Government urged to address looming energy affordability crisis as Australia braces for scorching summer

Nov 30, 2023
As the sweltering days of summer approach, the quest for a cool and comfortable home becomes a top priority for many. Source: Getty Images.

As Australia gears up for a predicted sweltering summer, the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) is sounding the alarm, urging the Federal Government to roll out a comprehensive cost-of-living package.

The aim is to alleviate the burden on low-income individuals struggling to meet soaring energy bills, a concern underscored by the Australian Energy Regulator’s (AER) latest State of the Energy Market report.

The AER’s findings illuminate a stark reality: energy affordability poses a significant challenge for those on limited incomes, who bear a disproportionate share of the cost burden.

ACOSS corroborates this in a recently released survey, revealing that the majority of respondents reliant on income support are grappling with the financial strain of their energy bills, with limited recourse.

Of the 427 individuals surveyed, a staggering 74 per cent are resorting to cutting back on cooling and heating, while 62 per cent are further reducing their use of lights. The survey indicates that 55 per cent are taking fewer hot showers, 51 per cent are altering their cooking habits (such as avoiding oven use), and 49 per cent are resorting to early bedtimes to conserve warmth or reduce the need for lights. Notably, 33 per cent have even stopped having people over to save on energy costs.

ACOSS Program Director of Climate and Energy, Kellie Caught, emphasises the urgency of government intervention, especially given that most of Australia is expected to experience a warmer-than-average summer this year.

“As we head into a summer of extreme heat, the federal government needs to deliver a substantial package to urgently address energy affordability for people on low incomes,” Caught, said.

“There was some one off help delivered in the last Federal Budget but this will not be sufficient to help people on the lowest incomes, who are facing dramatic increases in housing costs as well as food and energy.”

The proposed assistance package, according to ACOSS, should encompass increased investment in retrofitting low-income housing, mandatory energy performance standards for rental properties, reforms to energy concessions, provision of energy debt relief, reinforcement of retail protections, and a substantial increase in income support payments.

ACOSS’ survey also exposed a staggering reality, with 97 per cent of respondents reducing their energy consumption to cope with rising costs, and a third already having exhausted all possible cutbacks.

Caught emphasises that energy is an essential service with profound implications for health and well-being. The rising costs, coupled with poor energy efficiency in rental properties, exacerbate financial and social disadvantages.

Vulnerable groups are resorting to extreme measures, such as foregoing heating in winter, turning off fridges overnight, limiting showers, and even going without food or medicine to meet their bills. Shockingly, almost half of those surveyed reported falling ill due to struggling to keep warm, raising concerns about how they will manage to cool their homes during the impending summer.

The AER’s report further highlights a disturbing trend: electricity and gas bills have outpaced wage increases since 2005, contributing to a rise in energy debt.

The report argues that individuals with low incomes are more susceptible to high energy prices and less able to access measures like energy efficiency, rooftop solar, or favourable energy deals, perpetuating their vulnerability in the face of an impending energy affordability crisis.

As the sweltering days of summer approach, the quest for a cool and comfortable home becomes a top priority for many. Rising temperatures can turn your living space into an uncomfortable sauna, making it essential to find effective ways to beat the heat.

If you’re looking to reduce your energy bills and escape the scorching heat, there are a number of simple strategies and tips to keep your home refreshingly cool during the sizzling summer months without going to extremes. 

CHOICE’s cooling expert, Chris Barnes has suggested a number of tips and tricks you can use to keep costs and the temperature down.

  • Choose your air conditioner’s temperature carefully

According to Barnes, cranking your air conditioner to near arctic temperatures might appear like the perfect solution to escape the heat, but this approach can lead to skyrocketing energy costs and gradual wear and tear on your air conditioner’s motor.

“To get better efficiency from your air conditioner, try and keep the temperature difference to around 8°C. So, on a 32°C day, set your air conditioner to around 24°C. We recommend doing this as each degree cooler adds about 10% to your air con running costs, so overtime that will add up,” Barnes suggests.

  • Rely on fans to beat the heat 

Ceiling and pedestal fans provide an excellent and budget-friendly cooling solution, especially for those who are renting or have budget constraints preventing them from installing air conditioning.

“We found keeping your fan on 24/7 over the summer would only cost a measly $30! Plus, if you use your fan alongside your air conditioning, it will circulate the air more effectively, giving your air con a break and saving you more,” Barnes explains.

  • Monitor indoor-outdoor temperatures with a thermometer 

Harnessing the power of the environment is a budget-friendly and energy efficient method to maintain a cool atmosphere in your home.

“We recommend using an indoor-outdoor thermometer to monitor the temperature difference,” Barnes suggests.

“If it’s cooler outside than inside, open up all your doors and windows, and if it’s hotter outside, close everything.”

  • Use your dishwasher at night 

For a cooler environment, especially during the warmer months, it’s advisable to operate your dishwasher at night if you have one.

“Dishwashers can generate a lot of heat, so by putting it on before you go to bed, you can avoid dealing with a warmer kitchen throughout the day,” Barnes says.



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