CEO Heidi Lee Douglas' Speech to Parliamentary Friends of Electric Vehicles - Solar Citizens

Three lessons from the rooftop solar revolution for the electric vehicle transformation

The following is a speech given by Solar Citizens CEO Heidi Lee Douglas to the Parliamentary Friends of Electric Vehicles and Future Fuels Transport on Tuesday 24th, February 2024. 

My name is Heidi  Lee Douglas and I’m the CEO of Solar Citizens, an independent, community-based organisation working to protect and grow renewable energy and clean transport in Australia.

I drove here from Sydney in one of Australia’s first new affordable electric vehicles - $38,000 starting price - and do you know how much that cost me? Just $15 from my hotel charger last night. 

Australians are excited about the potential for fuel cost savings from electric vehicles.


As we’ve heard from Beyhad from the Electric Vehicle Council, Australians are already voting with their wallets with a massive uptake in electric vehicles.

Solar Citizens has 190,000 supporters around Australia, and because we survey them each year we know our solar citizens are ready to take to the roads as electric vehicle citizens. 

But what is limiting them? The cost of vehicles.

The longer we have to wait for more affordable EVs to be on the market, the longer we also have to wait for those cars to then become even more affordable when they are sold as second-hand cars.

Here are three lessons from the rooftop solar revolution for the electric vehicle transformation.


Lesson 1: We move beyond the early adopters when people experience the cost of living benefits.

If you have rooftop solar, you’re one of more than 3 million Australian households who are now making energy from the sun on your rooftop.

Or as the Guardian recently put it - Australian homes are now three times more likely to have solar panels than have pools. 

The early adopters of solar were often committed to the environmental benefits and did the hard yards of sorting out the tech. 

Yet solar really took off when word spread around the BBQ about the cost savings they bring.

My hairdresser conveyed a conversation to me yesterday that she had with her husband, about how they couldn't imagine how they would get by right now without the cost savings of solar. 

And this is why solar citizens want to be electric vehicle citizens. Because if you fill up your electric vehicle at home using your home solar, you reduce your fuel bill to practically nil.

Think about it. Nothing. Zip. Nada. 

However, there’s a catch and that’s our next lesson.


Lesson 2. The more money you have, the greater your options for saving money

We know people are struggling to make tough decisions right now between affording their energy bills and buying medicine or food. 

Low-income households, people with low savings, social housing tenants, people dealing with rising rental costs are all among the community members with the most to benefit from the savings from solar. 

But they are locked out. Solar Citizens is actively working the removal of barriers to solar for the 60% of the population currently locked out of these cost of living savings.

Unfortunately, the same scenario occurs with the people who have among the most to gain from lower fuel bills also being locked out of savings from electric vehicles. 

If you can afford it, there are electric vehicle models on the market available for you today. If you’re searching for more affordable electric vehicles, you’re usually out of luck. 

The leveller will be New Vehicle Efficiency Standards, a policy now on your doorstep this parliament. 

It will bring more affordable models of electric vehicles to this country, and through increasing supply of new cars will enable a bigger second hand EV market finally. 


Lesson 3. This is not a car war, it’s about giving everyone a fair go.

Legacy car companies are trying to put the brakes on the new vehicle efficiency standard and the media have called it a ‘car war’. 

But don’t be fooled, this is not a car war, this is about making sure everyone benefits from the cost of living benefits from clean transport, regardless of their postcode or circumstances.

Imagine what it means if you can avoid the petrol pump and charge up an electric vehicle cheaply when out and about. Or even better if you can charge up your electric vehicles from your own rooftop solar and  have nil fuel bills!

Like Josh Mylne. Josh and his family now save a whopping $3,500 per year on their fuel bills thanks to their electric vehicle and home. 

He told us,

“A tank of diesel for our Holden Captiva would cost us $110 and get us about 400 km. With the BYD Atto-3, a full charge gets us 480 km, and when we charge it from our surplus solar, this costs us literally 2 or 3 dollars.”

Josh fills up his tank for $2 or $3 dollars. Compare that with paying more than $2 a litre at the petrol station. 

Now times that cost saving by the households in your electorate and the homes in your community.

Imagine what people can do and achieve with the extra money in their pockets. 

Everyday Aussies are already leading the renewable energy revolution to cut bills, and take energy generation back into their own hands. 

Australia also has the highest uptake of rooftop solar in the world, and tying home solar to electric vehicles means we can run our cars on sunshine. 

Goodbye fuel bills, and good riddance.