Energy companies in NSW, Victoria and South Australia announced on April 2, they will provide relief to customers who are in financial difficulties, thanks to the CCP virus. The comprehensive package is aimed specifically at small business and residential customers. It will ensure energy retailers in those states assist customers facing job loss or reduced incomes.
In effect from April 1 until June 30, these measures will allow small businesses to hibernate or mothball themselves for three months. While residential consumers who are unable to pay will be granted rebates for the same period of time. The rebates are expected to be received by September 2020, after customers demonstrate their eligibility. The deadline for eligibility is Sept. 1, 2020.
The package comes after federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor called on the energy sector to help those struggling on March 27. “We expect them to do more to help small businesses who have gone into hibernation to avoid any energy costs, and we expect them to pass on the huge price drops we are seeing in the wholesale market.”
CEO of Energy Networks Australia Andrew Dillion said the package would ensure energy retailers were able to better assist the community. “Networks and retailers realize it’s important the industry pulls together to support the many small businesses and households who will face growing challenges over the months ahead.”
Regulator Provides Information
The Australian Energy Regulator has released a fact sheet to inform people of their rights if they are having trouble paying their bills at this time. Currently, there is a range of options that consumers can discuss with their providers: more time to pay, payment plans, hardship programs, concessions, centrepay, and financial counseling are some of the options on the table.
Almost all of Australia’s largest energy retailers have thrown their support behind the package. Jemena’s Managing Director Frank Tudor noted the package will support Jemena’s existing measures.
“We’ve looked critically at all parts of our business and have adapted to new ways of working so we can keep the lights on and the gas flowing while protecting the health and wellbeing of our own people and the broader community.”
However, getting through has been a problem with many of these companies being overwhelmed with requests for help. Two providers, ActewAGL and Diamond Energy, both had their website crash on April 3, due to a dramatic increase in traffic.
Power Usage Down
The impact of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, also known as the novel coronavirus, is already being felt by Australia’s energy sector. Figures from last month indicate demand reduced across Australia’s most energy-dependent regions by 7.7 percent over the past three weeks.
Energy providers believe this is due to solar roof panels.
The increase in solar Rooftop PV across Australia has meant that there are more periods of the day where energy usage is in the negative, as solar power takes over the grid while we are all at home. Energy Networks Australia recommends that consumers take advantage of this situation to save on their power bills. Pointing out that if you have solar you should schedule your dishwasher, washing machine and heating to occur during the day to take advantage of any non-peak tariffs.