The Energy Security Board (ESB) released the 2019 Health of the NEM report today, finding that not only is energy affordability still a critical issue for vulnerable customers, but that future outlook is worse than their assessment in 2018.
The ESB report notes low income households regularly spend 8-10% of income compared to 2-4% for an average household and are less likely to be able to access solar power and energy efficiency.
In 2018 the ESB rated the outlook for vulnerable customers as “moderate”. In 2019 the outlook is rated as “moderate-critical”. The ESB analysis is consistent with a new report released today by ACOSS – Health of the NEM: current and emerging energy affordability issues for people on low incomes – which was produced to inform the Energy Security Board’s annual Health of the NEM report.
ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie said: “While there have been some useful federal and state measures introduced in the last 12 months to help with energy bill affordability, it’s not cutting through enough for the people who need relief the most.
“The number of customers on hardship programs for electricity increased by over 4,000 customers in 2019. This figure could rise as a result of another record hot summer forcing people to use more energy to stay cool and leaving people who cannot afford to do so to face health issues.
“Reducing energy prices is important but on its own is not enough to reduce energy stress for the thousands people on low-incomes who spend five times more of their income on energy bills than people on high incomes.
“The ACOSS report highlights that lack of access to energy efficient measures and rooftop solar is increasing energy inequality.
“People who need energy efficiency and solar the most are missing out because they cannot afford it or they rent and have no choice.
The ACOSS report makes thirteen recommendations, including investing in energy efficiency, solar and batteries for low-income households, implementing ACCC recommendations to improve energy concessions and shift subsidies off bills, further improving hardship guidelines, and increasing Newstart.
ACOSS Climate and Energy Senior Adviser, Kellie Caught said: “Research shows that investing in energy efficiency for existing homes will have a big impact on reducing energy bills, improving health and wellbeing, as well as cutting emissions and improving reliability of the energy system.
“People on low incomes are hit hardest by the impacts of climate change and subsidising new coal-power would only make this worse. To reduce energy bills for people on low incomes, governments should invest in improving the energy efficiency of social housing and mandate decent energy efficiency standards for rental properties.”