Energy affordability continues to improve but retailers must do more support vulnerable customers

Energy prices have continued to become more affordable according to the Australian Energy Regulator (AER).

The AER Annual Retail Markets Report 2020-21 has found energy prices have eased across all jurisdictions since 2019-20, with increasing retail competition with 15 new retailers entering the gas and electricity markets in the past year.

The AER found:

  • Up to 0.5 per cent less disposable income was needed to meet typical household electricity costs in 2020-21 compared with the previous year;
  • The median market offers are at also at a 5 year low as a proportion of income in all jurisdictions except the ACT; and
  • The lower prices are also contributing to reductions in household spending on electricity. This is reflected in CPI data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics which shows 11 consecutive quarters of year-on-year declines in household electricity costs.

However, the report also found an increase in the number of households with energy debt, reflecting the impact of the COVID-19 shutdowns across the country.

The Morrison Government, through the AER, set strong, but reasonable expectations in March 2020, for energy companies to provide extended relief to households and small businesses under financial stress during the COVID-19 pandemic. This included offering payment plans and not disconnecting customers where they remain in contact with their retailer.

Minister Taylor said that while these expectations have evolved over time to reflect the changing nature of COVID lockdowns, the Morrison Government remains committed to ensuring that retailers provide the necessary support to customers experiencing hardship.

“Energy costs are continuing to fall. This is good news for Australian families and small businesses,” Minister Taylor said.

“However, as providers of an essential service, it is critical that energy companies step up to deliver necessary support to any customers doing it tough.

“Any customers continuing to experience hardship should reach out to their retailer to discuss what support is available.

“Given that energy prices are continuing to come down, the Government encourages customers who are not happy with their current offer to shop around.”

Households and small businesses can use the Government’s free energy price comparison website Energy Made Easy to search all available offers and find the best deal.

Australians can also find tips for reducing their energy costs and getting the rebates and help they are eligible for on energy.gov.au.

The AER report covers the ACT, New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania.

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