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High-impact projects tackling important challenges: Our latest grants recipients

A world-first project led by researchers at the Australian National University will attempt to increase the availability of rooftop solar systems  to renters by providing policy makers with evidence of what interventions are likely to succeed.

The project, which aims to tackle a key element of the so-called “energy divide”, has won funding in the latest round of Energy Consumers Australia’s Grants Program.

The grant is one of four announced in the current funding round, a total investment of more than $556,000 in projects that seek to make Australia’s energy system more inclusive and responsive to emerging consumer needs.

“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. “We are proud to support researchers and advocates who are engaged in such vital work.”

A house with solar panels on the roof

Better involving renters in the renewable energy transition – Australian National University

One third of adult Australians live in rental accommodation. According to research carried out by ANU researchers based on 2012 data , these people are seven times less likely to have rooftop solar and experience the positive benefits it offers, both for them and for the environment. Similarly, rental properties are likely to be less energy efficient, which means energy costs are higher.

This problem, which is the subject of growing awareness across the policy community, creates an energy system that is not as inclusive and equitable as it could be.

Which policies or policy settings would be effective in responding to it? That is the question this ANU project has been allocated $77,070 in grants funding from Energy Consumers Australia to address.

Researchers will carry out interviews with policy-makers, landlords, and property managers followed by an online survey of landlords to understand what drives their decision-making on this subject. They will then hold a workshop with energy officials, renter advocates, and the community sector to identify possible policy interventions in this space.

Researchers will subsequently share these evidence-based recommendations with policy-makers, including those consulted during the earlier phases of the project.

At Energy Consumers Australia we see huge value in this project and the ability it has to fill a gap in the policy-making sector’s knowledge.

Renters are a cohort who have often been excluded from achieving the benefits of rooftop solar: greater energy independence, cheaper bills, and lowered emissions. As a sector, it’s important that we better understand the policy interventions that can address this gap, and this project is set to provide that knowledge in a highly collaborative way.

This project, and the others described below, reflect Energy Consumers Australia’s role in seeking an evidence base for changer and also reinforces our commitment to a more inclusive energy system that does not exclude large numbers of Australians from the potential benefits of the transition that is underway.

Do you have a potential project that could help advocate for household and small business energy consumers? Our next round of grants opens August 5 until September 2, 2021. For more information or to apply for a grant click here. View all previous grant decisions in our archive here.

Helping farmers better understand tariffs to enable decision making – University of Queensland

This project, carried out by researchers at the University of Queensland, aims to reduce energy as an operating cost for small business farmers. Energy Consumer Australia will fund this work with a grant of $73,804.

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

We are pleased to support this project because it is important that we continue to build an evidence base for small business consumers, to support their energy decisions. Industry and policy makers also need to have a better understanding of social and economic impacts felt by farmers and other small business owners when designing tariffs.

An Australian farmer

Representing gas consumers in revenue determinations – BSL

This Brotherhood of St Laurence project, which has received funding of $206,450, will provide an important voice for consumers in Victoria through the revenue determination and infrastructure planning process for gas infrastructure over the next five years. By presenting independent research and customer-centric arguments, the project aims to minimise household and small business gas bills by ensuring distribution businesses are requesting no more revenue than is required to serve customer requirements.

A high proportion of Victorian households are using gas for heating, hot water and cooking, and Victoria faces challenges in moving to electrification, especially for those who cannot afford to invest in new appliances.

In that context, it’s important that consumers, particularly low-income and vulnerable households, are not charged more for gas than they should be. This project, carried out by the experienced advocacy team at the Brotherhood of St Laurence, will be a valuable intervention in ensuring that.

Equitable, Affordable, Inclusive Energy Transition Advocacy project – ACOSS

Energy Consumers Australia has also extended further support ($200,000) to the Australian Council of Social Services’ (ACOSS) Equitable, Affordable, Inclusive Energy Transition Advocacy project. This project regularly reviews and identifies current and emerging energy issues that have an impact on low-income and disadvantaged households.  ACOSS has been working closely with regulators, other advocates and industry to develop principles that put consumers at the heart of decision-making in this transforming market.

As part of this project, it has also supported a coalition of advocates working to improve the energy performance of housing, including to seek mandatory disclosure of the energy efficiency of rental housing. ACOSS has also published an annual report to highlight the experience of low-income households.

Our next round of grants closes opens August 5 until September 2, 2021. For more information or to apply for a grant click here.


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