National commitment to energy bill relief welcome news for consumers

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Energy Consumers Australia has welcomed the energy bill relief measures agreed to at today’s National Cabinet meeting, saying they would help to curtail further price increases while shielding consumers from the immediate impact of high energy bills.

CEO Lynne Gallagher said the package of measures would protect households and small businesses from excessive bill shock as big picture reforms to drive down prices are delivered.

“While there remain many details to be worked out, the $1.5 billion of direct assistance agreed to today represents much-needed and welcome relief for millions of Australian households and businesses,” she said.

“The decision to offer direct assistance as a reduction of bills is an effective way of making sure relief is delivered to all Australians who need it and that this relief does not inadvertently contribute to inflation, which is already inflicting pain on Australian consumers.”

The funding announced today will be administered through the states and further work needs to be done to determine how it will be distributed, given the differing scale of bill increases across different states and territories.

Ms Gallagher said it was imperative that more detail be provided as soon as possible regarding the projected impact of the package on bill increases across each jurisdiction, so that every Australian could clearly understand what it would mean for their budget.

“Australians have already seen bill rises of 20% this year and are understandably anxious about what the future holds,” she said. “To relieve that anxiety they will need a sense of clarity. As we head into Christmas they need to know exactly how much help is coming their way and how much they are likely to be paying for energy in 2023.”

Ms Gallagher also welcomed the announcement of price caps on both natural gas and coal, announced by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese following the meeting. Under the package of measures agreed with the states and territories, the price of natural gas will be temporarily capped for 12 months at $12 a gigajoule, while coal will be temporarily capped at $125 per tonne.

“These measures will have a real impact and represent a necessary and sensible intervention in the market,” she said. “It may take some time before the benefits of price caps on coal and gas flow through to consumers, but the combination of these measures with the immediate assistance announced today should keep at bay the bill increases we’ve been expecting for next year.”

While the intervention represents much-needed action on spiralling energy bills Ms Gallagher said further measures would be needed to deliver longer term affordability for consumers.

“Make no mistake, what’s happened today will not make energy cheaper for Australians. It won’t make it suddenly affordable. But what it will do is prevent consumers from being exposed to the truly exorbitant retail price rises we’ve all been warned were coming next year,” she said.

“While we welcome this intervention we are clear that the job is not done while retail energy prices remain high. There is more work to be done in helping Australians use less energy in future, while still meeting their needs, living comfortably and running their businesses profitably.”

“That means significant investment in energy efficiency programs and information campaigns so that all Australians find it easy and intuitive to make decisions about new appliances, changes to their homes and changes to their behaviour that can all contribute towards lower bills.”

Ms Gallagher said she was pleased that the decision of energy ministers, reinforced by the focus on energy price relief by National Cabinet today, to back a national energy savings campaign was a key part of the solution.

“Energy Consumers Australia looks forward to working with the ACT Minister who has the lead on developing a national energy savings campaign to be considered at the February meeting.

“We know from other sectors such as water that these campaigns can have a significant return on investment, both in terms of offering immediate bill relief and sustainable long-term benefits.”