Sustained rises in the price of electricity, without parallel rises to rebates and other assistance for vulnerable consumers has created an urgent need for Government action on ‘energy poverty’, the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) said recently.
‘Many people have made all the sacrifices they can. There is no more room to move,’ said Carolyn Hodge, senior policy officer for PIAC’s Energy + Water Consumers’ Advocacy Program.
‘Even with the modest 3% increase to electricity prices proposed today by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) many households will continue to struggle because prices have risen so much in recent years. With gas prices also set to rise, the affordability of essential energy services is a big issue for NSW consumers,’ said Ms Hodge.
‘Programs such as the Energy Accounts Payment Assistance (EAPA) scheme, which provides vital emergency relief to people facing disconnection, have increased little in recent years. The available funds should rise in line with the number of disconnections.
‘PIAC is also extremely concerned about the Life Support Rebate, which subsidises the cost of using life support equipment for some of the most vulnerable people in our community,’ Ms Hodge said.
The rebate for some types of life support equipment has not increased since 2002. The most recent increase in rebates for other life support devices was in 2009.
PIAC calls on Government and electricity retailers to ensure that customer protections are working for people who need them.
PIAC recently released a report, Cut Off III: the social impact of utility disconnection, which found 54% of customers, offered a payment plan by their retailer, found it unaffordable.