2023 Policy Initiative - Take the Power Back

Taking the power back - The Greens plan to slash energy prices and repower the economy.

Privatisation of the electricity market in NSW has clearly failed. Households and businesses are paying more for electricity, while very little action is being taken on climate change and energy companies continue to make record profits.

As we act to rapidly decarbonise our economy, we have an opportunity to not only act to curb runaway climate change, but also to take back control over our power supply and to ensure that we are never again at the mercy of the private market for our energy needs.

By phasing out coal and gas power plants, investing in offshore and onshore wind, solar and energy storage and updating the electricity grid, we can repower our economy and society with clean energy. 

By shifting to renewable energy, establishing a publicly-owned energy retailer and “electrifying everything” we not only drive carbon pollution to zero, but we can lower home energy bills and industry costs while creating jobs around the country.

THE GREENS WILL: 

  • Establish a new, publicly owned non-profit electricity company
  • Regulate power station pollution and nationalise existing fossil fuel power generation that can’t be brought up to new standards
  • Invest in publicly owned renewable energy generation projects
  • Fast-track the establishment and operation of Renewable Energy Zones (REZs)
  • Tackle energy poverty and assist households to lower their exposure to the energy market with a rollout of household efficiency upgrades
  • Install solar on all social housing stock
  • Ban gas connections on new builds and help households and small businesses to get off gas
  • Fund electrification pilots, including $20m for Electrify 2515

Slashing energy prices with publicly-owned assets 

As we transition to 100% renewable energy, we must learn from the past mistakes of privatisation and ensure our energy assets are kept in public hands. 

Electricity is an essential service. But Labor and Liberal governments have sold off NSW’s energy assets and infrastructure, leaving us at the mercy of the private sector for our energy needs. 

The result has been soaring energy bills, with more and more people being forced into energy poverty. It’s time to take the power back.

We will:

  • End coal and gas by 2030. The Greens will immediately stop all new coal and gas projects – including Santos’ Narrabri gas and Hunter gas pipeline projects – and phase out the use of coal and gas for energy by 2030.
  • Regulate power station pollution. In NSW, coal-fired power stations have been allowed to pollute at levels far exceeding that which they would be allowed in most other countries. We will require power station owners to invest in pollution-reduction technologies that are standard elsewhere in the world and to take responsibility for the waste those stations produce. We will also introduce a load-based licensing scheme that reflects the true cost of emissions on the environment and public health.
  • Nationalise existing fossil fuel power generation that can’t be brought up to new standards. If the private sector can’t comply with the new pollution standards, or pay the increased licensing fees, the Greens will act to ensure that coal-fired power stations are brought back into public ownership. We must end the days of big polluters getting off scot-free while harming our environment and public health. 
  • Take back ownership of the grid. The NSW Government has a 49.6% stake in Ausgrid, which operates the Sydney, Central Coast and Hunter Valley energy network. The Greens will ensure that the NSW Government takes a majority stake in Ausgrid and other network owners across the state, while ensuring new transmission infrastructure is majority publicly owned, to bring energy assets back under government control.
  • Establish PowerNSW. PowerNSW will offer electricity prices without the excess charges or inflated margins demanded by the major energy companies. PowerNSW will provide the cheapest and greenest electricity possible – 100 per cent reliable, renewable and affordable. By cutting out profit-making intermediaries, PowerNSW will help to slash electricity bills by hundreds of dollars each year.

Affordable renewable energy, for every household 

As we navigate a Just Transition for the energy generation industry, we must also ensure we are supporting a Just Transition for energy consumers as well. 

As household solar, batteries and other energy efficiency technologies continue to spread, we must ensure the benefits don’t exclude people already financially insecure. Currently, those with the most means are able to make the capital investment required to reduce their exposure to the energy market, or remove themselves entirely, which will provide long-term financial benefits. 

Failure to support financially insecure people, including people who own apartments rather than standalone homes, and renters, will risk further entrenching economic inequality, with less financially secure people stuck paying increasing electricity prices from power companies seeking to extract the final drops of profit from their ageing power generator assets, while the more financially comfortable are able to insulate themselves from the energy market, resulting in energy poverty layered on top of existing economic divisions.

Get off gas and electrify everything

Gas is a fossil fuel, and one of the leading causes of the climate crisis. Burning gas isn’t just contributing to the climate crisis, it’s also expensive, polluting and unhealthy. Research shows using gas in our homes causes up to 12% of childhood asthma. We need to get it out of our homes.

There are currently around 1.5 million homes in NSW using gas, or with a gas connection, and another 35,000 are being added every year.

Study after study, and common sense, have shown that the best way to reduce the climate impact of households is for them to go all electric. There are industrial sectors that, for the time being, will continue to use energy from burning fossil gas while new technologies and techniques are developed. But the technology is available to get fossil fuels out of our homes right now.

The Greens have a plan to get 1 million homes off gas over the next six years, with Get Off Gas rebates and zero-interest loans available to all households.

The wholesale price of gas has tripled in the last year. Making the switch from gas to electric will immediately benefit households by delivering cost of living relief from energy bills and price shocks. Households in Sydney that switch to fully electric can save up to $924 on their annual bills.

For households with solar panels on the roof, switching to electric heaters, cooking appliances and hot water systems could save a further $800 on bills every year.

We will:

  • Help households replace gas cooking and heating with electricity. Get Off Gas rebates of up to $3000 and zero-interest loans of up to $3000 to help households replace old and polluting gas heating and hot water appliances with energy-efficient appliances.
  • Ban new residential gas connections from 1 July 2024.
  • Require solar panels and efficiency upgrades on all social/community housing. Retrofit existing social housing stock to comply with the National Construction Code (NCC) and BASIX requirements for thermal comfort and energy efficiency.
  • Establish a solar panel grants and loans scheme. Maintain the rebate swap for solar offer, and provide zero-interest loans to install solar on properties below $1.5m.
  • Require solar panels on all new builds. The Greens will ensure that all new commercial residential and government buildings include solar panels.
  • Electrify everything, suburb by suburb. $50 million dollars to immediately fund electrification pilot programs, including $20 million dollars for ‘Electrify 2515’, with a plan to roll out full statewide electrification.

Energy efficiency measures to reduce power bills

Energy bills are just one of the many stressors households struggle with when they find themselves experiencing hardship. 

Investment in residential solar is an easy and obvious way to immediately lower energy bills and reduce household carbon emissions. However, this should not be taken in isolation - there are a range of other immediately actionable measures households can take to reduce their energy consumption and thereby lower power bills. Installation of efficient lighting and appliances and insulating buildings to improve thermal efficiency can also reduce household bills while improving health and comfort for residents. These immediate benefits complement the emissions reduction and job creation opportunities attributed to the installation of these efficiency upgrades.

By supporting households to reduce their need for energy, we can reduce the load on the network and reduce total energy demand, bringing down commercial energy prices.

Although there are many measures households can use to reduce energy consumption, they can be expensive and many people lack the up-front cash to pay for them. This means that those with less money are the ones most likely to end up in energy poverty. Government has a responsibility to step in to help.

We will:

  • Oblige landlords to install energy efficiency measures. By 1 July 2028, all rental properties must meet minimum energy efficiency standards (including adequate insulation, draught proofing, double glazing etc). Retrofitting to meet these standards will also be required before 1 July 2028 whenever a tenanted property is sold, a new tenancy agreement is signed or a major renovation over the value of $50,000 is undertaken.
  • Interest-free loans for landlords to comply with minimum energy efficiency standards. Loans would be offered, subject to eligibility criteria and ensuring that there is no financial impact on low-income tenants, to non-commercial landlords until 1 July 2025.
  • Interest-free loans for owner-occupiers of property to improve energy efficiency. Loans would be offered to owner-occupiers of properties with an improved land value of no more than $1.5m to, for example, install insulation or double-glazing.

References:

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