Peak advocacy group National Seniors Australia has launched a campaign to encourage the government to create a "green" investment option for older Australians with the creation of Seniors' Green Bonds.
The bonds would allow older Australians to invest in green infrastructure programs, such as 'Snowy Hydro 2.0, would be open to anyone of pension age, and would be sold in lots of $5,000.
"This is a way older Australians can fund a better future and be rewarded for doing so," said National Seniors chief advocate Ian Henschke.
Research by National Seniors on thousands of seniors over two years has show the overwhelming majority (85 per cent, up from 82.4 in 2019) believe climate change is real, around 75 per cent want action on climate change even if it costs, and 60 per cent have already invested in renewable energy products or projects.
"The results of our latest surveys, explode the view older Australians don't care about the environment, quite the opposite," said Mr Henschke.
"Older Australians want to do their bit to build a better future. And they want to do more than just put solar panels on the roof.
"So, we're proposing a new way government can help them invest in large-scale renewable energy projects which benefit the environment and future generations," said Mr Henschke.
How would the green bonds work?
- The Federal Government would issue 'green bonds' to raise money for existing and future commitments for renewable energy generation and storage projects
- Unlike existing government bonds which require a broker, green bonds would be purchased over the counter via Australia Post or with other suitable financial institutions such as a bank or building society
- The purchase of the bonds would be limited to Australian citizens over the age pension eligibility age. Bonds would be sold in lots of $5,000 to allow those with limited savings the opportunity to participate in the scheme
- Eligible participants would be able to purchase bonds up to a maximum value (approx. $50,000 per person)
- Green bonds would be guaranteed by the government as per the government guarantee on bank deposits
- A return on the bond would be provided commensurate with existing government bond rates
- A range of maturity options could be offered to provide flexibility and liquidity (e.g. to pay for unexpected health costs)
- Pension means test exemption - Critical to the success of 'green bonds' is an exemption from the pension means test which would make it more attractive for older Australians to invest in renewable energy projects - at the moment investment in large-scale renewable projects do not benefit from an exemption from the pension means test as is the case with roof-top solar, which is exempted if it is part of the family home. There are already several situations where assets outside the family home are exempted from the means test, for example, when someone has purchased a pre-paid funeral, burial plot or has a refundable accommodation deposit for aged care. According to National Seniors, exempting green bonds from means testing will put investment in large-scale renewable energy production and storage projects on par with rooftop solar.
A statement from the advocacy group said investment in large-scale renewable energy storage will help stabilise the electricity network, keeping electricity prices low; and investment in large-scale renewable energy projects, such a Snowy Hydro 2.0, will help Australia reduce its carbon emissions and address the challenges posed by climate change.