October Budget must provide relief for rising energy bills

ACOSS is calling on the Federal Government to use the October Budget to provide support for people on low-incomes to be able to afford essential energy needs, after stark warnings by two energy market bodies of higher electricity prices and energy hardship.

Two energy reports were released today – The Energy Security Board (ESB) released the Health of the NEM 2022 and The Australian Energy Regulatory (AER) released the State of the Energy Market 2022.

Both reports expressed concern that energy prices were significantly increasing in an environment where consumers already face higher costs of living pressures and that this will create additional debt pressure on customers, particularly those facing hardship.

ACOSS Acting CEO, Edwina MacDonald, said:

“When energy market bodies are raising the alarm that rising energy prices are going to push more people into energy hardship and have limited levers to address the problem, governments need to step in.

“People on low-incomes are already depriving themselves of energy and going without food or medicines to afford their energy bills, and this is seriously affecting their health and wellbeing.

“With energy debt levels already increasing for thousands of people, the Federal Government must take urgent action in the October budget to provide immediate relief and address the drivers of energy debt.

“We must also address the challenges that lie ahead, as highlighted in today’s reports. The Federal Government must take fair, fast and inclusive action to transition to a zero-emissions energy system.”

The ACOSS report, How JobSeeker and other income support payments are falling behind the cost of living, found that more than half (57%) of respondents surveyed are shortening or taking fewer showers because of increased energy costs, 70% are cutting their use of heating, 46% of respondents are going to bed early to keep warm, 28% currently have energy bill debt and a further 22% expect to go into debt when they receive their next bill.

ACOSS is calling on the Federal Government to:

  • Provide up to $2,000 per customer experiencing payment difficulties via an emergency payment. As this measure will help relieve debt for energy retailers, we expect retailers to also step up and provide additional relief.
  • Invest in energy efficiency and solar retrofits for low-income homes, including public housing, community housing, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander housing, private renters and low-income homeowners.
  • Lifting Jobseeker and related payments to at least $73 a day to ensure people can cover living costs and increase Commonwealth Rent Assistance by 50% to reduce rental stress.
  • Work with the states and territories to:
    • Change the National Energy Objective to include social equity and affordability as well as emissions reduction.
    • Establish a dedicated Agency to ensure people experiencing disadvantage benefit from the energy transition.