20 September 2017
The Auditor-General has released a scathing report on the Berejiklian Government’s energy rebates, describing them as “complex and inequitable”.
NSW Auditor-General Margaret Crawford’s report found that the rebates “have no measurable objectives or outcome measures” and “cannot be assessed for their effectiveness”.
As well, the report stated that more than 44 per cent of low income households recently surveyed were unaware they could get assistance through the Energy Accounts Payment Assistance (EAPA) scheme, many in linguistically diverse communities did not know about assistance available for energy bills and one third of those receiving the Family Energy Rebate did not reapply for the following year, even though prices have continued to skyrocket.
In addition, the report found that:
- Each rebate had its own separate eligibility criteria and some required separate applications to be made;
- The budget was consistently underspent; for example the Family Energy Rebate of $8 million for 2016-17 was underspent by 46 per cent; and the Gas Rebate for 2016-17 of $16.25 million was underspent by 36 per cent.
- The rebates do not target varied circumstances and need;
- Households in the same or similar financial position received different levels of assistance depending on which adult in the house was the energy account holder, the mix of energy types used in the home, or the crisis voucher provider they turned to when in financial crisis;
- Households with both gas and electricity connections received more assistance than those with only electricity, despite people often having a lack of control over the energy mix in a residence;
- Households in rural and regional areas received the same value rebate as households closer to Sydney, despite facing higher distribution charges; and
- Lower income families received a much smaller Family Energy Rebate on the assumption they already receive the Low Income Household Rebate, whether they did in fact receive it or not.
The report also found that charities and non-government organisations distributing EAPA crisis support applied inconsistent standards when assessing household need, leading to inequitable levels of assistance.
There were also issues regarding the lack of training of those distributing EAPA crisis support for charities and NGOs. EAPA providers were also not assessed for basic governance standards.
In NSW Budget Estimates earlier this month, Energy Minister Don Harwin admitted that nothing was being done to ensure power companies provide the best market offer for those customers receiving assistance.
Quotes attributable to Shadow Minister for Energy Adam Searle
“While the Government hands hundreds of millions of dollars to power companies for energy assistance programs, it fails to require these companies to ensure that households receiving assistance are on the best market offer.
“Many people either give up out of difficulty or don’t even know about the assistance measures that are possible for them and so the State Government isn’t spending anywhere near what’s budgeted in assistance measures.
“You have to ask: is this a deliberate tactic to keep residents in the dark?”