CHAPTER 4: HOW TO GET OFF GAS
Energy efficiency rebates and financial supports
States and territories across Australia are rolling out programs to help households install solar power and make energy-saving upgrades. These rebates and assistance grants are intended to improve overall energy efficiency and environmental outcomes. Whether or not you qualify can depend on your location, income or assets. There are assistance schemes for both households and businesses across many states.
Rebates are payments that help consumers cover the cost of purchasing and installing new equipment. They can come in the form of a discount on the price of a good or service or a partial refund after you’ve paid. A subsidy is a direct or indirect payment that provides financial support. Any rebates and STCs (small-scale technology certificates) are usually arranged by the supplier so you don’t need to do any paperwork to receive the discount.
The Rebates and Assistance Directory can be found here.
Energy Bill Relief Fund
There is now a nationwide energy bill concession known as the Energy Bill Relief Fund, which has been allocated as part of the most recent Federal Budget. From July 1, 2023, this fund will be available to more than five million households that are considered the ‘most in need’. Eligible households for this fund have so far been outlined as:
- Commonwealth Seniors Health Card holders
- Families receiving income support, including the Family Tax Benefit A and B
Qualifying customers in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania are set to receive up to $500 towards electricity or gas bills. Households in Western Australia, the Northern Territory, and the Australian Capital Territory however, will only be eligible for rebates of up to $350.
These payments should be made directly to eligible customers electricity accounts. For further details it is best to visit your relevant state or territory government’s website.
No Interest Loans Scheme (NILS)
The No Interest Loans Scheme is open to residents of all states and offers individuals and families on low incomes access to safe, fair and affordable loans for purchasing appliances and some other essential household expenses. These can include:
- Fridges and freezers;
- Washing machines and dryers;
Victoria has a number of electricity and gas rebates in the form of concessions on your utility bill. Victorian rebates pay a percentage of your annual bill, but if your electricity use is over $3,000, you may need to apply for the Excess Electricity Concession to continue receiving a government discount. In Victoria the rebates are as follows:
- Annual Electricity Concession
- Controlled Load Electricity Concession
- Non-Mains Energy Concession
- Service to Property Charge Concession
- Medical Cooling Concession
- Life Support Concession
- Winter Gas Concession
The Victorian Energy Upgrades program (VEU) sees households and businesses receiving rebates or discounts on energy-saving products. Every upgrade allows businesses under the Accredited Providers program to generate Victorian Energy Efficiency Certificates (VEECs). Every Victorian household and business can take part in the program and access discounted energy-efficient products and services.
The program is currently expanding to include:
- Replacing gas appliances with efficient electric alternatives;
- Installing smart appliances;
- Receiving home energy rating systems.
Importantly, the VEU program has been updated to ensure that no subsidies are directed to installing new gas appliances.
As of June 2023, Solar Victoria offers the following rebates:
- Solar panel rebate: rebates of up to $1,400 plus interest-free loans for solar panels
- Hot water rebate: up to $1,000 for heat pump hot water systems
- Solar rebates for rental properties: rebates of up to $1,400 and advice on structuring agreements between landlords and renters
- Solar battery rebate: rebates to be replaced by no-interest loans for batteries from July 2023
The Solar Victoria Home Heating and Cooling Program previously provided rebates to replace gas heaters with efficient reverse cycle air conditioners, however this program has ceased.
On 24 March 2023, a new round of the Power Saving Bonus program commenced where Victorian households can receive a new $250 payment, including any households that received a payment through previous rounds of the program.
Only the account holder can apply, households must be residential energy consumers (i.e. have a residential electricity account) and only one payment is available per household.
The ACT also has plenty of electricity rebates and programs which are worth investigating for households struggling to pay their bills. Here are the concessions on offer in ACT:
- Utilities Concession;
- Home Energy Support Program;
- Heating and Cooling Upgrade;
- Sustainable Household Scheme;
- ACT Utilities Concession.
The Utilities Concession covers electricity, natural gas, water and sewerage for pensioner and low-income households in the ACT. It’s an annual concession to the amount of $750. A $50 one-off bonus payment is also available on this concession for the 2022/23 financial year.
The ACT also offers generous incentives through the Sustainable Household Scheme to upgrade to energy-efficiency electric hot water through retailer ACTewagl. Eligible customers can access the Energy-efficient electric water heater upgrade program which reduces the purchase price of a new hot water heat pump for ACT residents. Residents can upgrade to an energy-efficient electric water heater and get $500* off the purchase price. PLUS get $250* credit on your ActewAGL electricity bill. Residents can also access the heating and cooling upgrade rebate of $1000 to upgrade from gas heating to reverse-cycle air conditioning. ActewAGL also offers a total credit of $500 on eligible customers’ electricity bills over 3 years. To be eligible for this rebate, you must live in the ACT, have an electricity plan with ActewAGL, have ducted gas heating.
The ACT’s Sustainable Household Scheme will loan approved participants between $2,000 to $15,000 to buy energy-efficient products. These include:
- Rooftop solar panels
- Household battery storage systems
- Electric heating and cooling systems
- Hot water heat pumps (HWHP)
- Electric stove tops
- Electric vehicles (cars)
- Electric vehicle charging infrastructure;
- Ceiling insulation;
- Installation costs for these products.
Delivered by St Vincent de Paul Society, the ACT Government’s Home Energy Efficiency Program gives people in lower-income households practical ways to reduce their energy and water bills. This helps make their home more sustainable to cope with the effects of climate change. Energy efficiency assessors can visit participants’ homes to help them find ways to:
- Reduce their energy and water use;
- Save money;
- Improve the comfort of their home.
Participants can get an information kit with energy-saving tips and help with draught-proofing their homes. Residents can take part in the program if they meet the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS) income limits, or hold a Centrelink Pensioner Concession Card, Low Income Health Care Card, Veterans’ Affairs Pensioner Concession Card.
There is also a wood heater replacement incentive for ACT residents to replace wood heaters or open fireplaces with an energy-efficient reverse cycle air-conditioner.
The following rebates are available:
- Rebate 1: $250 for wood heater removal or decommission
- Rebate 2: $1250 for wood heater removal and installation of ducted electric reverse cycle system
- Rebate 3: $750 for wood heater removal and installation of electric reverse cycle split system (minimum 3 star energy rating)
- Rebate 4: $750 for wood heater removal and upgrade of electric reverse cycle system (minimum 3 star energy rating)
New South Wales has multiple energy rebates for residential customers:
- Low Income Household Rebate;
- Family Energy Rebate;
- Gas Rebate;
- Life Support Rebate;
- Medical Energy Rebate;
- Seniors Energy Rebate;
- Energy Accounts Payment Assistance Scheme.
New South Wales also allows eligible households to receive the equivalent of up to 10 years’ worth of rebates in an upfront lump sum towards a free solar system or home appliance upgrade.
The NSW Energy Savings Scheme provides financial incentives to install energy efficient equipment and appliances in NSW households and businesses. One third of NSW residents are currently receiving an energy rebate. Residents may be eligible to swap their rebate for a free solar system or energy efficient upgrades. The offer is currently available in selected locations in NSW. Delivery partners for the remaining regions of NSW are still being finalised.
NSW also offers a rebate swap for solar and energy efficiency upgrades for residents currently receiving an energy rebate who may be eligible to swap the rebate for a free 3-kilowatt solar system or energy efficient upgrades.
There are 3 offers available:
- For homeowners – rebate swap for solar;
- For households not suitable for solar – rebate swap for energy upgrades;
- For Land and Housing Corporation tenants – rebate swap for solar.
The NSW Energy Bill Relief Fund provides $500 total bill relief per eligible household.
Tasmania also has a few rebates to help cover electricity and gas costs for vulnerable households, particularly when it comes to heating expenses. These include:
- Annual Electricity Concession;
- Heating Allowance;
- Life Support Concession;
- Medical Heating or Cooling Concession.
The Energy Saver Loan Scheme in Tasmania provides no-interest loans to eligible applicants to fund the purchase price and installation of energy efficient products. Energy Saver Loans are interest-free, have no establishment fee, and no account-keeping fee and loans may be issued for amounts between $500 and $10,000.
Aurora Energy’s Your Energy Support program provides eligible Tasmanian residential customers, experiencing financial difficulties, with the tools to take control of energy usage and bills. The program provides simple energy saving tips, energy efficiency advice and free (mandatory) phone energy audits to help understand your energy consumption and ways to reduce your energy bills. It also includes tailored, flexible payment plans for immediate and longer-term relief.
South Australia offers a range of concessions for households struggling to pay their bills. Here are the concessions on offer in SA:
- Energy Bill Concession;
- Medical Heating and Cooling Concession;
- Cost of Living Concession;
- SA Energy Concession Discount Offer;
- Residential Park Resident Concession;
- Home Dialysis Electricity Concession.
The Retailer Energy Productivity Scheme (Reps) is a South Australian Government energy productivity scheme that provides incentives for households and businesses to save energy. The Minister determines the form of the REPS energy productivity activities, and the obliged retailers decide what activities and incentives they will offer to customers. This may include a discount on services, free products or products up to a certain value, a cash rebate, vouchers etc. Heating and cooling rebates and replacements are on offer, as is water heating but currently does not apply to induction or electric appliances.
The Northern Territory probably has the least amount of electricity concessions in the country. However, vulnerable customers up north do have the option of one of the following energy rebates:
- Electricity Concession;
- Medical Support Allowance.
Members of the Northern Territory (NT) Concession Scheme can receive a maximum concession of $1,200 per household per financial year. Households can reach the cap in a single bill if usage is extremely high, however for most people the concession is spread across multiple bills.
Home and Business Battery Scheme is applicable for Northern Territory homeowners, businesses or not-for-profit organisations who can apply for a grant through the Home and Business Battery Scheme to buy and install batteries and inverters.
Eligible homeowners and businesses can access a grant of $450 per kilowatt hour of useable battery system capacity, up to a maximum grant of $6,000. Homeowners that own a business can apply for both their home and business. You can’t use the funding to buy and install solar PV panels and inverters where they are not being installed simultaneously with a battery.
The state government provides several electricity and gas rebates to Queensland residential customers:
- Electricity and Natural Gas Rebate;
- Electricity Only Rebate;
- Emergency Life Support;
- Medical Rebate.
The Home Energy Emergency Assistance Scheme is for Queensland households experiencing problems paying their electricity or reticulated natural gas bills as a result of an unforeseen emergency or a short-term financial crisis. The scheme offers a one-off payment of up to $720 every 2 years.
The Ergon Energy PeakSmart air conditioning program provides eligible Queensland households and businesses connected to Ergon’s network with financial incentives of up to $400 for purchasing and installing a PeakSmart air conditioner or converting an existing air conditioner to PeakSmart. You can receive:
$400 for purchasing and installing a PeakSmart air conditioner with 10kW or more cooling capacity
$200 purchasing and installing a PeakSmart air conditioner with 4kW to less than10kW cooling capacity.
Under the Zero Emission Vehicle Rebate Scheme, $3,000 rebates are available to eligible Queensland individuals and businesses who have purchased a new zero emission vehicle (ZEV) with a dutiable value of up to $58,000 (including GST) on or after 16 March 2022. As at the introduction of the scheme, a ZEV refers to a full battery electric vehicle (BEV) only.
The scheme is limited to:
- 1 rebate per individual;
- Up to 5 rebates per Queensland business per financial year.
The Queensland government announced funding for home energy upgrades in the 2023/24 Budget. At the time of writing, further details about delivery or scope of support available are not available.
Western Australia offers a few rebates to help cover electricity and gas costs for vulnerable households. These include:
- Household Electricity Credit;
- Energy Concession; Extension Scheme;
- Energy Assistance Payment;
- Dependent Child Rebate;
- Air Conditioning Rebate.
To access the Household Electricity Credit, households that have their energy supplied by either Synergy or Horizon Power will not need to apply for the $400 power bill credit. This will be applied directly to their account by their electricity provider.
Western Australia also offers an air conditioning rebate that subsidises the cost of operating an air conditioner for eligible households in areas of high heat discomfort. The amount of the subsidy varies depending on where you live. Permanent residents of caravan parks can also apply for this rebate.
For each state check your eligibility and opportunities on the relevant state government website, or head to the Rebates and Assistance Directory at energy.gov.au.