29 August 2013 — The Australian Council of Social Service has released a report calling for urgent government action to make energy affordable for low-income households.

The report, Energy Efficiency and People on Low Incomes, said that poor building performance, coupled with inefficient heating and cooling appliances, could result in significant financial and health impacts for disadvantaged households trying to maintain healthy indoor temperatures.

It identified a series of measures that could be taken to reduce energy costs and empower households to control energy use, including:

  • Introduction of landlord tax incentives for energy efficiency measures in rental properties
  • Introduction of energy efficiency standards for rental properties, and mandatory disclosure of energy and water efficiency of all properties at point of sale
  • Additional funding for targeted retrofits for the worst performing and highest risk social housing stock
  • Financial support (microfinance) to help with up-front costs of energy efficiency upgrades
  • Face to face assistance for targeted advice and services

“Energy efficiency should be a key policy response to address the impacts of rising energy prices, yet we’ve heard little mention of it in the current political debates about cost of living pressures and energy affordability,” said ACOSS senior policy officer Andrea Pape.

“People on low incomes are particularly feeling the burden of rising energy prices, but they lack the capital for energy efficiency upgrades and are more likely to own inefficient appliances.

“Targeted retrofits of the worst performing social housing where health, climate and hardship risks are greatest should be a high priority. We know that those most at risk from heatwaves are low-income people, the elderly and people living with disabilities or health issues.”