Australian taxpayers forked out close to $6m to cover Parliament House’s power bill, officials have revealed.
But the department in charge of running the building has vowed it is looking at ways to cut the eye-watering amount, amid concerns energy prices could rise by over 50 per cent in the next two years.
Officials from the department of parliamentary services were grilled on Monday in a Senate estimates hearing which covered a range topics including the food available in the staff cafeteria and the Prime Minister’s office voicemail service.
Late in the afternoon, LNP Senator James McGrath quizzed secretary Rob Stefanic on how the building could cope with the rapid increase in energy prices, as forecasted in the budget.
“We are implementing a whole series of measures to reduce our overall energy consumption,” he told the estimates committee.
More than 230 solar panels have been installed on Parliament House, mostly in the Senate wing, to help offset a $5.87m total bill for electricity, gas and water for 2022.
The projects include replacing the building’s ageing chilled water system for airconditioning and hot water boilers.
Fluorescent lighting in Parliament House was also being replaced with LED lights, Mr Stefanic said.
Senators also heard the department did not yet have a plan for transitioning towards net zero, nor does it know how much it would cost for the building to reach the target.
“It would require a significant consultancy, I think, to make an assessment, given we are a significant consumer of energy,” Mr Stefanic said.
It follows a grim Treasury forecast which suggested that by the end of the year, retail electricity prices will increase by 20 per cent nationally.
In 2023-24, that figure will blow out to 30 per cent.
Meanwhile, retail gas prices are also estimated to increase by up to 30 per cent in both 2022-23 and 2023-2024.