Energy company AusNet is undertaking a $1.5 million trial in Gippsland in Victoria to see how vulnerable households could benefit from solar-backed electrification.
AusNet has worked with local councils to identify 60 customers in the coal town of Morwell and the surrounding suburbs to have their appliances changed from gas to electric by the end of 2024.
Solar will also be installed on most of their homes.
“We are undertaking this trial to understand opportunities and challenges of electrification for our vulnerable households,” says AusNet executive general manager of network management and digital, Steven Neave.
“We’ll be collecting and testing data to better understand both customer and network impacts of the switch.”
This could save the residents $1,250 a year, according to Victorian government modelling.
The $1.5 million will support the whole project, including analytics, engagement and research. A spokesperson for AusNet told One Step Off The Grid that the cost of electrification per household was not known at this stage, but it was expected to vary substantially per household.
“We will share the learning from this project with industry and use the information to forecast and model our network more accurately in the future,” the spokesperson told One Step Off The Grid.
“This is a complex project and an industry first. We look forward to working with a wide range of stakeholders and exploring partnerships on this Electri-fair-cation initiative.”
With many people changing over their systems from gas to electric for good, fewer people are using gas, which is a problem for the gas companies. This exodus from gas to electric has been dubbed the ‘death spiral’, as households that are left on gas start to foot the rising bill.
Unfortunately, because of the upfront costs of changing to an electric system (including a substantial fee to disconnect the gas grid) many of those households end up being low-income, requiring them to pay more and more for gas and producing a more inequitable system.
Some groups have started to address this. The Victorian government has just opened $10 million dollars’ worth of residential electrification grants to groups like builders and property developers who can provide installations to more than 50 new or existing homes.
However, renters and other people on low incomes are still at risk of being left behind.
Yesterday, a group of 10 independents headed up by the member for Wentworth, Allegra Spender, wrote a letter to the federal energy minister and federal treasurer, saying that transitioning households away from gas and towards efficient electrical appliances is “a cost-of-living imperative.”