Michelle Lensink

Statutes Amendment (Energy Efficiency Shortfalls) Bill

This speech is to indicate support for the Statutes Amendment (Energy Efficiency Shortfalls) Bill, which enacts through the statutes what has been operating in regulation in line with a policy of this government, as well as operating through the particular licensing conditions for electricity and gas retailers.

Adjourned debate on second reading.

(Continued from 24 March 2009. Page 1663.)

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (16:28): I rise to indicate support for this bill, which enacts through the statutes what has been operating in regulation in line with a policy of this government, as well as operating through the particular licensing conditions for electricity and gas retailers. The stated purpose of the bill is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, particularly through households, by assisting them to achieve some energy efficiencies.

These have been listed as incentives and special offers, which may include any one or more of the following: installation of energy-saving light globes; low-flow showerheads; persuading people that they do not need a second refrigerator or freezer; the installation of energy-efficient hot water systems; ceiling installation; draught proofing; and the installation of energy-efficient heating and cooling systems.

There is also a provision for energy audits to be conducted in what are called 'priority households'. I think it is fair to say that those priority households are lower-income households comprising pensioners and those who hold concession cards—and the target is for 35 per cent falling within those criteria. I find this scheme somewhat amusing, and over time it will be interesting to see how it travels.

It is my firm belief that people in that position (that is, self-funded retirees, pensioners and those on low incomes) would already be doing everything they can to reduce their power bills, for obvious reasons. It depends on what is the primary aim of this bill: whether it is to reduce power bills or to reduce greenhouse gases. If it is the latter, the target ought to be applied more towards larger families. I read with some amusement some of the contributions made in the House of Assembly, particularly from those people who have teenage children, who need to be persuaded of the merit of turning off lights, appliances and so forth, and I think we would all be familiar with that. I have had that experience myself with my nieces, who are in the 'tweeny' category, coming into their teenage years. They are quite oblivious of the need to turn off lights. So, when they come to stay, my power bill goes through the roof. However, I digress.

The greenhouse gas savings made by retailers will be measured in tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. The scheme is due to expire in 2014, with the targets being reviewed every three years. The government believes that, over the next six years, some 2,000 households will be targeted by retailers to benefit from that scheme. I have mentioned one of the concerns, that is, whether the principal aim is to reduce greenhouse gases or to assist those on low incomes. One of the other concerns we have is that the fines that will be applied to retailers will be directed to the Consolidated Account rather than into a specific fund which would be applied to encouraging new technologies and that sort of innovation. Our energy spokesperson (the member for MacKillop) had amendments drafted to this effect, but he did not move them because I think he was awaiting advice about whether or not that changed it into a money bill.

However, the Liberal Party is broadly supportive of that going to some sort of hypothecated fund, so that it does not just get soaked up into some account by the government—a 'hollow log', so to speak. We will be supporting the Hon. Ann Bressington's amendments, which are similar to the amendments we had envisaged. I note that those amendments will direct the funds towards assisting people who may have failed to benefit from activities, which is a laudable aim, and to support other programs or activities to promote or support energy efficiency or renewable energy initiatives within South Australian households.

So, I commend those particular amendments. On the point of whether the ultimate aim is to reduce greenhouse gases or to assist people on low incomes, I also note that the debate advanced by the member for MacKillop that the Victorian government, I think it was, had received some advice that these sorts of measures which are targeted at households, which, relatively speaking in volume terms, are smaller emitters, would, in fact, let industries off the hook, and that is of concern.

I see that the current edition (April/May 2009) of the COTA regular magazine, entitled myCOTA, has advised its members that it believes that it will be some months before energy providers work out their various schemes. COTA believes that participating householders can save around $80 a year on their power bills and, in some cases, a great deal more, which I think would be welcome news for many people on fixed incomes. With those comments, I endorse the bill.

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