As the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) considers energy market reform and grapples with housing affordability, a new Queensland Council of Social Service (QCOSS) report seeks to highlight the considerable barriers for renters seeking to reduce energy costs and usage.
The ‘Choice and Control?’ report finds the combination of climbing energy costs and rapidly changing technology is putting renters at an increasing disadvantage.
“As energy prices go up, many households are embracing new technologies and products to control their energy costs, but this is often not an option for renters,” QCOSS CEO Mark Henley said.
“This is especially prevalent for things like installing solar panels or wiring a home so appliances can be controlled remotely to take advantage of off-peak periods.
“The evolution of the energy market has created the risk of a growing divide in our communities – between those who can take advantage of opportunities to reduce their energy costs and those who cannot.”
This is due to rental properties being less likely to have insulation, solar panels, or other energy efficient products, and having a higher prevalence of major structural problems.
Security of tenure is prohibitive to the installation of emerging energy-saving technologies, as there are split incentives between landlords and renters for electrical work or changes to the property.
This is a major issue, not only for addressing poverty and disadvantage, but also in addressing the impacts of energy usage on the environment.
This is becoming a critical issue due to changes in the housing market as more people are renting than ever before, renting is becoming a longer-term option and the nature of renters is changing – from young, single people to families and older people.
35.6 per cent of Queensland households rent their home, significantly more than the national average of 31 per cent, making this a very pertinent issue for the state.
Renters are also unable to make informed choices about their energy supply use, as they receive little information about the energy efficiency of rental properties, and are more likely to encounter non-standard supply arrangements.
“Given these issues, and the direction of energy market reform towards greater consumer choice and control, there is an urgent need to consider the experience of renters as a distinct consumer cohort,” Mr Henley said.
“For renters, issues related to housing tenure, energy costs, tenancy protections, energy consumer protections and access to energy products and services are inextricably linked.
“The complex web of housing and energy legislation at both state and national levels makes it challenging to identify key lines of accountability and policy responsibility which results in these problems not being addressed.”
QCOSS has made a number of recommendations, including implementing a disclosure scheme that enables renters to compare the energy performance rating of different rental properties and introducing minimum energy standards for existing social and private rental housing.