Rising energy bills increase risk of electricity disconnection

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) is concerned that with electricity prices rising by 20% this week an increasing number of households around NSW will be facing disconnection.

Recent decisions by energy regulators will see average electricity bills rise by $200, with large households facing even steeper increases. PIAC believes that the worst hit will be households with low and fixed incomes, including pensioners and the unemployed.

PIAC’s Energy + Water Consumers’ Advocacy Program (EWCAP) policy officer Joel Pringle said, ‘In the middle of an economic downturn, pensioners are facing increases in their bills of over $200 dollars a year, and the NSW Government is only offering an extra $18 in the Energy Rebate. Unemployed and under-employed households are also facing the same bill increases yet will receive no benefit. This group includes those who have recently lost their jobs because of the global financial crisis. Households relying on the NewStart allowance are already barely surviving on income much lower than the pension rate.’

Pensioners currently receive the Energy Rebate of $112 per year to assist with energy costs. This will increase to $130 per annum under the Government’s package. The package also includes an expansion of the Energy Accounts Payment Assistance (EAPA) Scheme for households in short-term financial crisis, and a $25 million per annum Consumer Assistance Package, the details of which are yet to be released.

‘Unless the NSW Government introduces the protections suggested by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal, at the Minister’s request, and by the Energy Consultative Reference Committee, chaired by former Premier Barry Unsworth, then NSW households will experience a greater risk of electricity disconnection and rising household debts,’ Mr Pringle said.

These protections include extending the eligibility of the Energy Rebate to all Commonwealth Health Care Card holders and indexing the rebate to energy prices, which are outstripping the inflation rate.

In the 2007-2008 financial year over 18,000 disconnections from electricity supply were recorded in NSW. The Public Interest Advocacy Centre has released the Cut-Off II report, which shows the impact of disconnection on households.

See https://piac.asn.au/publication/2009/02/cut-ii-january-2009 for the Cut-Off II report.

MEDIA CONTACT: Dominic O’Grady, Media and Communications Officer,

Public Interest Advocacy Centre. Ph: 02 8898 6532 or 0400 110 169

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