ENERGY

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Last updated on 10/12/2020

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Australian Energy Regulator Statement of Expectations


On 30 October 2020, the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) released a further update to the Statement of Expectations of energy businesses. The statement extends important protections for energy customers during COVID-19. It also encourages retailers and customers to stay in contact and for customers to reach out if they need help.

The Statement acknowledges that energy is an essential service. There is also an expectation that people who can pay their energy bills must continue to do so.

The updated statement applies from 1 November 2020 to 31 March 2021.

The current expectations of energy businesses are that they:

  1. Offer all residential and small business customers who indicate they may be in financial stress a payment plan or hardship arrangement. This may include agreeing a period in which no payment will be made.

  2. Before 31 March 2021 (and potentially beyond), do not disconnect – other than at their request:

    1. any residential customer who may be in financial stress who:

      1. is in contact with the energy provider or responded to communications; or

      2. is accessing any retailer support.

    2. Any small business customer who continues to adhere to a payment plan or other agreed payment arrangement.

  3. Before 31 March 2021 (and potentially beyond), do not disconnect – other than at their request – a body corporate or other large business customer who is on-selling energy to residential and small business customers, who may be in financial stress and who:

    1. has made contact with the energy provider or responded to communications; or

    2. is accessing any retailer support.

  4. If a customer has not made or responded to any contact and has been disconnected for non-engagement, the retailer must process an order for reconnection immediately on contact from the customer and waive disconnection, reconnection and contract break fees.

  5. Defer referrals to debt collection agencies for recovery actions, or credit default listing until at least 31 March 2021, and potentially beyond.

  6. Modify existing payment plans if a customer’s changed circumstances make this necessary.

  7. Waive disconnection, reconnection and/or contract break fees for small businesses that have ceased operation, along with daily supply charges to retailers, during any period of disconnection until at least 31 March 2021.

  8. Prioritise the safety of customers who require life support equipment and continue to meet responsibilities to new life support customers.

  9. Prioritise clear, up-to-date communications to customers about these expectations

  10. Minimise the frequency and duration of planned outages for critical works and provide as much notice as possible.

Resource:

AER Statement of Expectations of energy businesses: Protecting customers and the energy market during COVID-19




Australian Capital Territory


  • Utilities Concession is available to eligible residents of ACT. The annual concession amount is $700.
  • The Government is extending the assistance provided under the utilities’ concession to eligible asylum seekers for 2020-21, including the additional one-off $200 rebate provided as part of the COVID-19 Economic Survival package.

See Revenue ACT: Utilities Concession for more information




New South Wales


  • No specific COVID-19 assistance
  • A range of rebates and assistance is available.
  • NSW Energy Accounts Payment Assistance (EAPA) scheme can provide up to a maximum of $800 every 12-month period for each utility for eligible NSW households experiencing a short-term financial crisis or emergency.

See Apply for Energy Accounts Payment Assistance (EAPA) vouchers for more information.

Service NSW also has a savings finder that explains what savings are available and the eligibility.




Queensland


  • No specific COVID-19 assistance
  • A range of energy concessions are available for eligible households.
  • Electricity and gas rebates for eligible Queensland pensioners and seniors.
  • Home Energy Emergency Assistance Scheme for eligible Queensland households experiencing problems paying their electricity or reticulated natural gas bills as a result of an unforeseen emergency or a short-term financial crisis. Pays up to $720 once every 2 years.

See Queensland Government: Energy Concessions for more information.




South Australia


  • No specific COVID -19 assistance
  • Eligible South Australians on low or fixed incomes can apply for help with the cost of energy bills for their principal place of residence.
  • A range of assistance is available including energy bill concessions of up to $231.41.

See South Australian Government: Energy bills, help and rebates for more information.




Victoria


  • No specific COVID-19 assistance

  • A range of energy concessions are available for eligible households.

  • Utility Relief Grant Scheme for paying overdue energy or water bills are available to low-income Victorian households experiencing unexpected hardship.

  • Grants of up to $650 are available, for eligible households, for each electricity, gas or water utility in a two-year period, or $1,300 over two years if you only use a single source of energy, such as electricity.

See Victorian Government: Utility Relief Grant Scheme for more information.

See Victorian Government: Energy Concessions for more information.




Western Australia


No specific COVID-19 assistance

A range of assistance is available under the Energy Concession Extension Scheme (the “scheme). The scheme provides an annual payment to assist with electricity costs for eligible WA households and consists of:

  • Energy Assistance Payment. The payment amount is $305.
  • Dependent Child Rebate. The payment amount is $320 for one child and $84 for each additional child.
  • Air Conditioning Rebate. The payment amount is $59.75 per month.

See Western Australia Government: Energy Concessions for more information.




What do the changes mean?


  • The changes should mean that your client can make an affordable repayment arrangement and not be disconnected before 31 March 2021
  • Energy is still a high priority payment so it is important to put in place an affordable repayment arrangement




What do you do differently?


Do check if your client is eligible to receive concessions or other government payment assistance with their energy bills.

  • Do refer to the Australian Energy Regulator expectations (if required) in dealing with your client’s energy provider
  • Do check the website of your client’s energy provider, or this summary of assistance available, to see if additional assistance is available
Do consider lodging a complaint with the energy and water ombudsman in your State or Territory if a hardship arrangement cannot be agreed. However, if disconnection or supply




Resources


NSW – Energy and Water Ombudsman New South Wales (EWON)
VIC – Energy and Water Ombudsman Victoria (EWOV)
SA – Energy and Water Ombudsman South Australia (EWOSA)
WA – Energy and Water Ombudsman Western Australia (EWOWA)
NT – Ombudsman NT
ACT – There is no EDR in the ACT, but consumers may complain to the NSW EWON (if your provider is a member of EWON) or the ACT Civil & Administrative Tribunal (which is not free, but low cost)
TAS – Energy Ombudsman Tasmania
QLD – Energy and Water Ombudsman Queensland (EWOQ)