Access to energy is a fundamental right. Yet land critical to Australia’s aspirations for becoming a green energy superpower are among the worst served by today’s electricity retail regulations.
That's the finding from new research published in 'Nature' which shows around 5 million Australians (~20% of the population), including many First Nations and remote communities, are NOT guaranteed protections in rooftop solar connection, disconnection reporting, guaranteed service levels, life support, and clear and independent complaints processes.
Remote settlements are nearly 40% less likely (vs urban and regional) to have solar connection clarity, with First Nations settlements up to 50% less likely.
And many communities hosting new renewable energy developments, particularly First Nations communities, face procedural injustices in the form of limited access to decision-making procedures for developments on their lands.
There is an urgent need for regulatory frameworks to be developed that better support the rights of Australia’s First Peoples to have equitable access to energy and the systems that regulate and protect consumers, and for First Nations to participate in decision-making about present and future energy systems.
Prepayment metering, where customers pay for electricity before using it and are disconnected if the meter runs out of ‘credit’, is allowed in some parts of the country, yet is prohibited in Australia’s most populous states.
The research finds First Nations (prepay) customers in the Northern Territory are more likely to experience ‘self-disconnection’ during temperature extremes.
Reporting of self-disconnections should be mandatory in all jurisdictions, and a nationwide ban established on involuntary disconnections for prepayment metering, with extended consumer protections provided.
With First Nations and remote settlements more likely to lack protections, action is needed to support a just transition to avoid reproducing or exacerbating non-recognition in future energy systems.
For anybody thinking that getting rooftop solar and energy protections is a given in Australia, this new research report is a 'must read'.
Authors: Lee White, Brad Riley, Sally Wilson, Francis Markham, Lily O'Neill, Michael Klerck and Vanessa Napaltjari Davis from The Australian National University, Crawford School of Public Policy, Melbourne Climate Futures, and Tangentyere Council Aboriginal Corporation.
This research was first published in Nature.