Like many low-income people in Australia, Bronwyn Stretton knows the creeping fear that comes with summer all too well.
- ACOSS wants governments to put in place a national energy productivity program for low-income people
- The program would modernize 1.8 million housing units occupied by low-income people and renters
- If implemented, it could create 22,000 jobs and add billions of dollars to Australia’s GDP, new report says
Until recently, much of his 1950s home in Geelong became uninhabitable when temperatures rose.
Without air conditioning, there was only one place her family could escape while caring for their young grandchild.
“At one point we even got out in the car so we could turn on the air conditioning. It was terrible,” she said.
“When we had the extreme heat, it was like an oven in our house very quickly.”
Ms. Stretton is the primary caregiver for her husband and relies on Centrelink to supplement a part-time teaching salary.
Three years ago, it was part of an energy assistance program managed by the Confrérie du Saint-Laurent.
This gave him the money for insulation, an air conditioning and heating unit, and blinds to block the heat from the sun.
“It made our life more comfortable and made me panic less about the extreme heat that I think we’re going to have more and more,” she said.
She also saves money on her electricity bills.
“The bill went from $ 231 to $ 114 [per month],” she said.
“My usage went from over 7 to about 5.5 kilowatts per hour. So it really had an impact.”
The Australian Council for Social Services (ACOSS) wants more low-income households to undergo a similar transformation.
22,000 jobs and billions in the economy
The leading community services organization released a report on the economic impact of the proposed National Low Income Energy Productivity Program (NLEPP), which would renovate 1.8 million energy inefficient homes.
“It’s a win-win situation for governments and especially for people living below the poverty line,” said Kellie Caught of ACOSS.
“We argue that this is a nation-building program that would have profound and lasting economic, social and health outcomes for decades to come.”
ACOSS commissioned Deloitte Access Economics to study the economic impact of NLEPP.
This report estimated an average expenditure of $ 5,000 for 1.8 million dwellings occupied by low-income people and renters.
It would pay for things like insulation, reverse cycle air conditioners and heaters, draft proofing, blinds and solar panels.
It is estimated that 22,000 full-time equivalent jobs would be created if the program were fully implemented, according to the report.
The increase in Australian GDP is estimated to be between $ 3.4 billion and $ 4.9 billion. The cost to governments of a full deployment would be $ 9.1 billion.
“We’re not saying… it’s free, but it’s definitely something that has a positive impact on the Australian economy,” said Cedric Hodges of Deloitte Access Economics.
Low-income people spend more on electricity
One of the impacts would be a reduction in the pressure on energy bills.
Currently, the richest 20 percent of households spend 1.5 percent of their income on energy costs. The poorest 20 percent spend four times as much of their income, 6.4 percent.
“The reduction in energy costs would kind of feed back into the economy,” Hodges said.
“The conclusions were obviously that [the proposal] would potentially significantly increase the size of the Australian economy and the jobs that could be generated. “
Ms Caught, who heads the Climate and Energy program at ACOSS, said low-income people and renters were more likely to live in older homes and much less energy efficient.
“Low-income people, especially those who rent, often cannot afford newer homes or homes more likely to be more energy efficient,” she said.
The average energy efficiency rating for existing homes is only 1.7 stars, compared to an average of 6.1 stars for new homes.
This means low income homes are in desperate need of energy renovations. But for many, they are out of reach.
“What would mean they could cut their energy bills are these energy efficiency measures. And they just can’t afford to implement [them]”Ms. Caught said.
“If they rent a property, they have no choice. It’s up to the owner to decide.”
Old house too cold in winter, hot in summer
ACOSS knows that energy retrofit programs carry a heavy burden. The $ 2.8 billion home insulation program sparked a royal commission after unsafe work practices resulted in the deaths of four workers.
“We have been very careful in designing this program so as not to repeat some of the problems we have encountered in the past,” Ms. Caught said.
“We should take the good things from past programs and learn from them in order to implement them in a different way.”
In her community housing unit in Kingsgrove, a south-western suburb of Sydney, Olga Palanska would like an energy renovation for herself and her 11-year-old daughter.
Its two-story 1970s unit does poorly in both winter and summer.
“Right now I turn on three heaters when it’s too cold,” she said.
“Another problem in the summer is upstairs. It’s so… hot, we don’t have air conditioning, so we can’t even sleep upstairs. We sleep downstairs on the couch.”
The 51-year-old single mother said the program would allow her to install a new heating and air conditioning unit, which would save her money on her bills.
Ms Palanska also said the grant could help her pay for new insulation and fix old windows that let in the cold.
“If the government wants to help people with this problem, it’s going to be fantastic because it’s not just my home,” she said.
“I see a lot of old houses on the street. And I’ve talked to people I know, neighbors, and a lot of people have the same issues.”