Government must bring forward energy bill relief as debt, disconnections and prices climb

With winter setting in, the Tasmanian Government is being urged to bring forward $35 million of energy bill relief due to households, as energy debt and power prices continue to climb.

TasCOSS CEO, Ms Adrienne Picone, said as the Australian Government is extending and expanding the Energy Bill Relief Fund, the Tasmanian Government has not passed on to customers the full amount of energy bill relief funded in last year’s federal budget.

“Amidst a cost of living crisis and with energy bills set to peak over the colder months, it is frankly bewildering that the Tasmanian Government is choosing to withhold $35 million of energy bill relief that belongs to customers,” Ms Picone said.

“Every state and territory government, except Tasmania, has already delivered this energy bill relief in full to households.

“As a consequence, withholding of financial support has contributed to an increase in the number of Tasmanians in energy debt and a spike in electricity disconnections in the past year.

“The most recent energy retailer data shows the number of Tasmanian customers in energy debt up 20% in the past year and has more than doubled since the COVID-19 lockdowns.

“Add to the mix the fact electricity prices have risen by 22.5% in the past two years and customers are bracing for further price increases to be announced in the coming days.

“The energy bill relief payments belong in the accounts of 140,000 Tasmanian households on low incomes, not in the Tasmanian Government’s coffers. These funds were allocated for the strict purpose of providing power price relief this financial year, and the Government must deliver this relief without delay.”

Ms Picone is also encouraging the Tasmanian Government to redesign its $250 Renewable Energy Dividend (RED), following the backlash to the Commonwealth Government’s universal $300 energy rebate that benefits high income earners.

“High income earners that are already receiving a significant tax cut and a $300 energy rebate from the federal government do not need a further $250 dividend from the Tasmanian Government, while increasing numbers of Tasmanians are unable to pay their energy bills and are going into debt,” she said.

“As the Government has failed to meet its First 100 Day’s Plan deadline to deliver the RED to households this financial year, it should now use this delay to rethink the design of the RED and ensure the payment is better targeted to those most in need.”