Households are turning off the heater

Megan Neil
(Australian Associated Press)

 

Australian households are combating rising electricity and gas prices by finding ways to reduce their energy consumption.

Households’ average expenditure on electricity and gas has fallen since it peaked in 2014 despite continued price rises, new data from the University of Melbourne’s long-term HILDA study shows.

Lead researcher Professor Roger Wilkins says the data suggests households have adapted to higher electricity and gas prices.

“People have found ways to reduce their energy consumption, for example buying energy-efficient appliances, installing solar panels, insulating their homes, LED lights and possibly also in winter heating fewer rooms in the house,” he said.

“There are pretty strong indications this sort of adaptation has been going on because, certainly over the period we’re examining up to 2016, prices were still growing in real terms but expenditure didn’t grow.”

The latest available data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey showed mean expenditure on home energy has risen since 2006 – from $1727 a year (at December 2016 prices) to $2118 in 2015-2016.

But it was higher, in real terms, in the 2013 to 2014 period, at $2185.

The Melbourne Institute study, released on Tuesday, also showed more people are renting and they are finding it more difficult to buy a home.

In 2016, 28 per cent of the population lived in private rental accommodation, compared to 23 per cent in 2001.

But young people aged 15 to 24 – and even 25-to-34-year-olds – are living in their parents’ homes for longer.

The transition from renting to home ownership has become less common, particularly among younger age groups, amid rising house prices.

On average 10 per cent of renters moved into their own home each year between 2013 and 2016, down from 13.6 per cent for 2001-2004.

The number of renters aged 18 to 24 who made the move into home ownership dropped from 13.5 per cent to 7.6 per cent.

“Private renters are also considerably more at risk of financial stress, especially compared with outright home owners, who, unsurprisingly, are the least at risk,” Prof Wilkins said.

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