Massive confusion on energy woes

The results of the YourLifeChoices’ Friday Flash Poll: Solving Australia’s energy cost crisis reveals that we are no closer to providing a solution to our rapidly rising energy costs.

The survey, which had 855 responses, presented mixed results, with many Australians seemingly confused about the complexity and volatility of our current and future power crises. Of those who participated, 48 per cent are on a full or part Age Pension, while 32 per cent are fully self-funded and 85 per cent own their home.

Opinions from our members varied between total support of renewables as a reliable, cheap resource to full backing of coal-fired power and some saying nuclear could be the best option.

The hot topic when it comes to electricity supply begins at the source – coal- or gas-fired power stations or power supplied by renewable sources, such as solar, hydro or wind. From the survey, we found that our members are split between investing in coal-fired power stations, with 46 per cent saying yes, it is responsible, and 46 per cent saying it isn’t. However, 61 per cent say coal-fired power shouldn’t be funded by taxpayers.

On the flipside, 40 per cent say all new major energy investments should be in renewable sources, and 26 per cent say it should be split between coal and renewables.

“My view on coal is slightly different from most discussions I’ve seen. I think it’s madness for us to invest in new coal-fired stations here in Australia. However, I believe we should continue to supply coal to cover the existing demand both here and overseas until it can be phased out. The existing coal-fired stations all around the world will need to stay in operation until alternatives come online and as such, in the interim, we may as well benefit. There probably needs to be a timeline on this so that all industries affected can plan ahead for the transition from coal to renewables. Whether you believe in climate change or not, we should try to reduce our impact on the planet and stop spewing crap into the atmosphere if there are alternatives at similar or reduced prices. From what I read, the cost of power from solar and wind are now on par with coal,” wrote BDW.

It seems that cost is the prevailing factor when it comes to power – 48 per cent say they would sacrifice emissions targets for cheaper power, 42 per cent say they wouldn’t, and nine per cent are unsure.

Fifty per cent of respondents have solar panels, while six per cent don’t yet but intend to in the future. Maybe more would install solar if it was more affordable, as 14 per cent say it’s too expensive. However, 11 per cent say they don’t believe they will benefit and nine per cent say solar is not appropriate for their home.

As far as solar savings go, 17 per cent say they will save up to $500 a year on their power bills, 18 per cent would save between $501 and $1000, 16 per cent would save between $1001 and $2000 and four per cent would save $2000 or more.

Nine per cent say their payoff time would be within three years, 11 per cent three to five years, 14 per cent five to seven years, five per cent seven to eight years, three per cent eight to nine years and five per cent 10 years.

Only four per cent have their solar backed up by a battery. Thirty per cent won’t buy a battery when it becomes cheaper, 20 per cent would and 17 per cent are unsure.

Now, here’s where the confusion really begins.

When asked if you’re paying too much for power, 78 per cent said yes, but 41 per cent say they are happy with their current provider. Thirty per cent have never switched power companies and 21 per cent haven’t done so for five years or more. Still, 20 per cent have done so in the last 12 months, 15 per cent in the past two years and 13 per cent within the last five years. Many respondents were from WA where there is only one energy provider.

Maybe comparison sites could be a little easier to navigate, with 22 per cent saying they are too difficult to understand.

While 30 per cent say their energy bills are too difficult to understand, 65 per cent say they understand them just fine, and five per cent don’t care.

Our members provided more interesting opinions and suggestions for fixing our power crisis.

“Rooftop solar for houses works. For those that have it. Saves heaps. But the subsidies cost the non-solar people heaps too. So, the reality is, the non-solars pay for those smart enough to install it,” wrote Bruce.

“I was lucky to install a solar panel system when the government paid subsidies to encourage people to adopt them. I paid for the system in three years and have enjoyed free electricity since. Mind you, I am very frugal with energy using energy efficient methods.” ~ PerthSV

Some say the power to reduce our energy bills is in our hands.

“We need to just use less power – less air conditioning, less TV, fewer appliances, better designed and insulated houses. The power wasted in commercial buildings like your average shopping mall is so much higher than it needs to be due to bad design of the buildings – no natural light or ventilation,” write Pratski.

Maybe modern construction of home is just as responsible for high power prices and climate change.

“My house was built in 1958 facing north and with wide eaves that perform beautifully in winter allowing in the sun and in summer blocking the hot sun. Also have ceiling insulation and a brick veneer house. Altogether a more climate comfortable home than my neighbours,” wrote shirboy.

Pro-nuclear members also made some interesting points.

“In the Australian context, it would be impossible to take the energy needs of the country completely over to renewables. No existing renewable methods can give the year-round continuity of quality power provision. The long-term future power generation should be worked on nuclear as it is the proven safe and clean method. It is expensive because of ingrained opposition created decades ago in a political bid to prevent access to cheap power. The opposition has resulted from concerted demonization of nuclear power that has been shown to be unrealistic. The sooner the public discussions by all parties start to include nuclear the sooner Australians can be sure of affordable safe continuous power,” wrote couldabeen.

“Why don’t we invest in nuclear power? We have the resources and the expertise but not the courage. We must be the only developed country without any nuclear power generator in the country. About time we moved forward out of the dark age. Let our government focus on lower petrol pricing,” commented 4b2.

It seems the debate will rage on until someone can make sense of the situation we are in and the related issues regarding cost and effect on climate that we will face in the future.

Do you agree with these comments? Are you mostly confused by the state of our energy supply and cost? What is your suggestion to solve our power crisis?

Related articles:
Power bill shock rocks Australia
Why your power bill will stay high
How much will you pay for power?

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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