Households and small businesses deserve protection from energy price hikes

The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) today wrote to Andrew Barr MLA, Chief Minister and Treasurer, and Shane Rattenbury MLA, Minister for Water, Energy and Emissions Reduction, to call for action to protect households, not-for-profits and small businesses from energy price hikes.

Dr Emma Campbell, ACTCOSS CEO, said: “Last week Evoenergy announced that ACT residential, not-for-profit and small business energy consumers will face significant increases in electricity network charges in 2021-22.

“The average residential customer is looking at an increase of $5.44 per week or $282.88 over the year – a real increase of 36%. If you are a low voltage commercial customer, like many not-for-profits and small businesses, you are looking at $31.87 per week or $1,657.24 over the year – a real increase of 41%.

“This price increase is largely being driven by the 133% rise in the jurisdictional charge resulting from the ACT Government’s 100% renewable energy target. The ACT Government’s arrangement with Evoenergy stipulates that Evoenergy recover this cost from consumers.

“ACTCOSS supports the ACT Government’s commitment to climate change initiatives and considers action on climate change an important social justice issue. People living in low-income households are more likely to be negatively impacted by climate change – as a practical example, extremes of temperature have a much greater impact if your house is poorly insulated and you can’t afford heating bills.

“However, efforts to mitigate climate change must not lead to the entrenchment or exacerbation of disadvantage. We must have a just transition to renewable energy – an equitable distribution of risks and costs,” Dr Campbell said.

In the letter, ACTCOSS has called on the ACT Government to put in place measures to ensure that those already facing bill stress are not further burdened by energy costs. Specifically, ACTCOSS has called on the ACT Government to:

  • Review, and if necessary, redesign the Large-scale Feed-In-Tariff scheme to ensure it contributes to the long-term affordability of electricity prices in the ACT and achieves an equitable distribution of risks and costs
  • Consider ways to avoid the cost burden of jurisdictional charges falling on small energy consumers – especially people on low incomes – by absorbing these costs into ACT Government general revenue
  • Ensure the Utilities Concession is adequate to support low-income households to manage any resulting increase in overall electricity bills in 2021-22.

“ACTCOSS welcomes the recommendations in the Standing Committee on the Economy and Gender and Economic Equality Inquiries into Annual and Financial Reports 2019-20 and ACT Budget 2020-21 that the eligibility for Utilities Concession to asylum seekers is permanently extended, and that the Utilities Hardship Fund receives continued funding. We call on the ACT Government to act on these recommendations.

“ACTCOSS fully supports efforts to increase the sustainability of our energy supply – however, we cannot view an increase in levels of disadvantage and inequality in the ACT as an acceptable consequence,” Dr Campbell concluded.

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

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