How low income households use electricity

by Hugh Saddler

The cost to households of the electricity they use has been a sensitive political issue in Australia for at least the past six or seven years, and seems certain to remain so. That was certainly the case in 2010-11 when the then Labor government was negotiating passage of its package of carbon pricing/emissions trading legislation, which subsequently came into force on 1 July 2012. The government provided additional funds to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) to undertake a national survey of household income, housing and energy use (ABS 2013a, 2013b).

This survey was the first, and remains the only, large scale, national survey of households to make a simultaneous collection of information from households about their disposable income, housing circumstances, household composition, energy consumption, energy expenditure, and energy using characteristics. As such it is potentially a very valuable resource for understanding the relationship between household income, energy use, and energy expenditure, and for assessing, at least in qualitative terms, the vulnerability of low income households to further electricity price increases.

This report presents the results of an analysis of the confidentialised unit record file (CURF) data from the survey. The emphasis of the analysis, and of the discussion of results, is on lower income households.

Full report