Effects of renting on household energy expenditure: Evidence from Australia

Author name: 
Best, R
Burke, PJ

This paper uses household survey data from Australia to investigate whether renters face larger energy bills than otherwise similar households. We find that a negative unconditional effect of renting on residential electricity expenditure becomes positive when controlling for log net wealth, with renters on average spending about 8% more than otherwise similar households. This is a larger effect than in most prior studies. The effect operates via higher usage quantities rather than higher average prices, and a similar effect is found for overall residential energy expenditure including natural gas. Central to the story is that renters tend to have lower net wealth, and net wealth is associated with higher energy use due to reasons including additional appliance ownership. This makes net wealth an important control. The findings cast light on the potential for more ambitious policy responses to reduce energy-related disadvantages faced by renters in Australia. There is also scope for further research into whether similarly large effects are evident in other countries.

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