Question - Electricity Prices

Wednesday 22 June 2022, Question without notice


Ms ARMITAGE question to LEADER of the GOVERNMENT in the LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL, Mrs HISCUTT


[2.48 p.m.]

In an ABC report from 2 June, it was reported Tasmanians should brace for the biggest electricity hike in a decade and that an energy consultant expected a regulator price rise of more than 10 per cent. When this was put to the minister, in budget Estimates, the minister stated:


We will do everything in our power to ensure that we can respond appropriately to the cost of living pressures when it comes to electricity prices.


The independent Tasmanian Economic Regulator has since announced an 11.88 per cent increase.


Can the Leader please advise in view of this price increase:


(1) In addition to the suite of measures that were announced by the Premier and Minister for Energy and Renewables last week, targeting eligible concession card holders and residential and small business customers who are 'financially vulnerable', what specific measures will the Government take to provide relief to people who are struggling with meeting hundreds of dollars more a year for their bill but are not eligible for concessions or otherwise financially vulnerable?


(2) For the purposes of assisting those struggling with the cost of electricity, what is defined as 'financially vulnerable'?


(3) Can the Government commit to providing assistance for people who are not otherwise eligible for concessions, such as working couples or self-funded retirees, relating to electricity costs and other cost of living pressures? In other words, those who often fall through the gap who cannot get a concession card but not necessarily able to afford to pay all their bills either.


ANSWER


(1) Mr President, the assistance announced last week by the Premier and the Minister for Energy and Renewables provides targeted support to those most in need, as well as energy efficiency options for families and small businesses, and the tools for Tasmanians to help manage their power bills. The Winter Energy Assistance Package includes -


Ms ARMITAGE - With respect, I did say in addition to the suite. You do not need to read all those out as well.


Mrs HISCUTT - If you like I will not read them out but I will seek leave to have them incorporated into Hansard so they are all there. It is not pointed out here which is in addition. It is just a list. I can touch on them. There was the $180 Winter Bill Buster. It has a $61 concession. I seriously think I should go through these:


· there is a $180 Winter Bill Buster discount for eligible electricity concession account holders, including those in embedded networks. This discount is made up of the $61 concession increase budgeted to flow to concession cardholders this year, plus a bill credit of $119 to help offset the increase to be provided on eligible customers' next bill from 1 August 2022. This will completely offset the yearly bill increase for concession cardholders with small to medium usage and significantly cover the increase for those who consume higher amounts of power. The eligibility criteria target the most vulnerable people in the Tasmanian community, in alignment with the existing annual electricity concession.


· a boosted and expanded $50 million Energy Saver Loan and Subsidy scheme is available to all Tasmanians and will provide up to $10 000 for an interest-free loan to provide for private residential customers, all business customers and landlords of residential rental properties to invest in energy-efficient products to help lower their electricity bills. This is an important tool to help Tasmanians manage their bills and to lower them.

· there will be no charge for aurora+ from 1 July 2022. Tasmanians using aurora+ are significantly less likely to experience bill shock and their debt levels are lower than customers who do not use it. Over the next 12 months, Aurora Energy will work to sign up as many customers to aurora+ as possible. This is, again, open to all Tasmanians.

· there is also a $1.7 million Aurora Customer Support Fund and the YES incentive payment program to support residential and small business customers experiencing financial vulnerability with subsidised payment plans and one-off payments.

· then there is the ongoing commitment to the No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS) for low income Tasmanians to purchase things like household, medical and education essentials up to $1500.

The Government will continue to monitor cost of living pressures on Tasmanians and stands ready to respond with further measures if required.


(2) The Aurora Customer Support Fund, and the YES incentive payment program are there to assist customers who are financially vulnerable and are finding it difficult to pay their bills. Customers can contact Aurora to discuss their eligibility for the support measures available, and this is a discussion done on a case by case basis.


(3) The boosted and expanded $50 million Energy Saver Loan and Subsidy Scheme will provide support and assistance for people who are not otherwise eligible for concessions. The program will provide interest-free loans of up to $10 000 to private residential customers, small business customers and landlords of residential rental properties to invest in products that will have a flow-on impact of lowering their electricity bills. Also, aurora+ is available at no cost for this group, along with Aurora's hardship fund and YES program if required.


Ms ARMITAGE - I want to make a comment. I am not sure anything was added in addition to the suite of measures that were announced but just to say that aurora+ is not available to everyone; you must have a smart meter.


Mr PRESIDENT - That is a point of clarification?


Ms ARMITAGE - Just to let you know it is not available to those who do not have a smart meter. I think there are some 200 000 who still need to have their meters changed over. I do not believe the answer included anything that was in addition to the suite of measures already announced.


Mr PRESIDENT - The member may like to resubmit the question.


Ms ARMITAGE - Thank you, Mr President.

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