Productivity commission draft electricity report heralds a brighter future

Productivity commission draft electricity report heralds a brighter future

UnitingCare Australia has welcomed the timely release in Anti Poverty Week of the Productivity Commission’s draft report on Electricity Network Regulatory Frameworks.

National Director, Lin Hatfield Dodds, said the report highlights the inequity of current regulatory arrangements and it recommends focusing on the needs of domestic consumers.

“Energy prices have almost doubled in the last five years. This hike, which is well beyond the Consumer Price Index, is felt most acutely by lower income and disadvantaged households and is driving increased demand for emergency relief and financial counselling services,” Ms Hatfield Dodds said.

“Affordable electricity is an essential service for residential consumers. There is no substitute. It’s central to good health and access to the technologies that enable workforce and social participation. No household should have to pay more than 4 per cent of their income on essential energy.

“As prices continue to increase, UnitingCare research shows that a third of households will cut back on fresh food and study or further training and a quarter of households will cut back on going to the doctor and buying medicine.

“Around 25 per cent of bill increases, including for low income households, are caused by the need to meet peak demand pressures, even though low income households do not contribute much at all to increases in peak demand.

“The draft report states the overarching objective of the regulatory regime is the long term interests of electricity consumers but this objective has lost its primacy as the main consideration for regulatory and policy decisions.

“Ensuring reliable, affordable access must underpin policy and regulation of this essential service.

“The Productivity Commission’s draft recommendations will go a long way to fixing the regulatory problems in the electricity industry that disadvantage low income households, but Governments can act right now to put consumers interests back at the centre stage.

“State and Territory governments can adopt and implement the National Energy Customer Framework. This Framework will set a uniform, national baseline for consumer protection.”

Ms Hatfield Dodds said that in its Energy White Paper, due for release at the end of this year, the Federal Government could make consumer interests a priority.

The UnitingCare network provides social services to over two million people each year in 1,300 sites in remote, rural and metropolitan Australia. UnitingCare employs 35,000 staff and 24,000 volunteers.

A copy of the report is available here.

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