Solar energy could save Aussies thousands - but some WA families are missing out

By Kelly Emmerton ·

Rooftop solar systems are set to save Aussies $1.6 billion on their power bills over the next decade - which is great news for those families who can afford them.

The Renewable Energy Index Report, released today by Green Energy Markets, has revealed that renewable energy is a growing force in Australia, generating 17.2% of all electricity in the country between June 2016 and June this year.

That’s enough renewable energy to power 70% of all Aussie households - or 7.1 million homes - and the benefits are being felt in particular by households who have installed solar panels.

Almost 150,000 small-scale rooftop solar systems were installed in the year, generating enough power for 226,000 homes. Combined, these solar set ups are expected to save their owners $1.6 billion on their power bills over the next ten years, which comes to around $10,000 in savings per household.

But a report from Curtin University has revealed that in Western Australia, many low-income families are missing out on these savings, because they can’t afford to install solar panels in the first place.

The report showed that the mining-reliant state has been slow to adopt renewable energy overall, with just 2.1% of WA’s total energy consumption sourced from renewables. And while around 25% of suitable Western Australian homes have rooftop solar installed, in low socio-economic areas, this number plummets to just 7.4% of homes.

“While roof-top solar power is a solution for many households seeking to deal with rising electricity costs, low-income households are only one quarter as likely to have rooftop solar as those with median wealth,” said report author Professor Alan Duncan.

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Duncan went on to say that Western Australian households were spending an average of $1,791 on energy each year, the fifth highest spend nationally. For low income families this could amount to 10% of household spending, in comparison to middle income and high income households, which spend around 3% and 2% of their household budget on energy respectively.

The report states that middle income households “are voting with their feet (or wallets) and adopting roof-top Solar PV at a dramatic rate in response to rising energy costs,” but low income families are not only missing out on the savings on offer, but also potentially seeing rising energy costs impact other areas of their budget.

“There is some evidence to support the claim that high energy costs lead to compromises in other life aspects. While average household energy costs have increased since 2010-11, spending on health and groceries have both reduced in this same period,” Duncan said.

Luckily for those households struggling to save up the funds to install solar panels, there’s another simple way to save over $1,000 each year on energy bills - by switching to a cheaper plan.

Mozo research found that while more people would choose to cut back on power usage in an effort to save money, finding a better value plan offered far greater savings. So if you’re feeling the squeeze of high energy bills, head over to our energy comparison tool to find the best plans in your area.

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