Australia can begin slaying inflation and decarbonising its domestic economy by adopting a $12.5 billion plan to rewire our homes and businesses, replacing fossil fueled devices with modern electric technology powered by solar and batteries. Solar-backed electrification swaps out gas-fired stoves, heaters, water and combustion-engine cars with zero emission electric equivalents, permanently lowering energy bills by $3000 – $5000 per household annually. The Biden Administration has made household electrification the cornerstone of its Inflation Reduction Act, with significant input from Rewiring America. In mid-December, Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Chris Bowen, confirmed he would craft a Budget package to support electrification for the May Budget. Rewiring Australia’s Budget pre-submission calls for a targeted $500 million package of exepnditure over five years plus $2 billion off-budget from existing CEFC funds, to achieve wide-spread adoption of electrification. Before the next election, the budget package would be amplified with legislation to add $10 billion to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation’s existing $30 billion. Key recommendations include:
- At least $2 billion of existing Clean Energy Finance Corporation funds redirected as concessional finance to accelerate electrification. Two-thirds of this would be directed to at least partly electrify 500,000 households, with the remainder targeted to businesses.
- $200 million for Solar Electric Suburb lighthouse projects. Whole suburb pilots will provide a living laboratory to show the future of the global energy system. Australia can use these insights to develop world-leading new technologies and businesses, including home energy management systems and grid integration and broader policy and regulatory solutions for the electrified cities and shires of the future.s
- $200 million in grants for low-income households and disadvantaged communities to help pay for the purchase of efficient electric devices, solar and storage and e-bikes or EVs. This would lock in ongoing low energy bills and cost of living for these homes, while improving energy resilience. This would be designed in consultation with communities and welfare agencies.
- $95 million in community integrated EV charging infrastructure. This would accelerate electrification by turning EV batteries into virtual power plants, optimising charging across the community and optimising the role of batteries to support the grid. It could lower cost of energy for the whole community, and enable more affordable solar adoption by homes and businesses. The funding would test models around co-location of EV chargers with community facilities and would allow purchase of land.
- $11 million to establish a new Office of Electrification within the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water, leading delivery of the Power to the People and Solar Banks programs, co-ordinating research, policy and leading Solar Electric Suburb lighthouse projects.
- $9 million to develop an Integrated Electrification Plan for COAG covering demand side energyand network planning. This would include research for an optimal ‘grid neutral’ market design that empowered households to sell excess electricity back into the market with the same ease as large energy providers.
- $14 million for public education and thought leadership. As with rooftop solar, ordinary people should lead electrification with Government funding public education programs to give communities the tools they need to make informed decisions and encourage take up of subsidies and CEFC-supported loans.
The submission highlights the need for subsidies to be carefully designed to avoid harming the installers and companies who will do the work of electrification. The government should consult early with the Smart Energy Council, unions and other industry bodies on subsidy design and the timing of announcements. The submission was written by Rewiring Australia co-founder and chief scientist, Dr Saul Griffith and newly appointed Executive Director and Co-founder Dan Cass. Dr Griffith said no nation was better placed to accelerate electrification and reap the benefits. “Australians have already experienced the miracle of rooftop solar, in greater numbers than anywhere in the world. Now they want the Government to help them fully electrify their homes because they know it will permanently obliterate both their energy bills and carbon emissions. “We have to grasp this opportunity and bring the whole community along. Focusing our electrification efforts on low income and social housing communities is the right thing to do but it’s also smart. Freeing these communities of fossil fuel power bills will give them a massive economic boost and create enormous job opportunities. Mr Cass said, “In December 2022 Chris Bowen, the Minister for Climate Change and Energy, announced that the next federal budget will include a ‘meaningful and substantial package’ of electrification measures and we are hopeful that our submission gives the government a clear policy roadmap that will lower bills for households and businesses. “With the right investments now we can empower households for decades to come, garner powerful insight and then sell that expertise to the world. With planning and investment, electrification is an enormous opportunity for Australia.”