Home Institution

University of Vermont

Publication Date

Spring 2015

Program Name

Australia: Sustainability and Environmental Action


Rising electricity prices in Australia have caused low-income households to take drastic measures to reduce their energy consumption, cutting back on essential needs like food and heating. At the same time, prices for renewable energies like solar PV are decreasing, making renewable energy a more viable option for low-income households than grid electricity. In support of increasing the nation’s supply of renewable energy, the New South Wales government is funding the Zero Net Energy Town (Z-NET) project. The Z-NET project is a new initiative to create Australia’s first town that supplies all of its energy through renewable energy sources, using the town of Uralla as a model. A major concern in achieving this goal is how to ensure that Uralla’s low-income residents can effectively make the transition. The purpose of this study is to determine whether existing policies and programs in New South Wales will adequately support vulnerable households in transitioning to renewable energy. If Uralla is successful, it can serve as a model for other towns and can provide policy solutions that ensure all households are able to adopt renewable energies.

In this study, I conducted an academic literature review to identify major barriers to the implementation of renewable energy and energy efficiency measures in vulnerable houses. The final categories are as follows: financial and economic constraints, lack of awareness and information, technical risks, split incentives, behavioural barriers, and infrastructure. After creating an inventory of existing policies in New South Wales, I assessed each policy based on its adequacy in addressing the identified barriers.

Policies include: energy efficiency, renewable energy, solar PV, and financial assistance. My findings indicate that the available energy efficiency policies and financial assistance programs are adequate in addressing the identified barriers. The renewable energy policies and solar PV programs are inadequate, however, because they fail to address major barriers to the implementation of renewable energy in vulnerable households. These barriers include Internet access, split incentives, habit, and environmental values and connection. My recommendation is that the Z-NET project should take advantage of the available policies and programs in New South Wales and the assistance they can provide to vulnerable households. The Z-NET project will have to take additional measures, however, to address the barriers that the available policies do not meet.


Asian Studies | Community-Based Research | Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Educational Sociology | Energy Policy | Natural Resource Economics | Natural Resources Management and Policy | Oil, Gas, and Energy | Sustainability


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