Today, the St Vincent de Paul Society and Alvis Consulting released a report mapping electricity disconnections across New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria and South East Queensland.
PIAC supports calls for the NSW Government to review the Energy Accounts Payment Assistance (EAPA) scheme following St Vincent de Paul Society’s report ‘Households in the dark’. ‘The report provides a detailed snapshot of electricity disconnections across NSW and identifies key socio-economic and geographic factors that may lead to customers being disconnected from their electricity,’ said Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) CEO, Edward Santow.
‘The report demonstrates that, overwhelmingly, those disconnected from their electricity in NSW are located in regional and rural towns, and are families on low to median income. They tend to be families and small households, with lower housing costs but greater transport costs. This is an important finding that confirms where the needs are and where assistance should be focused.’
The Energy Accounts Payment Assistance (EAPA) schemes reliance on community organisations to distribute EAPA vouchers makes it harder for people who need help to get it, particularly for rural and regional customers, who have to travel greater distance to apply for an EAPA voucher.
The report also highlighted the prevalence of renters in the postcodes that experienced the highest number of disconnections. Given the number of renters facing disconnection, PIAC supports the report’s recommendation to introduce a minimum energy efficiency standard in public and private rental properties. PIAC will be undertaking further work on this in the second half of this year.
The report also highlights a concerning trend that the roll out of smart meters has increased the number of completed disconnections in Victoria, as smart meters make it easier to remotely disconnect a household. As smart meters become more common in NSW, PIAC supports the report’s recommendations to increase consumer protections to ensure consumers are not adversely affected by the adoption of new technology. In addition, PIAC supports the adoption of Victoria’s Wrongful Disconnection Payment for those who are wrongfully disconnected, across the National Electricity Market. This will provide compensation to customers, but also serve as an incentive to retailers and distribution companies to follow due process.
Finally, PIAC supports the report’s recommendations that NSW adopt a percentage-based concession payment to ensure proportional support to customers with higher energy costs.
MEDIA CONTACT: PIAC CEO, Edward Santow: 0434 353 096 or PIAC EWCAP Policy Officer, Kristal Burry: 0423 940 910
Photo: Victor Hanacek