Spike in household energy debt warrants immediate Government action

TasCOSS welcomes the Tasmanian Government’s $33 million commitment towards energy bill relief, but is calling for the funds to be immediately released as new figures reveal the number of Tasmanians in energy debt has doubled in the past year.

TasCOSS Acting CEO Dr Charlie Burton said low income households are struggling under the burden of sharp rises in energy prices and cost of living pressures.

“The latest retail energy market performance data shows there are more than 19,000 electricity customers in Tasmania repaying an energy debt. This is a 40% increase on last quarter and a doubling of the number one year ago,” said Dr Burton.^

“This should be of concern to the Government, because the reality is whether it’s $1 or $1,000 in debt, there are 19,000 Tasmanians who cannot afford to pay their bills.

“The Winter Bill Buster Payment, Energy Saver Loans Scheme and fee-free aurora+ app outlined in the Premier’s State of the State address have been well received by the community, but this latest data tells us that level of support is inadequate, as more and more households are struggling to pay their energy bills and accruing debt.

“With the number of customers in energy debt continuing to trend upward and an increase in the number of community members accessing Energy Hardship Fund payments, more support is needed to help Tasmanians afford their energy.”

Dr Burton said TasCOSS made a number of recommendations in response to growing concerns about energy affordability and energy debt.*  

“We are urging the Government to put its $33 million fund to use immediately, rather than leaving Tasmanians to struggle while a national approach is sorted out. This is a clear opportunity for the Tasmanian Government to act on some of our recommendations to better support Tasmanians with energy costs,” he said.

“TasCOSS would like to see this funding used to support more people on low incomes, by providing bill rebates and expanding concessions eligibility, helping to prevent entering energy debt.

“With the growing problem of household energy debt hitting a new spike and the cooler months just around the corner, it is imperative the Government acts now to provide much-needed relief to Tasmanian households.”

Projects on the Go (February 2023), Activities of OTTER prepared for the OTTER Customer Consultative Committee.
* For more information and a list of key recommendations, please refer to Wellbeing First: TasCOSS 2023/24 Budget Priorities Statement.