SACOSS has greeted today’s performance report from the Australian Energy Regulator with enormous disappointment, noting that low income households were likely to be experiencing even greater hardship.
SACOSS CEO Ross Womersley said, “This report again confirms that SA has the country’s highest priced standard offers and thus the least affordable energy in the National Electricity Market (NEM), with 11.2% of a low income household’s disposable income being spent on electricity.
“This is an extraordinary impost and it’s no wonder electricity and gas disconnections continue at high levels. At 1.37% of residential customers are being disconnected (over 10,500 customers), South Australia has the second highest rate of disconnection in the country, behind Queensland.”
Possibly scarier still is the significant increase in the amount of average electricity debt residential customers are accruing, with customers in SA affected the most. The amount of debt consumers are carrying when they enter hardship programs offered by retailers is up. Similarly, average debt for customers NOT on a hardship program has increased massively in South Australia by more than 60% to $1524.
This increased debt really points to the fact that many retailers are failing in their obligations to offer effective support to all customers who are having trouble paying their bills early.
With the lowest concession in the nation, it is clear there is work for the SA government to be doing. We need to increase the value of the concession and we need to move urgently to reform the way it is structured, so it is better targeted as a percentage of vulnerable householders bills, rather than a flat rate.
*South Australian disconnections are down from last year, but we note that the AER cautions that the AGL disconnection numbers from last year may be inaccurate.