The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) has today welcomed modest price relief for ACT electricity consumers announced by the Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission (ICRC).
Today’s announcement will see a 1.25% reduction in ActewAGL’s regulated retail electricity standing offers for small customers in 2022-23 beginning 1 July 2022. This will translate to an annual bill saving of $23 for an average residential customer. This comes after an 12% increase last year which added an extra $195 to the average household’s electricity bill in 2021-22.
ACTCOSS CEO, Dr Emma Campbell said: “Today’s announcement will come as some relief for ACT households and small businesses who have been struggling to stretch limited budgets to cover the rising cost of living. Over the past 12 months Canberrans have seen the largest increase in the cost of living in over 20 years – and over the last five years, electricity prices in the ACT have increased by 28%.
“There has been significant concern about the impact that a recent spike in wholesale electricity prices will have on household bills. The ICRC’s announcement today provides ACT consumers with some very welcome protection from this, at least for the next 12 months.
“However, the ICRC does not regulate retail gas prices in the ACT. The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) has determined that in 2022-23, gas network costs will be $27 higher per year for households and small businesses, compared to 2021-22. It is unclear what impact significant increases in the wholesale price of gas will have on gas bills for the over 70% of ACT households connected to the gas network.
“ACTCOSS urges the ACT Government to closely monitor retail gas price changes to ensure the Utilities Concession is adequate to support low-income households to meet rising costs. With a cold Canberra winter already upon us, many households will be making a choice between putting their finances or their health at risk by deciding whether or not to turn on the heating.
“Recent wholesale gas price spikes and the uncertain future of ACT’s gas network as we transition to net zero raises the question of whether we need to regulate retail gas prices to better protect consumers. We urge the ACT Government to ensure greater support for low-income and vulnerable households is prioritised so we can achieve a fair, fast and inclusive transition.”
ACTCOSS’s 2022-23 ACT Budget Priorities on energy and the cost of living include:
- Ensure concessions are adequate and targeted to need based on review and update of the Targeted Assistance Strategy
- Ensure the Utilities Concession is adjusted in line with increases in costs of electricity, gas, water and sewerage services for low-income households
- Provide additional funding under the Home Energy Support Program to enable low-income households to access rooftop solar and energy efficient heating, cooling, cooking and hot water – including additional support to transition from gas to electric appliances
- Monitor the distributional impact of the Large-scale Feed-in Tariff (LFiT) Scheme on ACT energy consumers
ACTCOSS also supports ACOSS’s call on the Federal Government to provide emergency energy debt relief of up to $1,000 per household to reduce the incidence of energy debt, which skyrocketed during Covid. This could be done in partnership with retailers.
ACTCOSS CEO, Dr Emma Campbell continued: “ACTCOSS has welcomed the ACT Government’s $50 million Home Energy Support Program to improve building efficiency and sustainability for social and public housing, low-income owner-occupiers, and the lowest performing rental properties. We’ve also welcomed progress towards implementing minimum energy efficiency standards in rental properties.
“More resources, more ambition, and greater urgency is needed if these measures are to help deliver a fair, fast and inclusive transition to net zero greenhouse gas emissions in the ACT – including by prioritising our most vulnerable households in the gas transition.
Dr Campbell concluded: “We encourage people, especially those struggling with their energy bills or cost of living more broadly, to access a range of supports available through the ACT Government’s Everyday Climate Choices website. We also encourage people to contact their energy retailer to check what supports they can provide to improve energy efficiency. ACT energy consumers can also use the Australian Government’s Energy Made Easy website to compare retailers’ offers to find the lowest price.
“Ultimately, the onus shouldn't be on people to constantly engage in an increasingly complex energy market. Further programmatic support and energy policy and regulatory reform is needed to ensure all Canberrans can access affordable and efficient energy for healthy and affordable homes.” Dr Campbell said.
Dr Emma Campbell, CEO, ACTCOSS, on 0424 910 617 or 02 6202 7200.