Energy affordability in the spotlight

EWON, ERAA and ACOSS host National Energy Affordability Roundtable

Monday 15 April 2013: The Australian Energy Ombudsmen, the Energy Retailers Association of Australia (ERAA) and the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) partnered to host the National Energy Affordability Roundtable in Sydney. Attended by industry, government, community sector representatives, energy ombudsmen, academics and the Australian Energy Regulator, the roundtable was a ‘first of its kind’ forum for developing practical solutions to the national problem of energy affordability.

The objective of the roundtable and its forthcoming report is to develop practical solutions for: assisting the growing number of customers who are struggling to afford energy bills; responding to the reality of customers on low incomes who cannot afford to pay for their power consumption on an ongoing basis; and keeping customers on low incomes connected to essential energy services.

Recommendations emerging from the discussion include reviews of government assistance measures as well as initiatives by energy retailers, consumer advocates and networks. “The roundtable recommendations involve industry, consumer advocates and government taking action in a coordinated and complementary way,” said Clare Petre, on behalf of the Australian Energy Ombudsmen.

“To realise effective responses to the affordability problem facing many Australian energy consumers, we need to take an approach of shared responsibility,” continued Ms Petre. “As partners, we all have a role to play in helping to keep consumers connected to essential energy services.”

The roundtable’s key recommendations for government include a national review of energy concessions, rebates and emergency relief programs to identify the most effective measures for helping consumers and achieve consistency across the states. Dr Cassandra Goldie, ACOSS CEO, said “Energy affordability relies on a number of policy areas and jurisdictions, so it’s vital that we have a more coordinated national approach. This is particularly important in areas such as energy concessions, which need a national review to ensure that they target the right people and offer adequate levels of assistance for different types of households.”

The roundtable also considered various recommendations that could be undertaken by both industry and consumer advocacy groups. Recommendations focus on improving customer communications, supported by government consumer education, and further exploring alternative payment options. The roundtable is calling for key stakeholders to collaborate with retailers to simplify bills and also recommends improvements to the speed and accessibility of interaction between retailers and community welfare organisations on behalf of their clients.

The National Energy Affordability Roundtable is supported by the Council of Australian Governments’ Standing Council on Energy and Resources (SCER). SCER has requested a report on the Roundtable’s outcomes, which will be presented by the NSW Minister for Resources and Energy at its May 2013 meeting. Working groups are also in development to explore further the roundtable recommendations.

To request a copy of the forthcoming report, please contact Kate Concannon at