The ACT government will pay up to $1100 to people who replace wood heaters with ducted electric heating in a scheme expected to cost $30,000 this financial year.
The rebate is an extension of the current scheme under which ActewAGL pays rebates to people who replace wood heaters with gas systems. The electricity rebates are being funded directly by the government, not by ActewAGL.
To qualify, Canberrans must take their wood heaters to the tip and have them signed off or have an open fire removed, and install a new mains supplied gas or electric reverse cycle system.
A ducted gas or electric reverse-cycle system (of at least 2.5 stars) attracts the biggest rebate, of $1100. A $600 rebate is available for fixed flued gas system, an upgraded ducted system (at least 5 star), and reverse-cycle split electric systems. If you throw out your wood heater without installing one of the replacement types of heating the government will give you $100.
In-slab and electric resistance heating is excluded from the rebate.
Gas heating has attracted a rebate since 2004, with 1076 households receiving it to date.
Environment Minister Simon Corbell said the program had been expanded because of the likely rise in gas prices and to help reach the city's target for greenhouse gas emissions.
The Liberals' Andrew Wall questioned Mr Corbell in hearings on Friday about the affordability of wood heating compared with installing gas or electric systems.
Mr Wall said not only was wood the cheapest and most economical heating, technology had improved to such an extent that Australian wood heaters were among the most efficient in the world.
Mr Corbell said the rebate was not aimed at people installing modern wood heaters but at encouraging people to remove old polluting ones.
Canberra's air quality still exceeded national standards for particulate matter on some winter days and the old wood heaters were significant polluters, he said. Claims that they were cheaper didn't take account of the cost to the health system from the impact on the health of the very young, the elderly and people with lung and heart conditions, he said.
Wood heaters can still be installed in Canberra, but special approval is needed in east O'Malley, Dunlop and the Molonglo Valley, except Wright.
A spokesman for Mr Corbell said as Canberra moved to renewable energy the emissions from electricity powered appliances would fall dramatically, with the result that efficient electric heating would have fewer emissions profile than existing gas powered systems in the future.
The rebates are being offered from Monday, November 16, as a trial. They would be reviewed midway through next year, he said.