Too many NSW households continue to be disconnected from essential energy services because they cannot pay their bills.

9217934930_2d21f72e68_zFigures released today by the Australian Energy Regulator show that 31,979 households were disconnected from electricity last financial year.

The total figure is a slight improvement from 2013-14, when 32,940 households were disconnected. This coincided with a 5.5% drop in electricity prices last financial year.

‘Access to energy is essential for a dignified life,’ said Edward Santow, CEO of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC).

‘While there is a small reduction in electricity disconnections comparing the last two financial years, the total number of households who were cut off from their electricity remains far too high. Twice as many households were disconnected from electricity last year than five years ago.’

In addition, 7,555 households were disconnected from their gas supply. This is a 50% increase from last year’s figure of 4,921. Moreover, only 27% of gas disconnections were reconnected, compared to 50% last year and 60% for electricity in the last two years.

‘Gas bills increased 6.9% in NSW last year. But there has also been a lot of talk about bigger and ongoing gas price increases, due to increased exports,’ said Mr Santow.

‘It seems that households struggling with energy affordability may be going without gas so they can afford electricity. Given that gas is often the fuel that enables cooking, heating and hot water, this is hugely worrying.’

‘Energy affordability continues to be a huge problem. There have been some improvements, but the system is fundamentally broken,’ said Mr Santow.

‘We are calling on energy companies and governments to work together with consumer and welfare groups to find lasting solutions to this chronic problem.’