More homes have electricity disconnected

December 18th, 2012

The difference between an annoying energy bill and a significant decline in health is important.

HH thanks James Robertson for the following story in the Sydney Morning Herald 18/12/12

UP TO 23,000 households in NSW had their electricity cut off for failing to pay their bills last year, a new report has found.

The report by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal found there had been a 25 per cent increase in disconnections for non-payment last financial year, up from 18,500 the previous year. The number of gas customers disconnected rose by 15 per cent.

”Bills have been increasing substantially,” said the chief executive officer of the tribunal, James Cox, who wrote the report, which was released on Monday. ”More people are getting into a position of having a problem meeting the bills”.
But energy retailers rejected a call from the tribunal to do more to help people find alternative means of paying their bills, such as negotiating payment plans.

”We’re asking people to come to us,” said a spokeswoman for the Energy Retailers Association of Australia. ”All retailers have a lot of options available.” But Mr Cox’s report found the number of customers on payment plans had held steady, despite the rise in disconnections.
Chris Dunstan, of the University of Technology Sydney’s Institute for Sustainable Futures, said power bills had doubled in the past six years, because the cost of investment in power networks had been passed on to consumers.

The NSW Energy Minister, Chris Hartcher, called on retailers to do more to promote payment options and said the government had increased consumer protection and delivered a $75 energy rebate to 540,000 families.

The opposition called for more assistance packages and warned of further price rises if the government sold the state’s electricity generators.
About 0.8 per cent of NSW homes had their power disconnected compared to 1.02 per cent in Victoria and 1.35 per cent in South Australia.

It is interesting that this general data corresponds to HH’s experience in the Housing for Health program nationally. 

The poorest families in the country battle with rising energy costs, larger and often combined families due to housing shortages, poorly design and maintained houses that are energy inefficient, 2nd hand appliances (that whilst affordable are rarely efficient) and often harsh environmental conditions. 

The daily decisions about whether to buy energy for hot water and lighting and paying the rent or food bill become more and more difficult.When the bills can’t be paid, houses are disconnected. 

Many Indigenous communities have power card meters that require ‘feeding’ with power cards to maintain power. HH would doubt the time that many remote Indigenous houses are effectively disconnected from power (as people don’t have the money to feed the meter) is factored into the figures in the article. 

HH will be giving more detail on the amount of energy and water needed to maintain health in future weeks. 

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