Solar-backed electrification of city tipped to save $3.9 billion


Independent thinktank Rewiring Australia has released modelling which shows the solar-backed electrification of homes and vehicles in the Queensland capital of Brisbane using technology that is almost entirely off-the-shelf and available today would save the average household $4,700 a year in energy bills and vehicle costs.

Rewiring Australia, the work of Australian-American entrepreneur, scientist and energy analyst Dr Saul Griffith, has released modelling that outlines how households and communities can financially benefit from replacing fossil-fuelled devices with solar panels, batteries, heat pumps, induction stoves, electric vehicles (EVs) and household and community batteries.

The modelling, set to be publicly released by Griffith during an online webinar tonight, shows the full electrification of households across greater Brisbane by 2030 would save the average household $4,700 per year in energy and vehicle costs, totalling $3.9 billion across all households.

Rewiring Australia said in addition to the cost savings, the economic flow-on effects across the region could spark the indirect creation of up to 24,100 new jobs with an estimated $200 million to be spent upgrading homes, installing zero emission appliances, solar and EV chargers.

While acknowledging the inevitable upfront costs, Rewiring Australia founder and chief scientist Griffith said households making the jump to solar, storage and EVs would provide a massive economic boost to greater Brisbane.

“Our research shows that Australia can lead the world by electrifying our homes and vehicles and powering them with renewable energy,” he said.

“If we make the necessary investment to seize the future it will look like more jobs for tradies, more money spent in local shops, cleaner air and healthier people.

“At the moment, $3.3 billion is being drained from the greater Brisbane economy and winding up in the pocket of those who peddle fossil fuels. If we electrify and decarbonise we keep that money in the local community and make the world cleaner and safer.”

Rewiring Australia said the first step in the electrification process would be to install solar, or “supersize the existing system” while it is “vital to have a smart inverter and upgrade the switchboard to manage how the house exports and imports to the grid”.

Replacing traditional vehicles with EVs shapes as the biggest cost for households.

Image: ARENA

The organisation said the biggest financial outlay would be to replace petrol and diesel cars with EVs and use the batteries as part of the household energy system. Gas-fuelled devices would also be replaced. Rewiring Australia said this would deliver immediate savings.

“An electric car costs about 6 cents per kilometre to drive if charged from the grid, compared to a petrol car which costs about 12 cents per km (when petrol is at $1.43/L). Charging an electric car with rooftop solar reduces this even further, to about 1 cent a km, over 10 times less than a petrol car,” the organisation said.

“Heating the water for a shower with a gas-fuelled water heater costs about 89 cents with standard gas prices (2019). An electric heat pump water heater costs just 21 cents to provide the same hot shower using grid electricity. Using rooftop solar, that shower costs just 5 cents, over 10 times less than a gas shower.”

Rewiring Australia said the savings modelled for electrification take into account the upfront costs of purchase and assume that they are financed over the lifetime of the asset.

Griffith said the benefits of the electrification process are amplified when entire suburbs, communities and regions electrify their homes.

“When entire communities and cities upgrade and electrify, the benefits will be amplified and shared,” he said. “Less money will be sent out of the community and offshore from Australia. Billions of dollars can be retained in local communities and thousands of additional local jobs generated.”

Griffith said the technology to decarbonise and electrify households exists today and “the more that consumers buy electric vehicles, solar, batteries and electric appliances, the cheaper and better they get”.

Rewiring Australia founder Dr Saul Griffith.

Image: Solar Schools

Rewiring Australia said the initial modelling is based on the potential uptake across the southeast Queensland federal electorates of Brisbane, Longman, and Griffith, but the program is also planning to analyse other seats across the country.

The release of the modelling comes after The Greens proposed the electrification an entire Australian town and a suburb in a major city of the party’s climate and energy policy in the lead up to the federal election later this month.

Party leader Adam Bandt said the pilot project, to be enabled by a $235 million fund, would seek to show that by 2025 it will be cost effective for households to be completely electric, largely powered by rooftop and community solar and batteries.

“This hasn’t been achieved anywhere in the world,” he said. “It’s time to get off the gas, get batteries in our homes, and solar on the roof. We will show this works at scale, creating jobs and powering up a community.”

A study released last year by Rewiring Australia found a $12 billion investment would retrofit 11 million Australian households for full electrification by 2030 leading to national savings of more than $40 billion and removing one-third of domestic carbon emissions.

Griifith said the full electrification of Brisbane households would reduce the region’s emissions by 42.4%.

“Electrification attacks the three huge national problems – climate heating, cost of living and national security,” he said.

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