Greens climate change and energy spokesperson Adam Bandt MP today launched the Greens’ six point plan to help small businesses reduce power bills, improve their energy efficiency and switch over to clean energy. Mr Bandt delivered a presentation announcing the policies at a Council of Small Business Organisations Australia roundtable in Melbourne.
In addition to offering financial assistance to small business, The Greens plan includes re-regulating electricity prices and establishing a new public retailer - Power Australia - which will sell cheap electricity to small business and drive down retail prices.
The Greens also recognise that the high cost of gas is a huge challenge facing small business. This is a consequence of the Rudd Labor government’s decision to open up two new giant LNG export terminals in Queensland, which are depleting domestic supplies and pegging gas to the export price.
Gas has been touted as an essential part of the energy mix moving forward, but gas is not a transition fuel, it’s a fossil fuel. With cheap, clean electricity there would be no need for households and most businesses to use gas for cooking or heating.
A report by Climate Works into Gas-Electricity Substitution Projections to 2050 identified upfront capital costs and concern about short term cash flows as barriers for businesses switching over. Additionally, every time a business purchases a new gas appliance, the lifespan for that appliance could be 10 years, or more. Providing the upfront economic incentive to switch will be required to overcome this barrier.
The Greens’ range of measures are not only designed to help businesses save energy but also to electrify, switching away from expensive dirty gas towards renewable energy, as well as encouraging investment and research into replacing gas with alternatives.
Small Business Energy Plan:
1. The Greens will establish a public owned not-for-profit energy retailer - Power Australia -that will purchase cheap renewable energy and offer low-cost electricity plans to small businesses as well as re-regulating electricity prices.
2. The Greens will establish a ‘Small Business Clean Energy Fund’ with an initial funding injection of $200 million over the next 4 years. SMEs will be eligible to apply for grants of up to $10,000 to cover the cost of investment in assets or capital works that will reduce fossil fuel use, improve energy efficiency or switch from gas to clean energy. This fund will operate in conjunction with the instant asset tax write off, as businesses who receive the instant asset write off for assets will also be able to receive money from the Clean Energy Small Business Fund.
3. Re-establish the Clean Technology Program, scrapped by Tony Abbott, with a $200 million investment to support the innovation of products, processes and services by business and industry. The fund had distributed around $50 million before it was scrapped by the government.
4. The Greens will invest $100 million from ARENA to support specific research, development and commercialisation into industrial substitution and electrification programs in the chemical and other manufacturing and fabrication industries.
5. Small businesses will also have access to loans of up to $15,000 to assist with the installation of battery storage. These loans will be repayable over a 10 year period supported by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.
6. To complement the above initiatives, the Greens will also establish Clean Energy Solution Centres to support business to implement audits and develop energy efficiency plans.
Quotes attributable to Adam Bandt MP, Greens climate change and energy spokesperson:
“Small business is bearing the brunt of the old parties’ addiction to gas and coal.
“The government loves to talk up its small business credentials, but businesses are talking about closing because Angus Taylor doesn’t have the guts to get energy prices under control.
“The Greens will stand up to the big power corporations on behalf of small business.”
“In addition to offering cheap, clean electricity packages to small business, our package will help businesses fuel switch from gas to electricity in the short term, while boosting research and development so we can transition away from gas entirely.
“After we boot out the conservatives we’ll need some new energy laws, but the Greens will also re-establish programs that were working well before Tony Abbott tore them down, like the Clean Technology Innovation Program.
“The key to helping small businesses isn’t to abandon them with a small government, neoliberal approach, but for government and industry to work cooperatively to help small businesses embrace the clean energy transition.
“Our plan will help small businesses reduce power bills and reduce pollution.
“Instead of making themselves a small target for small business, Labor should commit to adopting our package in the next Parliament.”