ACT free energy advice program extended to renters

The ACT government will provide free energy advice assessment to renters for the first time, to support households cut their energy costs and mitigate potential bill-shock with more people working from home throughout the winter months.

The extension of the energy assessment program to renters was announced by ACT climate change and sustainability minister Shane Rattenbury, who said it was important that renters were supported to reduce the cost of keeping their homes comfortable, particularly when it is otherwise hard for renters to make substantial changes to their properties.

“It can be very hard for renters to make major energy-saving changes to their home. By expanding this program, we are able to provide renters with tailored information, such as draughtproofing and using heating and cooling appliances and materials efficiently,” Rattenbury said.

The initiative is an expansion of the ACT Home Energy Assessment Scheme, through which ACT residents can seek advice about lowering the cost of powering their homes and includes the option of having someone visiting the homes to provide personalised advice on where energy can be saved.

“An assessor will either come to your home or talk with you by phone to help find those little cheap and quick fixes you can do, and help show how you can reduce the amount of energy you use for heating, cooling, appliances, hot water, lighting and cooking,” Rattenbury added.

Home assessors will work in consultation with ACT health authorities and will follow relevant health guidelines to protect households from any potential spread of Covid-19 while conducting the energy assessments.

“The ACT government already has a number of different programs to help the community lower their energy bills while keeping their homes at comfortable temperatures all year round, including partnering with the St Vincent de Paul Society to assist low-income households, as well as offering free home energy assessments focused on changes that homeowners can make,” Rattenbury said.

“With more people working from home this year putting extra strain on household energy bills, I encourage renters as well as homeowners to take part in this program so you can maximise your energy efficiency and save money.”

Australian Energy Foundation, who will lead the delivery of the program, hopes that it will deliver savings for households through reductions in energy use, while also improving the liveability of their homes.

“The Australian Energy Foundation is delighted to be working with the ACT government to develop new tools and deliver more home energy assessments for rental homes in the ACT,” the CEO of the Australian Energy Foundation Alison Rowe said.

“We know this program will help renters to reduce their energy costs and keep their homes more comfortable all year round.”

The renters energy support initiative will be delivered by the Australian Energy Foundation with the support of Better Renting, which welcomed the chance to support renters, who can be stuck with poor quality housing.

“Renters across Australia occupy some of the worst properties out there. This is bad for their health, and it pushes up power bills and pollution. This is especially the case with so many people working from home during winter,” Better Renting executive director Joel Dignam said.

“It’s great to see the ACT Government acknowledging the need for more action in this space. While there isn’t much renters can do, a program like this can give renters more agency to do what they can. This voluntary program will also complement the ACT Government’s commitment to minimum energy performance standards for rental properties. Ultimately, we need to ensure that all rental properties are decent to live in.”

The ACT government’s support for renters follows an announcement from the Victorian government that it would start offering interest free loans to landlords to support the installation of rooftop solar on rental properties.

Rental properties have long been a significant gap in the market for rooftop solar and energy efficiency measures, due to the split incentives; landlords are often required to carry the cost of any measures taken, while the tenants are the primary beneficiaries. This has generally resulted in renters missing out on energy improvements altogether.

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