of energy retailers on reducing bill shock and improving hardship responses. We have seen the ACT Government expand eligibility for and extend the breadth of activities supported under the Energy Efficiency Improvement Scheme (EEIS). But more needs to be done to support the households and small and medium enterprises exposed to poor temperature control and unaffordable bills.”

The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) has some clear messages about what is needed at the federal level to better support low income households. Cassandra Goldie, CEO of ACOSS, said this week, “The government should be working with COAG on implementing mandatory energy efficiency standards for rental properties, co-funding energy efficiency and solar in new and existing social housing and Indigenous communities, and providing funds for homeowners on low-incomes to invest in solar and use energy more efficiently.”

Ms Helyar continued, “In our jurisdiction we are calling on the ACT Government to continue to demonstrate national leadership on climate change mitigation by further extending eligibility for EEIS to rental housing, because one in four rental housing has an energy efficiency rating of zero. We are calling for a minimum rental housing standard of five star energy efficiency, supported by financing for landlords to make improvements as long as they agree to an enforceable rent rise cap of CPI only.

“We are also keen to see the roll-out of battery storage systems made more accessible to low and middle income households.

“Electrification of vehicles is seen to be an important component of the transition to a zero emission economy by 2045. ACTCOSS is working with the ACT Government to identify strategies for electrification of vehicles that will prioritise growing the second hand market for electric vehicles and considering grey fleets in the community sector as a space to test the viability and affordability of electric vehicles. We are also advocating against penalties in fees and charges related to vehicle registration to low and middle income households who continue to drive internal combustion engine vehicles.”

Ms Helyar concluded, “The ACT Budget for 2019-2020 will be announced at the beginning of June. We hope to see some good news in the Budget for people who at that time will be facing a cold, hard winter without additional support to get their energy costs down, to improve the comfort of their home and to reduce other essential costs of living like keeping a car on the road.”

For more information or comment please contact
Susan Helyar, Executive Director, on 0448 791 987 or 02 6202 7200.