AEF Media Release, Monday 3 September 2018
The Australian Energy Foundation is proud to release our thought leadership paper Energy Justice – we need to look after our neighbours, in partnership with Swinburne University of Technology.
Energy poverty and inequity has become and will continue to be a big problem in Australia, with far too many households unable to pay their electricity bills and use basic amenities – including heating and cooling their homes. Deaths as a result of heatwaves are at an all-time high and harsh winters are also felt acutely in energy inefficient housing stock, affecting the health and wellbeing of individuals within households.
Impacts of energy poverty
The impacts of energy poverty on families range from going without a substantial daily meal, the inability to pay for school books or uniforms, and going without an internet connection in order to pay energy bills. This adversely affects the engagement of students at school.
The elderly, individuals living with health issues, and large families on low incomes are our neighbours most adversely affected by energy poverty. Although large families only make up 1% of Australia’s population, this includes an estimated 200,000 children.
Energy Justice – we need to look after our neighbours brings together recent research, to highlight the urgency for Australia to support the vulnerable and socio-economically disadvantaged members of our community.
Through their work in the community, AEF has seen first-hand how energy poverty affects certain households. Across the State AEF works with many families experiencing hardship and struggling to meet their basic needs due to high energy bills.
One household AEF visited has a $10,000 electricity bill; they will never have the capacity to clear that debt. Another home had all the blinds drawn, no lighting on, no heating or cooling and the fridge was unplugged. The family was avoiding meal preparation by eating canned food, which they heat up in the microwave that they turned back off as soon as they’d finished using it.
The time is now for the ACCC and AER recommendations to be enacted, to build in the protections needed for our neighbours in financial hardship, and the assistance required to improve energy literacy.
The paper follows the release of and strongly supports AEF’s latest Strategic Plan and vision for an equitable zero carbon society. Australia must transition our energy supply to a zero emissions one; it is vital to ensure all Australians benefit from this transition and that no one is left behind.
Quotes from AEF’s CEO, Alison Rowe:
“It’s clear some of our neighbours are living with extreme poverty as a result of rising energy bills and it is also clear we are not looking after our most vulnerable. We want to make sure no one gets left behind to ensure a just transition as we move to a new decentralised, renewable energy system.”
“The energy system is changing significantly but solar and energy efficiency measures are not always available to all members of our society. Those most vulnerable to the effects of climate change are also the most in danger of being left behind in the energy transition.”