Energy Minister Mick de Brenni has urged power companies not to cut off the state’s most vulnerable as a COVID moratorium comes to an end on June 30.
The Australian Energy Regulator introduced temporary consumer protections in March last year that saved thousands of households and small businesses from having their power disconnected or referred to debt collectors.
But with the protections set to end on June 30, Mr de Brenni said it was critical power companies continued to help struggling families and small businesses keep the lights on.
Mr de Brenni has written to power company peak body the Australian Energy Council urging its members to continue to help the vulnerable, and to make sure they offered them the available State Government support, including energy concessions and relief schemes.
“Many customers are likely to continue to be impacted and require assistance,” Mr de Brenni said.
“Many parts of the economy are still recovering from impacts of the pandemic and, despite this, the national arrangements for income support, in particular JobKeeper, have been withdrawn.
“Energy retailers should continue to offer a range of support measures tailored to meet consumer’s needs, including flexible payment plans and hardship programs which take account of a customer’s capacity to pay.
“South East Queensland and parts of regional Queensland are entering a three-day COVID-19 lockdown, demonstrating that the pandemic continues to significantly impact on the lives of electricity consumers.
“Queensland will continue to monitor the impacts of COVID-19 on energy consumers.
“The Palaszczuk Government remains firmly committed to supporting vulnerable energy customers and encouraging industry to deliver improvements that encourage early intervention and engagement with energy consumers experiencing financial difficulty.”
Mr de Brenni said the Palaszczuk Government had helped more than two million Queensland households with their utility costs through its $400 million COVID-19 household relief package.
As part of Queensland’s COVID19 Economic Recovery Plan, Queensland households received a $200 utility rebate and $50 asset ownership dividend last year.
“We were able to deliver these savings straight into the pockets of Queenslanders by arranging with electricity providers to automatically apply the credit.”
He said Queensland’s publicly-owned energy retailer Ergon Retail would continue to help customers and urged other companies to follow their example.