South Australians who can least afford it will bear the brunt of proposed electricity price rises, according to the State’s peak advocacy body for the non-government health and community services sector, SACOSS.
Today’s draft Default Market Offer from the Australian Energy Regulator projects power prices to rise by up to 22% in SA from 1 July. The AER offer is a reference price for future household and small business electricity prices across SA, NSW and south-east Queensland, with the AER undertaking further consultation before issuing a final determination in May.
According to AER data, South Australia continues to perform poorly at a national level in many categories. In the last three months (Oct to Dec 2022):
- An additional 604 South Australian households went on payment plans. SA has the highest rate of customers on payment plans in mainland Australia.
- An additional 1079 SA households entered energy hardship. SA has the most hardship customers in Australia.
- An additional 2097 SA households began repaying energy debt. With an average debt of $1242, South Australians continue to have the largest average debt in the National Electricity Market, 27% above the national average of $972. This includes the 1079 SA households on a hardship program which have an average debt of $2458, or more than double the average debt compared to other households (and is also 25% above the national average debt of $1846).
- 891 SA households had their power disconnected (with only just over half of those having their power reconnected within seven days).
Quotes attributable to SACOSS CEO Ross Womersley:
“The Australian Energy Regulator’s draft Default Market Offer transmits the signal that South Australians – particularly those living in hardship – will find it tougher and tougher to afford their energy.
“This pain would be worse if the Federal Government had not intervened last year to cap oil and coal prices. Ultimately energy prices continue to rise, and this means South Australians will continue to spend more of their budgets on ensuring they have an essential service.
“The impact of ongoing rising energy costs is felt most acutely by those South Australians who can least afford it. For every additional household that enters hardship status or payment plans, or is disconnected for being unable to meet their payments, that represents hundreds and hundreds of South Australians facing a reckoning around the supply of a service that they simply cannot be without.
“There are steps that could be taken to help low-income South Australian households with their energy bills, and we continue our call for State and Federal Government assistance in helping low-income households reduce their electricity demands and increasing their energy efficiency.
“We continue to call on the South Australian Government to change its energy concession to be percentage-based so that it is more flexible for more South Australians in times like these, when energy costs and the overall cost of living continue to rise.”