FAMILIES who earn the least are spending more of their household expenditure on energy than the average household, a new Curtin Economics Centre report on the state’s energy sector shows.
Report author Professor Alan Duncan said the report revealed the extent of energy poverty in WA.
“WA households are now spending an average of $1791 on energy each year, which can account for more than 10 per cent of household spending for low income families,” Prof Duncan said.
This compared with 3 per cent of expenditure for typical families on middle incomes and below 2 per cent for those families with incomes in the top quarter of income distribution, he said.
While roof-top solar power is a solution for many households seeking to deal with rising electricity costs, Prof Duncan said low-income households were only one quarter as likely to have roof-top solar as those with median wealth.
“There is some evidence to support the claim that high energy costs lead to compromises in other life aspects,” he said.
“While average household energy costs have increased since 2010-11, spending on health and groceries have both reduced in this same period.”
The report, entitled Power to the People: WA’s Energy Future, also found WA has been slow to adopt large-scale renewable energy technologies, with the majority of renewable energy generated by roof-top solar installed on homes.
Canning Vale ranked third in the state’s top solar postcodes with 6659 installations, with Mandurah at the top with 10,566 installations.
“While renewables only account for 7.1 per cent of WA’s total electricity consumption, total current capacity from roof-top solar as a combined power source is around 730MW,” Prof Duncan said.
“That capacity is expected to reach a potential of 2000MW by 2022, making it the second largest combined power source in the state, after Muja Power Station.”
He said there was a need to revisit incentives for new solar installations, with landlords having little financial motivation to install solar on rental accommodation, and homeowners deterred by the initial upfront costs involved.
Prof Duncan said WA’s regulatory framework needed to be future-proofed, flexible and adaptable to different energy futures.
“Whatever direction is taken, consumer protection must remain critical as energy markets evolve, no matter how large distributed energy generation grows in the future,” he said.
– Increases in energy expenditure for single parent households in WA is up 39 per cent in real terms over ten years, and 10 per cent over the past two years.
– About a quarter of single parents commit at least 10.2 per cent of their income towards energy costs, and one in 10 spends at least 15.1 per cent.
– Total energy consumption in WA has almost doubled in the past 25 years.
– One in four suitable WA dwellings have roof-top solar, however only 7.4 per cent of suitable dwellings in the lowest socio-economic areas have solar PV installations.
– Electricity prices in Perth almost doubled between 2008 and 2014.
– On a per capita basis, WA’s energy consumption is 1.8 times the national average.
– Perth utility prices have remained consistently below those in all other states and territories since the start of the millennium.
– WA’s fixed supply charge tariff nearly doubled in July 2017, from 48.60c to 94.91c per day, up 95 per cent on 2016’s supply tariff.
Top solar postcodes
(Total number of installations as at 2017)
- Mandurah, 10, 566
- Wanneroo, 7671
- Canning Vale, 6659
- Jandakot, 6334
- Armadale, 6222
- Bibra Lake, 4989
- Safety Bay, 4764
- Ellenbrook, 4665
- Gosnells, 4526
- Mindarie, 4413