Free registration for electric cars and interest-free loans of up to $15,000 will be funded in next month’s ACT Budget, with the goal of pushing Canberra towards a carbon-neutral future.
- A $150 million loans scheme will offer finance for electric cars, solar panels and other purchases
- Some of the changes were ACT election commitments, while others were inked in the governing agreement between Labor and the Greens
- The new measures will be outlined in next month’s ACT Budget
Under the plan, $150 million will be put towards loans for Canberrans wanting to reduce their carbon footprint by installing solar panels, purchasing battery storage, buying an electric vehicle or upgrading to efficient appliances.
The loan scheme will offer up to $15,000 in interest-free support for households, which ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said would remove barriers to people adopting greener technologies.
“The objective here is to support households to reduce their cost of living,” he said.
“One of the reasons people have felt unable to make that switch is the upfront cost of installing the new appliances.”
The Government expects the loan scheme to be up and running by April, but Mr Barr said he expected that the “vast bulk” of the money in the scheme would be used from 2022 onwards.
The governing agreement between the ACT Greens and Labor, signed after last October’s election, committed the Government to some of the measures destined for next month’s budget.
That includes offering 24 months of free registration to anyone who buys an electric car between May 2021 and May 2023.
“Free registration and no-interest loans for zero emissions vehicles, along with a new network of 50 public charging stations for electric vehicles will make [electric vehicles] a real option for Canberrans who may have been hesitant until now,” Emissions Reductions Minister and Greens Leader Shane Rattenbury said.
The package also contains $100 million over the next five years for a “Big Canberra Battery”, and other measures including more regulation on power companies that require them to inform Canberrans if they could be getting a better deal.
A further $50 million will be put towards making the ACT’s public housing stock more energy efficient.
Loans to be means-tested
The $150 million in loans will be available for a range of environmentally friendly purposes, including purchasing zero-emission vehicles, upgrading household appliances, and installing solar panels.
But the loans will not be open to all, with a cap preventing people from improving already valuable houses.
“There will be an upper asset threshold around the unimproved capital value of properties,” Mr Barr said.
The Government is considering whether to introduce an approved list of products and suppliers as the loan scheme comes online, to prevent a rush on the market from untrained operators.
It is also yet to decide what constitutes a “zero-emission vehicle”, with Mr Barr saying the loans may not be limited to just cars.
“Our intent principally has been around passenger vehicles but we’ll be flexible in looking at the sorts of transport options that may come from innovation,” he said.
“E-scooters? Let’s have a bit of a think about that one. We’re mostly focused on passenger vehicles.”
A Canberra Liberals spokesman said the party supported measures to increase energy efficiency and lower costs, and would consider the details of the Government’s plan.
“We have concerns about loans being offered to people who are in financially vulnerable positions that may have difficulty in meeting the repayments,” he said.
“For those families, other support mechanisms need to be available.”