Lynne Gallagher, Energy Consumers Australia

A series of grants totalling over half a million dollars have been awarded to researchers from four institutions to delve into making Australia’s energy markets more fair and equitable.

Among the projects will be a focus on making solar panels more accessible for renters, reducing the cost of energy for small business farmers, reducing gas bills for consumers in Victoria and tackling energy issues facing low-income households nationwide.

A total of $556,000 was awarded through a program by independent consumer advocacy group, Energy Consumers Australia.

“These projects have each demonstrated the potential to make significant positive impact in areas where consumers are currently not best served by the energy system,” Energy Consumers Australia chief executive officer Lynne Gallagher said.

ANU researchers delve into solar energy disparity

With Australians who live in rental properties seven times less likely to have rooftop solar, researchers from Australian National University (ANU) have been granted $77,070 to discover and advise on what policies will best address the discrepancy.

Adding to the issue, which has growing public awareness, is the fact rental properties are likely to be less energy efficient, which means higher energy costs.

“Renters are a cohort who have often been excluded from achieving greater energy independence, cheaper bills, and lowered emissions,” Gallagher said.

”We need to better understand the policy interventions that can address this gap, and this project is set to provide that knowledge in a highly collaborative way.” 

ANU researchers will first interview policy-makers, landlords, and property managers followed by an online survey of landlords to understand what drives their decision-making.

They will then hold a workshop with energy officials, renter advocates, and the community sector to identify possible policy interventions.

Brotherhood of St Laurence to keep gas companies in check

Social justice organisation, the Brotherhood of St Laurence has received funding of $206,450, to help minimise household and small business gas bills in Victoria.

By presenting independent research, and customer-centric arguments through the revenue determination and infrastructure planning process for gas infrastructure over the next five years, the project aims to ensure distribution businesses are requesting no more revenue than is required to serve customer requirements.

Australian Council of Social Services stands up for low income households

Energy Consumers Australia has also extended further support of $200,000 to the Australian Council of Social Services’ (ACOSS) Equitable, Affordable, Inclusive Energy Transition Advocacy project.

The project regularly reviews and identifies issues that have an impact on low-income and disadvantaged households, with ACOSS working closely with industry to develop principles that put consumers at the heart of decision-making.

ACOSS also actively advocates for ways to improve the energy performance of housing, including pushing for the mandatory disclosure of the energy efficiency of rental properties.

University of Queensland to help farmers

Finally researchers from the University of Queensland, with the help of $73,804, will aim to help farmers better understand tariffs and achieve better outcomes when choosing the right tariff for themselves.  

The research will also provide valuable insights into farmers’ understanding of electricity tariffs for government and industry to provide the right tools and information these consumers need to make informed decisions.

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