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Energy efficiency a major vote-winner

ACCC NEG energy

Australians overwhelmingly support government intervention into energy efficiency, new YouGov Galaxy polling has found. 

The survey, commissioned by the Energy Efficiency Council, Property Council of Australia and Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS), found that 88 per cent of Australians support government investment in energy efficiency, with just five per cent opposed.

Investment in energy efficiency was the most popular policy intervention tested and, importantly, the trend cut through political lines, with 90 per cent of Coalition voters and 89 per cent of Labor voters supportive.

However, there were some who supported intervention in coal, though this topic was contentious. Forty-two per cent were in favour of intervening to stop the closure of coal-fired generation, while 33 per cent were opposed (net support nine per cent), and 41 per cent wanted the government to build or subside construction of new coal-fired generators, while 37 per cent opposed (net support four per cent). 

The one area where opposition outweighed support was reducing incentives for renewable energy and storage. Fifty per cent of those surveyed were opposed to this, while 34 per cent were in favour.

Support for various energy policy options

Huge support for raising minimum standards

The survey also tested a range of potential energy efficiency policies, with most popular interventions including improving school and hospital energy efficiency, raising minimum residential standards and requiring energy companies to help households save money. Support for specific energy efficiency interventions was consistent across political leanings and states, and increased with age.

Support for specific energy efficiency policies

The survey report said raising minimum standards was the cheapest way to ensure new homes were “safe, comfortable and efficient”.

“Australian residential building standards aren’t up to date and there are no plans to tighten them, which will cost consumers billions in extra energy costs,” the report said.

ACOSS chief executive Cassandra Goldie said improving energy efficiency would mean that low-income households wouldn’t have to choose between putting food on the table and heating homes in the coming winter months.

“Upgrading an existing home from the equivalent of 2 stars to 5 stars can save a household $600 a year,” she said.

“Mandating energy efficient standards for rental properties and investing in energy efficiency measures for low-income households, will make a huge difference to energy stress, health and wellbeing.”

Electricity bills the major concern

Electricity was the number one household expenditure item voters were concerned about – ahead of private health costs, fuel costs, mortgages and groceries – with 79 per cent saying total energy bill cost was most concerning to them, not the unit price of energy.

“The clear message that we will be taking to governments is that while issues associated with energy generation and supply are important, the public urgently wants governments to act on energy efficiency to ensure that our energy system is reliable, sustainable and affordable,” EEC head of policy Rob Murray-Leach said.

Property Council of Australia chief executive Ken Morrison said the survey was a “wake-up call” to governments to move beyond the supply-side debates.

“With the National Energy Guarantee now on the table, attention must also be given to driving down demand – because the cheapest energy is energy we don’t use,” he said.

“This survey shows the community recognises the benefits of energy efficiency and strongly supports common sense action to reduce their bills. With both business and the community on board, we now need governments to step up and show leadership on energy efficiency.”

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