Energy consumers want price intervention

Landholders are angered by a Victorian government payment for transmission lines on their property.

Landholders are angered by a Victorian government payment for transmission lines on their property. Photo: AAP

Consumers are losing faith in an electricity and gas market that delivers prices a falling number of households and small businesses can afford.

The latest energy consumer sentiment survey shows power price increases of up to 20 per cent this year and expectations of greater bill shock to come are taking their toll.

On any measure, the leading indicators for the state of the energy system are truly concerning, Energy Consumers Australia chief executive Lynne Gallagher said.

Confidence is sinking as only 35 per cent of households say the market is working in their interests – the lowest level since 2019.

Doubts about the energy system could also undermine faith in the push to electrify homes and appliances, Ms Gallagher warned.

The consumer organisation is calling for energy ministers to commit to immediate and longer-term measures to help households and small businesses, and make bill relief easier to access for those eligible.

The survey conducted twice a year by the independent organisation also found the energy divide has widened in the past six months.

Households earning below $20,000 are paying as much as 12.4 per cent of their income on power bills, while households earning the median $93,000 are paying 3.2 per cent of their income in electricity costs – both up since June.

But households with incomes above $100,000 aren’t feeling the pinch, with the burden of electricity costs ranging from 2.6 per cent to 1.9 per cent.

Poorer households also tend to miss out on incentives and subsidies for switching to solar home systems or electric cars.

“Inequity in access to more energy efficient housing, appliances and technologies is playing out in these poorer outcomes for half of Australian households,” Ms Gallagher said.

Asked to pick a top priority, just over half of respondents ranked affordability as their chief concern for the energy market, ahead of replacing ageing coal and gas plants with new technology (13 per cent) and ensuring system resilience (12 per cent).

Positive sentiment about value for money from electricity and gas has fallen in the past year and is significantly lower than value for money from banking services.

The rising cost of energy will be on the agenda at next week’s national cabinet meeting.


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