A national forum taking place in Wollongong will aim to generate a better understanding of the energy-related challenges faced by low income households.
The forum, ‘Low carbon homes for low income households’ is on at the University of Wollongong on Wednesday.
It will be hosted by the CRC for Low Carbon Living (CRCLCL).
Kellie Caught, senior advisor at the Australian Council of Social Service, and Jonathan Leake from Sustainability Victoria will deliver keynote addresses.
A key theme will be determining ways of delivering housing that is both affordable and energy efficient to help low income households lower their energy bills without making them vulnerable to adverse health impacts.
UOW’s Sustainable Buildings Research Centre, a CRCLCL research partner, has found that with the rise in national energy prices, low income and vulnerable residents often report having to choose between paying for fuel and purchasing essential items like food or medication.
However, the SBRC says the potential health benefits of energy efficiency interventions for low income households is not well understood.
SBRC director, Professor Paul Cooper said vulnerable groups, such as the sick, elderly and unemployed are more likely to live in poor quality housing, spend a greater amount of time at home and be exposed to poor quality indoor environments.
“For many older, low income people, energy use is often seen through the lens of thrift; they don’t want to be seen as frivolous or wasteful,” Professor Cooper said.
“This frugal use of energy in low income homes can be problematic because it is often achieved at the expense of essential items and services, and is likely to have adverse impacts on householders’ health and well-being.
“Vulnerable occupants also frequently report having strong feelings of anxiety, guilt and fear in respect of their forthcoming energy bills. Provision of affordable and sustainable energy for all households should be our ultimate long-term goal.”
An ongoing CRCLCL project led by SBRC aims to demonstrate how social housing providers can cost-effectively upgrade their housing stock to improve energy efficiency and thermal comfort.