Low-income households being left behind on move to electrification

24 July 2023

Lower-income households support shifting to electric-only homes, but they will need more assistance from government to do so, according to a new joint report from the Brotherhood of St. Laurence (BSL) and the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Children and Families Over the Life Course (Life Course Centre). 

Enabling Electrification was today launched by Victorian Minister for Climate Action and Energy and Resources, Lily D’Ambrosio.  

The study focused on households facing energy stress to better understand their attitudes to shifting away from gas and their capacity to electrify their homes, as well as the barriers they face and potential policy solutions. 

‘Shifting households to renewable electricity from gas is becoming a priority as the imperatives to decarbonise and improve energy affordability grow. Policy plans, such as Victoria’s Gas Substitution Roadmap, can drive this shift. There has been little research exploring the capacity of lower-income households to electrify their homes. Our research sheds light on this critical issue,’ said co-author Sangeetha Chandrashekeran from ARC’s Life Course Centre. 

The report, which draws on 220 survey responses and six focus groups, found that:

  • most participants surveyed supported a planned transition from gas to electricity in principle but faced barriers to electrifying their own homes.
  • reducing energy bills and environmental concern were the key drivers for households wanting to electrify
  • people’s preferences for gas or electricity were strongly linked to what they currently used

‘Getting off gas will reduce household energy bills and make an essential contribution to reducing Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. However, lower income households are likely to be the last ones left on the gas network, paying more, unless further support is put in place,’ said Damian Sullivan, co-author and BSL’s Climate Change and Energy lead.

The research points to the need for a clear plan to move away from gas and accelerate quality retrofits for lower-income homes (including social housing), a one stop shop that provides tailored and trusted electrification information and advice, reforms to help renters electrify, and subsidies for low-income homeowners.

‘Renters face some of the biggest barriers. Even if they can afford to, they’re often not allowed by their landlords to switch to electric appliances, and many were afraid to even ask. Electrification and energy efficiency upgrades are essential because they lead to robust energy bill reductions, which last over time, unlike one-off payments,’ said BSL’s Damian Sullivan.

The Brotherhood of St. Laurence is a social justice organisation working to prevent and alleviate poverty across Australia.

Media inquiries:Bridie Riordan M: 0491 159 256.