Media Release

4 September 2017

The NSW Government has admitted it is pouring millions of dollars into electricity assistance that might be doing little to help people struggling to pay their electricity bills.

Currently, the Government hands over tens of millions of dollars to power companies for energy assistance programs but fails to require these companies to ensure that households receiving assistance are on the best market offer.

This means that the NSW Government is providing assistance to pay a bill that is too high in the first place.

Under questioning in Budget Estimates, the NSW Government admitted that this was a problem but is yet to do anything about it.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said last week that customers could save up to $1,500 a year by being on a better plan – a saving which is much greater than the $50 voucher that is paid under NSW’s Energy Accounts Payments Assistance program.

NSW Labor is concerned that electricity companies have no incentive to reduce bills for customers that receive rebates and taxpayer money is being funnelled into the power companies who are keeping bills high.

The Government should regulate to require electricity retailers to automatically place customers who are receiving Government assistance on the best market offer.

The Government’s failure to regulate the power companies comes as households are trying to cope with electricity price hikes of up to 20 per cent.

Labor Leader in the Legislative Council and Shadow Minister for Energy, Adam Searle today said:

“The electricity companies are laughing all the way to the bank – and Minister Harwin is doing nothing to stop them.

“We will keep on the Government to follow this through. They say it’s terrible but they’re letting it happen on their watch.

“The solution is obvious: the Government should regulate so that retailers put vulnerable customers on the best available offer.

“The best way to help people is to regulate so the power companies put vulnerable customers on the best market offer – and then provide the Government assistance off this lower price.”