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Private Members Statement - Energy Efficiency

Today my private member's statement builds on my advocacy to ensure that the New South Wales Government supports consumers on their journey to reduce their carbon emissions. In response to my question last month, Minister Dib informed the House that the Minns Labor Government's consumer energy road map will be launched in the new year. As we await the road map, I say that to date I do not believe successive State governments have sufficiently leaned into the task of supporting households to decarbonise.

The previous Coalition Government established the Empowering Homes Program, a pilot in three regions across New South Wales whereby households could access interest‑free loans for battery and solar with battery installations. Investigations into this pilot program found there was no competitive tender for the implementation partner, the end‑to‑end program design was clunky at best and consumers were not sufficiently supported through the program. It sounds like Utopia. Sadly, only $7 million of interest‑free loans were written.

When I was Mayor of Northern Beaches Council, we set ambitious targets of 50 per cent of suitable premises to have solar by 2030. Despite the fast payback of solar, time and again people told me they can't afford the up-front cost. I understand consumer energy rebates were an election promise by the Minns Labor Government, but such payments are a one-off—a sugar hit with no ongoing benefit, no multiplier effect and no reduction in emissions. I hope the Government does not throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak, and its consumer energy road map offers households interest‑free loans to fund energy-efficient upgrades. These types of schemes have proven most effective in other jurisdictions.

Recently in Canberra I met with the architects of the ACT's successful Sustainable Household Scheme. In under three years, one in 10 Canberra households have taken out an interest‑free loan of up to $15,000 to fund energy-efficient upgrades around their homes, making it the Territory's most successful consumer policy to date. They are going to continue to roll this out. If you are eligible, the scheme provides a loan from $2,000 up to $15,000 to buy and install a range of energy-efficient products such as rooftop solar panels, household battery storage systems, electric heating and cooling systems, hot water heat pumps, electric stovetops, electric vehicle charging infrastructure and ceiling insulation.

Over the life of the scheme you can install one product or a bundle of products up to a combined value of $15,000. Participants attend a free online or in‑person workshop to assist with their energy efficiency choices. Pleasingly, the loan book's default costs are negligible. It is important to offer a range of energy-efficient upgrades to consumers, as options such as solar are not straightforward for those in apartments. Instead, apartment owners can participate by installing an induction cooktop, electric heating or cooling, an electric vehicle charger or maybe a hot water heat pump.

We often pat ourselves on the back and say Australia has the highest per capita uptake of solar in the world, at 33 per cent. But what about those without solar, this miraculous technology that generates free electricity? I estimate well over one million houses in New South Wales are suitable for solar, but the prime real estate of many rooftops lies bare. That is over three Eraring Power Stations' worth of capacity already connected to the grid. Offering interest‑free loans for energy-efficient upgrades provides households with significant and ongoing cost‑of‑living relief and significant and ongoing emissions reduction.

It can help many people escape the scourge of energy poverty. Demographic profiling of the ACT's scheme found loan demand to be greatest amongst those most in need. Consumer sentiment in Australia is at an all‑time low. With the housing crisis, climate change and global tensions, many are plain losing hope. People are asking, "What is it all about? Why am I busting a gut but going backwards? What future will my children and grandchildren have?" We must think big and be ambitious in our policies. We must give people hope that politicians can come together and solve these difficult problems.

I commend the Minns Government for the gusto with which it is seeking to address the housing crisis, but it is lamentable that the housing crisis had to become this extreme before smart solutions at scale were put on the table. The housing crisis was a slow‑moving train wreck many saw coming, but no action at scale was taken to get ahead of it. I say the same about the climate crisis. We know what is ahead of all of us. The time to take action at scale is now. I thank the House.

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