The key to lower energy costs is as close as your roof. Trouble is, while the sun might shine equally on all of us our ability to harness its energy and use it to drive down our power costs is anything but equitable.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed that the national cost of electricity skyrocketed by 15.7 per cent between July 23 and July last year, while the overall consumer price index went up by only 4.9 basis points.
It's no surprise then that most Australians (76 per cent) are finding it a bit difficult or really struggling to afford their utility bills, including electricity bills.
The figures alone are shocking, but behind every statistic is a person who knows firsthand what the escalating cost of living and energy poverty means.
Behind every statistic is a story of a vulnerable older Australian forced to choose between going without food or medicine so they could keep their house cool during summer.
Or a young family dreading the imminent El Nino summer because they know they the soaring temperatures will mean skyrocketing electricity bills when they're forced to turn on the fan or air-conditioning to keep their family safe.
Our skyrocketing electricity bills are leaving many Australians more vulnerable than ever. And adding salt to the wound is the fact that there's a popular, cost effective and near immediate measure to address rising energy bills literally sitting on our roof tops.
Trouble is, the benefits of solar are out of reach for many who need it most - apartment dwellers, renters, those in social and affordable housing, and low-income earners.
At Solar Citizens we recently released research showing that the average social housing property in NSW could be saving $860 a year on energy bills if their landlord - the government-owned housing agency - installed solar panels.
The cost-benefits of solar energy have been known for a long time, which is why private home-owners have been installing solar at increasing rates.
Queensland, for example, has the highest rate of solar installations in the world, and that's without reaching most of those apartment dwellers, renters and low-income households.
Our energy regulator, AEMO, has stated that rooftop solar installations in Australia will need to double by 2032, but the initial investment is prohibitive for many Australians. That's for home owners - renters face a complex challenge of convincing their landlord to invest in solar panels.
There is, however, a shift in the right direction and an acknowledgement from governments of the role solar can play in helping Australians through the cost-of-living challenges.
The electrification and energy efficiency package in the federal budget was a significant step forward and the Queensland and Victorian governments have demonstrated that they have seen the growing weight of evidence showing that investment in solar and renewables needs to go to the households who need it the most, particularly those living in social housing.
For example, the Victorian government's $108 million dollar deal with the federal government will go towards electrifying and modernising public housing with efficient appliances.
This deal followed the announcement gas connections in new homes will be banned from 2024, in line with the ACT.
In its budget, the Queensland government recognised energy bill relief as a key measure for addressing cost-of-living pressure, while also committing funding for renewables and energy efficiency.
But we need to go further. Our biggest state NSW, with the largest social housing stock in Australia, was silent on household electrification and rooftop solar in the state budget released last week.
It's a cruel irony that the people being hit hardest by the cost-of-living crisis are the ones least likely to be able to reap the benefits of cheaper power through solar.
We need to see more investment in better incentives for landlords, including governments responsible for social housing, to install solar on their properties so their tenants can experience the benefits of saving on their energy bills.
Given that around 60 per cent of Australians living in strata-titled properties are renters, we need to see more government action supporting strata schemes to retrofit their buildings for electrification with distributed renewable energy.
Improving access to solar for all Australians is only part of the solution to our cost-of-living crisis, but it would also mean that in the coming heatwaves a young family can afford to turn on their fans and air-conditioning at night, or that in the depths of winter turning on a heater doesn't then mean having to go without meals or medicine.
Our governments have a responsibility to ensure that every Australian, no matter their income living situation, can get access to the benefits of solar.
The answer to cheaper power is sitting on our roofs - with government action we can ensure that everyone can benefit.
- Heidi Douglas is the national director of Solar Citizens.