The Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC) is urging the government to address a mounting energy cost crisis that is leaving low income households across the country reeling.
This comes as the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) suspended the national electricity market yesterday for the first time since its inception 24 years ago, to allow for better price regulation. Residents across the east coast are being told to conserve power in order to reduce blackouts.
The AER points to the role of general inflation in the energy crisis, as well as wholesale electricity costs being pushed up by global instability, reductions in fossil-fuel based generation resulting from unplanned outages, slowing of investment in renewables and battery storage, and increasingly sharp highs and lows in demand.
WSROC president Councillor Barry Calvert said that energy prices have soared across the country, with some 207,000 low income households in Western Sydney alone dependent on “pitifully inadequate” government energy rebates which have “left families struggling to pay their bills”.
According to research from Canstar, the average annual electricity bill for NSW families is $1424.
Councillor Calvert said that WSROC has been contacted by local families who have experienced electricity rate increases of more than 50 per cent – and gas price increases of a whopping 200 per cent.
WSROC is calling on the government to increase social program rebates to help ease the financial burden on low income residents, and to increase investment into new energy production capacity.
“A 50 per cent increase would see a typical yearly household peak usage electricity bill rocket to over $2100 – up over $700 … Families are also facing increased charges for gas, with the winter gas usage tariff in some cases being more than doubled,” Councillor Calvert said.
“Yet, the current Low Income Household Electricity Rebate is just $285, and the maximum Family Energy Rebate is a miserly $180 … The current $200 per year Seniors Energy Rebate and other government Energy Social Program rebates are wholly inadequate to help low-income households deal with the worsening household energy cost crisis.
“WSROC is urging the NSW and federal governments to work with the Australian Energy Council and energy regulators to increase investment in new energy production capacity and for the NSW Government to review the Energy Social Program rebates as a matter of urgency.
“Ordinary families in Greater Western Sydney are struggling already with record petrol prices, unprecedented grocery costs, unaffordable housing and sluggish wage growth… They didn’t cause the current energy supply crisis. Government, the energy market regulators and energy suppliers have a moral responsibility to those being most severely affected by soaring energy costs.”