Majority of Concessioners Not Aware of Energy Bill Concessions

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A new independent report released by the Melbourne Institute: Applied Economic & Social Research at the University of Melbourne reveals that just over 35 percent of Australians have a concession card, yet only one third of them are aware they may be eligible for energy concessions on their bills. The report surveyed 3187 respondents, 1154 concession holders and 2033 non-concession holders and was part of the Energy Charter’s #BetterTogether National Concessions Awareness and Engagement Campaign “Keep the money. It’s yours.”

The report also finds that nearly one-quarter of Australians (24.1 percent) have experienced energy hardship. Energy hardship is defined as not being able to heat or cool one’s home to a comfortable level or being able to pay one’s electricity or gas bill on time. Of Australians experiencing energy hardship, concession holders appear to be the most vulnerable, with 30.9 percent reporting energy hardship compared with 20.5 percent for non-concession holders.

Against a backdrop of rising energy prices, about 40.6 percent of Australians have changed their heating and cooling settings to reduce their energy bills, with this action prominent among concession card holders at 43.7 percent. Concession holders are using less hot water (33.3 percent), reducing their use of general household appliances (34.4 percent) and kitchen appliances used for food preparation (32 percent).

Concession holders have also reported using credit cards (26.2 percent), buy-now-pay-later services (15.1 percent), borrowing from family or friends (11 percent) and superannuation (8.3 percent) to pay their energy bills, while some said they could not pay (16.1 percent).

Only a third of concession card holders know they may be eligible for energy concessions that can be applied to their energy bills. This report finds that just under 62 percent of concession holders had not applied an energy concession to their bill in the last six months, mainly due to lack of awareness and knowledge in this area. Just over 8 in 10 concession holders (80.8 percent) and over 1 in 4 (75.6 percent) of concession holders aged 55-64 and 65 and older, respectively, are aware that they are eligible. With awareness high in this older demographic, there is still roughly 20-25 percent who either believe they are not eligible, or do not know whether they are.

Of the 38.2 percent of concession holders who did not attempt to apply for an ongoing energy concession, 37.4 percent reported a lack of awareness of eligibility status, 25.5 percent did not know whether they were eligible, 22 percent did not know about ongoing energy concessions and 11.9 percent thought they weren’t eligible.

In instances where concession holders were aware they were entitled to a rebate, 15.4 percent had not reached out to their energy provider because they required assistance with language barriers, hearing impairments, or financial assistance to make contact. Notably, 31.1 percent of concession holders reported paying at least part of their energy bills by applying a concession or rebate.

The Energy Charter’s #BetterTogether National Concessions Awareness and Engagement Campaign “Keep the money. It’s yours.” launched in July 2023 and aimed to raise awareness amongst concession card holders that they may be eligible for concessions or rebates on their energy bills, as well as understand what they need to do to apply for these. The campaign was co-designed with 13 community groups nationally. Among concession holders, 15.7 percent had heard of or seen the campaign and knew what the campaign meant. A further 19 percent of the concession card holders were aware of the campaign, but either misunderstood its message (10.4 percent) or were unsure what the message was (8.6

The report finds a strong relationship between energy hardship and mental distress among concession holders. 61.6% of concessions holders report being financially stressed, compared with 22% of non-concession holders. 20.2% of concession holders report feelings of mental distress, compared with 19.9 percent for non-concession holders.

The report highlights the gap in awareness and knowledge of concession holders in applying for energy concessions or rebates, as well as their behaviours related to reducing energy consumption and paying energy bills. Overall, there is significant scope for further initiatives such as the #BetterTogether National Concessions Awareness and Engagement Campaign that would help raise general awareness and understanding of energy concessions among those individuals who are eligible, and to assist all eligible individuals to successfully apply concessions to their energy bills.

Above is a media release from the Melbourne Institute. The independent report and media release is attributable to the Melbourne Institute and Roy Morgan Taking the Pulse of the Nation (TTPN) survey.