TasCOSS MEDIA RELEASE: Winter chill prompts calls to improve household energy efficiency and lower power bills

Thursday 10 June 2021

With the winter chill well and truly blanketing the state, TasCOSS is calling on the State Government to improve energy affordability for Tasmanians and provide increased support for households to lower their electricity bills.

TasCOSS CEO Ms Adrienne Picone said Tasmanians are paying the highest power bills in Australia and those on low incomes are paying disproportionately more of their income on energy.

“The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with the housing affordability crisis, low wage growth, job insecurity and reduction in income supports, have resulted in more Tasmanian households struggling with cost of living pressures,” Ms Picone said,

“We estimate around 59,000 households in Tasmania are experiencing energy poverty. That is the equivalent of the entire northern region of our state.

“Living in energy poverty forces low income households to restrict energy use by avoiding activities like showering, cooking or using heaters, which often leads to significant health and wellbeing impacts. It also results in spending high proportions of income on power bills and going without other basic goods and services.

“The government can assist households to lower their power bills by both lowering electricity prices and supporting investment in household energy efficiency upgrades. This will ensure houses are more energy efficient and healthy to live in.”

Ms Picone also said the current government target of the ‘lowest regulated electricity prices in Australia’ was of little value, as it ignores the fact that most customers on the mainland access market offers that result in prices lower than the regulated price.

“It’s a bit like a supermarket boasting it has the ‘lowest recommended retail price for apples’ and another store sells apples at 10% off the recommended retail price,” she said.

“Furthermore, ACCC figures show that for customers on the mainland able to access market offers, electricity prices have fallen almost 9% since the middle of last year, compared to a 1.4% reduction in Tasmania’s regulated price.”

These findings are supported by research TasCOSS commissioned to compare Tasmania’s electricity prices with those elsewhere on the mainland. The report, prepared by Goanna Energy Consulting, identified:

  • Tasmanians pay the highest electricity bills in the country and historically have had high bills.
  • High bills are a result of high levels of electricity consumption, due to our relatively cool climate, low penetration of natural gas and older housing stock with poor energy efficiency performance.
  • The State Government’s promise of Tasmania having the lowest regulated electricity prices in the country by 2022 is not particularly meaningful to Tasmanian households. It would be more meaningful if the State Government’s aim was for Tasmania to have the most affordable and competitively-priced electricity in the country.
  • Tasmanians’ electricity bills can be reduced through a combination of lower electricity prices and lower electricity use/consumption.
  • The delinking from Victorian wholesale prices and capping of residential electricity prices initially benefited Tasmanian households. However, with the significant reduction in Victorian wholesale market prices this policy is now financially impacting households. Tasmanians are currently paying higher prices (than if linked to the Victorian wholesale market price), but prices have been more stable.
  • Tasmania’s electricity concession scheme is the second-highest by value in the country, significantly helping to reduce recipients’ bills. However, concession customers’ bills are the third-highest in the country.
  • Tasmanian residential customers received less financial support with energy costs in response to COVID-19 than households in most other jurisdictions.

“This report and previous research confirm that investing in household energy efficiency will improve energy affordability and reduce power bills for Tasmanians.

“TasCOSS is proposing a bold investment program that will extend the benefits of energy efficiency upgrades to Tasmanians living on low incomes, regardless of whether they are in public housing, community housing, private rentals or owner-occupied homes.

“TasCOSS has welcomed the move by the State Government to provide a $125 COVID Recovery Winter Energy Supplement for eligible concession card householders along with the commitment to re-establish the $30 million Tasmanian Energy Efficiency Loan Scheme.

“Investing in energy efficiency initiatives for low income households will create jobs, stimulate our economy in the post-COVID-19 recovery, lower emissions, help to achieve the state’s renewable energy goals and improve the health and wellbeing of Tasmanians.”

For more information, please refer to the Goanna Report for TasCOSS on Tasmanian Residential Electricity Prices and TasCOSS’s 2021/22 Budget Priorities Statement: Household Energy Efficiency Initiatives.

For more information or to arrange an interview with TasCOSS CEO Adrienne Picone:

  • Cameron Allen, 0419 769 253 or via email.