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Our Projects

AusNet Vulnerability Research Grant 2022

Participation and eligibility

We are seeking individuals to participate in the research project who:

  • Live in the AusNet electricity distribution area (a list of Local Government Areas and a map is shown below)

and either:

  • Experience disability or a chronic health condition(s), or
  • Are a parent/guardian or in-home/regular support person for someone who experiences disability or a chronic health condition(s).

If you meet the criteria described above, we invite you to participate in this research in one or both of the following ways:

  • Participate in an online interview of about 45 minutes exploring your experience regarding the risks and impacts related to your use and supply of electricity.
  • Complete the short survey at this link: YEF survey, or in the QR code on this page.

Interview participants will receive a $150 eGift voucher in recognition of their contribution. Participants in the survey will have the chance to win 1 of 15 $50 eGift vouchers.

If you are interested in participating in an interview, please use our contact form and we will be in touch. You can read the Explanatory Statement here.

About the project

The Yarra Energy Foundation is committed to social equity, and believes everyone has the right to access affordable, renewable and reliable energy. While the clean energy transition offers many opportunities for improving lives, these opportunities are unfortunately not equally available to everyone.

In late 2022, the Yarra Energy Foundation was awarded AusNet’s inaugural Vulnerability Research Grant. The annual grant of $30,000 offers social service organisations the opportunity to work together with AusNet, the electricity distribution network service provider for eastern Victoria, to better understand their customers’ needs. You can learn more about AusNet’s grant program here.

This research project investigates how AusNet can improve the outcomes and service provision for customers with diverse capabilities who experience vulnerability – the state of being susceptible to harm due to sensitivity to, and exposure to, a particular hazard (REF). Vulnerability can occur due to a variety of reasons, including a combination of environmental, geographic, economic, social and personal factors.

The research focuses specifically on the experience and perspectives of those with specialised support needs, such as those living with disability or chronic health conditions (and their families and support networks).

These individuals may experience heightened risks or impacts relating to the reliability and affordability of electricity (e.g., for critical needs), extreme weather events, or due to constraints regarding communication.

We are actively seeking participants for this research project. Your involvement or assistance would be warmly appreciated. The aims of the research, and what your involvement would mean, are explored below.

This project is led by YEF’s Energy and Storage Officer, Lachlan Hensey, who has a decade of experience working in the disability sector.

Research aims

This project aims to:

  1. Explore and describe participant perspectives regarding their possible exposure to risks and impacts relating to electricity provision
  2. Develop an understanding of household energy consumption behaviours and patterns, particularly with regard to critical needs
  3. Identify and describe potential strategies to mitigate risks and reduce the potential vulnerability of people with specialised support needs living in the AusNet electricity distribution network area.

Geographic scope: AusNet’s distribution area

The AusNet electricity distribution network spans from northern and eastern Melbourne to the eastern tip of Victoria near Mallacoota, and from the Murray River in the north to the Bass Coast in the south (see map below). The network covers numerous local government areas entirely, and parts of several more. The local government areas that are being investigated in this research are:

  • Alpine Shire Council
  • Bass Coast Shire Council
  • Baw Baw Shire Council
  • Benalla Rural City Council
  • Cardinia Shire Council
  • East Gippsland Shire Council
  • Indigo Shire Council
  • Latrobe City Council
  • Whittlesea City Council
  • Wodonga City Council
  • Mansfield Shire Council
  • Maroondah City Council
  • Mitchell Shire Council
  • Nillumbik Shire Council
  • South Gippsland Shire Council
  • Towong Shire Council
  • Wangaratta Rural City Council
  • Wellington Shire Council
  • Yarra Ranges Shire Council

What is vulnerability?

Vulnerability is not simply a characteristic of a person – it depends on the situation they are in. For example, someone who must cross two busy roads to get to the shops is more vulnerable to harm than someone who lives around the corner from the shop on a quiet street, even if they might not be as quick on their feet.

Vulnerability often involves a social element. Someone who uses a mobility support like a wheelchair is often forced to navigate dangerous streetscapes and may find it difficult to enter many buildings because minimal consideration has been given to how they move. They are more vulnerable to various risks due to poor planning and design, but would be safe had the environment been designed with their needs in mind.

For this research project, we understand that people living with disability or chronic health conditions may be particularly sensitive to certain risks that relate to electricity in some way, such as requiring electricity for refrigerated medication. At the same time, their exposure to these risks may be exacerbated by situational factors such as susceptibility to floods and fire, or poor phone reception. To mitigate these risks most effectively, we want to learn how they affect individuals living with disability or chronic health conditions, and what would help them manage these risks, from their own perspective.

People living in regional areas may not share in the reliable provision of energy experienced by those in the city due to, for example, the increased risk of outages due to environmental hazards. Those facing economic disadvantage may not be able to access the cheap power afforded by a rooftop solar system, and therefore experience higher ongoing energy costs. Those living with disability or chronic illness may have specific therapeutic needs that may be undermined by power outages, or require particular communication methods to be alerted to risks or issues with their electricity supply.

For these reasons, some people are disproportionately vulnerable to risks and impacts related to electricity. This research therefore aims to address this inequality and improve outcomes for those living with disability or chronic health conditions in the AusNet electricity distribution area.