ACTCOSS welcomes expansion of supports to combat electricity price hikes

The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) today welcomed the ACT Government’s announcement of an increased Utilities Concession and other initiatives to support people on low incomes. This follows today’s retail electricity price increase announced by the Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission (ICRC).

Dr Emma Campbell, ACTCOSS CEO said: “Today’s announcement by the ICRC of regulated retail electricity prices for 2021-22 indicates that Canberra households will see a maximum bill increase of 11.95%. For the average household, this will increase their yearly electricity bill by $195. Small businesses will see an average annual increase of $751 in electricity costs.

“No one appreciates a bill increase, but the impacts will be felt most keenly by Canberrans on income supports and low incomes. For people on a tight budget, an extra $195 on their electricity bill means $195 less to spend on groceries, rent or medical appointments. It can also leave people with no choice but to turn off the heater and weather the Canberra cold.”

ACTCOSS has welcomed announcements by the ACT Government that will reduce the burden of electricity price increases for eligible Canberrans. These include:

  • Permanently increase the annual utilities concession by $50 to $750 annually
  • Provide an additional one-off $50 increase to the utilities concession for 2021-22, taking the payment for next year to $800
  • Contribute $1 million to the Utilities Hardship Fund over four years
  • Establish a co-governed energy literacy and education program with the community sector with a $0.95 million contribution over four years
  • Expand access to the Utilities Concession to all those who hold an ACT Services Access Card.

Dr Campbell said: “Today’s package of measures responds to ACTCOSS’s advocacy for a permanent increase to the annual utilities concession and the expansion of the scheme to include people with an ACT Services Access card. Increased funding for the Utilities Hardship Fund will also help prevent people who are facing financial hardship but aren’t eligible for concessions from falling through the gaps.

“Funding for community sector involvement in energy literacy and education is welcomed. People on low incomes may not be aware of the full range of supports available to them, and while the roll out of new ‘better offer’ electricity bill reforms later this year will make it easier to see if a better deal is available, the process of comparing plans is still time consuming and difficult to navigate. Community sector organisations are well placed to help consumers access the right information and support.

“Rising electricity prices are the most obvious cause of high electricity bills, but the energy efficiency of your house is one of the largest contributing factors to overall energy consumption. More than half of all lower income households in the ACT rent their home, leaving them with little control over the energy efficiency of their house. ACTCOSS supports the commitment to minimum energy efficiency standards regulations for rental properties in the Parliamentary and Governing Agreement, and urges the ACT Government to prioritise its implementation.

“As the ACT moves towards net zero emissions, it is imperative that we see a just transition. Today’s increase in energy costs is largely due to the ACT Government’s Large-scale Feed-in-Tariff scheme, a component of the ACT’s 100% renewable energy strategy. To ensure Canberrans with the least aren’t disproportionally affected, we need to make sure this cost is distributed equitably.

“ACTCOSS appreciates the ongoing engagement by the Chief Minister and Minister Rattenbury that has led to today’s announcement of these measures to support vulnerable Canberrans. Climate change is an important social justice issue, and ACTCOSS supports the ACT Government’s commitment to renewable energy. However, there must be a just transition to ensure that the interests of all Canberrans are adequately represented and that people on low incomes are protected,” Dr Campbell concluded.

ACTCOSS advocates for social justice in the ACT and represents not-for-profit community organisations.

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