Monday, 11 September 2023
Greenhouse and Energy Minimum Standards Amendment (Administrative Changes) Bill 2023; Second Reading
The people of North Sydney elected me because they wanted faster action on climate change and, in this context, I welcome the opportunity to speak to the Greenhouse and Energy Minimum Standards Amendment (Administrative Changes) Bill 2023. For the truth is one of the most important things my community is doing as it takes responsibility for getting itself as close as possible to net zero as quickly as possible is getting all of our electricity from renewable generation and then electrifying everything we can.
In this context I welcome the Greenhouse and Energy Minimum Standards Act, otherwise known as the GEMS Act, which permits the Australian government to set mandatory minimum efficiency requirements for electrical products, further helping to drive greater energy efficiency and excluding the poorest performing products from our market. But while it is a good start, it leaves a long way to go. All the technologies for electrification are commercially available at scale and electrified replacements for gas appliances, including induction cooking, reverse-cycle air conditioning and heat pump hot-water systems are orders of magnitude more efficient than gas and carry additional benefits, chief of which is improved indoor air quality.
Research shows that children living in homes with gas stoves have a 42 per cent increased risk of asthma—that's the equivalent of living with an indoor smoker—but I'm concerned we're not hearing that message. Instead, we're getting bombarded with ads from the gas industry in New South Wales, including offering cash incentives for people who switch from electric to gas appliances. With millions of gas-connected buildings and more climate change fuel disasters reported every day there is no point in prolonging our dependence on this or any other fossil fuel.
The proposed amendments improve the flexibility of the scheme's administration as well as easing the compliance burden on industry. This bill actually implements two of the 40 recommendations from the 2019 independent review of the Greenhouse and Energy Minimum Standards Act conducted by Anna Collyer. I must highlight, however, that two of 40 recommendations in the period of four years is not nearly enough. In the words of the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, 'The era of global warming has ended, and the era of global boiling has arrived.'
Leaders must lead. There is simply no more time to delay. That's why I'd like to see more from the GEMS program. I'd like to see more funding so the regulator can do more work. For example, currently there are no efficiency standards for cooktops. There are no efficiency standards for heat pump hot-water systems. These are on the GEMS priority list but, with the new standards taking two to three years to develop, the standards have fallen behind the technology, so consumers are missing out. I acknowledge the government in its recent budget provided $36.7 million over four years to deliver further initiatives, but this pales into insignificance against the $65 billion invested in fossil fuel subsidies. Models run by Rewiring Australia show an overall investment by the government of around $12 billion over the 2020s would finance electrification of all suitable households with electric devices and electric vehicles. Importantly, this investment would also generate cheaper energy bills in the order of $3,000 to $5,000 per household per year in 2030.
Spending should be directed through a variety of measures, including grants to low-income households for energy-efficient upgrades and renewable installation. Ultimately if we don't step up our investment in electrification, we will find ourselves the losers in a rapidly accelerating global race for the labour, material and money needed to decarbonise. To make the work of the GEMS regulator more efficient, I'd also like to see more use of international efficiency standards where it makes sense. Reinventing the wheel with local efficiency standards each time in the case where we can borrow from overseas makes no sense. I'd also like to see more focus on reducing greenhouse emissions. With our grid 35 per cent renewable in 2022, it's great to see emissions from electricity dropping rapidly. Emissions from gas, on the other hand, though, are a different story. Consumers can't compare apples with apples, as it currently exists, on efficiency in emissions performance when the stars they see on gas appliances—