Solar for All Needed for Healthy Homes
Summer has arrived and with it, the heatwaves, severe storms and extreme weather. During the summer months, I struggle to keep my poorly insulated Queenslander cool as temperatures soar - not helped by the fact that geckos ate the wiring in my air conditioning. But despite this I'm still one of the lucky ones.
As a homeowner, I have more control over the energy efficiency of my home and face fewer barriers to investing in bill-slashing technology like rooftop solar. But for many people the barriers stopping them from maintaining a healthy temperature at home, whatever the season, are a lot more difficult to overcome.
The seemingly inexorable cost-of-living hikes, including spiralling electricity bills, is hurting many Aussie homes and businesses.
A new national survey of more than 2000 Australians commissioned by Solar Citizens found that a staggering three in four of us are concerned about paying our next electricity bill. Even as summer temperatures rise, for many people simply switching on the air con is a luxury they can't afford.
The wholesale price of electricity has skyrocketed this year, driven largely by the war in Ukraine, coupled with frequent breakdowns at our ageing and unreliable coal-fired power stations. While rapidly transitioning our energy system to renewables and storage is the only solution to soaring power bills, electricity prices are expected to stay high in the medium term.
The only wholesale power price relief we're seeing right now is during the day, when the country's three million-plus solar homes and businesses are pumping cheap electricity into the grid. In fact, our abundance of cheap solar energy means that wholesale power prices are not just low, they're often negative during the middle of the day.
We know that generating your own solar energy is a guaranteed way to slash your bills and protect yourself from volatile global fossil fuel prices. But people living in private rentals and social housing, often some of our most vulnerable community members, face significant barriers to accessing cheap solar energy.
To make sure everyone can maintain a safe and healthy temperature in their homes, we need to ensure that everyone can access affordable electricity. Australians agree, with 71 per cent supporting the federal and state governments doing more to help renters and those in social housing access solar to help manage their bills.
I recently caught up with Kay, a social housing tenant who was part of the Queensland government's Solar for Rentals trial. With access to solar, she finally felt comfortable installing air conditioning in her home and was no longer worried about her power bills - the trial showed that participating tenants were on average $600 a year better off.
All Australians are feeling the effects of climate change. The benefits of enabling everyone to access solar are clear and the public is backing policy intervention. Now it's time for governments to feel the heat and act.
This article was written by Stephanie Gray, Deputy Director at Solar Citizens and originally published by the Canberra Times.