Last week, the ACT Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission announced that households could expect a nearly 20 percent increase in electricity prices after July 1, pushing average electricity bills up by $333 a year and natural gas bills up by $247 a year.
This came only one day after it was revealed in the 2017 ACT budget that rates would be increasing by up to 33 percent in some cases, with the average increase sitting at 7 percent.
National Senior’s ACT Policy Advisory Group member Dr Bill Donovan says the soaring prices will hit the elderly the hardest, as many are pensioners or on a fixed income.
“These power increases, which come at the coldest time of the year when older people rely on heating to keep their homes liveable, will make it hard for many of them to make ends meet,” says Dr Donovan.
“Even the main energy supplier, ActewAGL, has acknowledged that looming price hikes are shocking and is urging people who have trouble paying their bills to contact them. They have promised not to cut off supply.”
Chief Executive Officer for ActewAGL Michael Costello announced that the energy provider would be establishing a $250,000 Energy Support Fund to assist those struggling to pay their bills.
“We understand these price increases may cause financial stress or significant hardship, which is why we have announced an Energy Support Fund,” he says.
“We’ve met with community groups that provide frontline services and we are acting on their helpful advice and the ideas we discussed – we’ll be working with these groups to identify as early as possible people who may be struggling and to direct support where it’s needed most.
“At the heart of the Fund is our promise to work with customers to keep them connected this winter.”
Mr Costello says community members are urged to contact ActewAGL rather than go without energy, as there are things they can do to help.
From July 1, ActewAGL will be providing energy vouchers available through the community groups that provide emergency relief services, and a Solar Grants Program to help cut energy bills for groups that provide vital community support.
“In addition, we will be establishing a dedicated Bill Help Hotline, providing all customers with a range of support options and information on rebates, concessions and energy saving advice,” Mr Costello says.
Dr Donovan says National Seniors are asking seniors to take ActewAGL on their word and seek assistance if needed, rather than avoiding using power to keep warm over winter.
“It’s not hard to understand why older people sometimes feel ignored by their governments and communities, when in the space of 24 hours they face price rises of hundreds of dollars every year and they have no way of boosting their income to cover them,” Dr Donovan says.