More Australians struggling with power bill shock
The Escalating Cost of Living: Energy Companies Bolstering Hardship Programs Amid Increasing Need
Origin Energy, one of Australia’s prime energy companies, has been ramping up its support to households grappling with the escalating cost of living. As stated by Tim O’Grady, Origin Energy general manager for government affairs, during a recent Senate inquiry, the number of customers the company is now aiding has risen by 22% compared to the previous year. He noted that about 71,000 households were in need of assistance under the company’s hardship program as of June this year, a significant increase from the previous tally of 58,000 in 2022.
Significant Investment in Customer Assistance
Origin Energy has demonstrated a solid commitment to alleviating civil financial strain by allocating up to $45 million for the support of customers in need for the current fiscal year. This is substantial in comparison to the $30 million expended for the similar purpose in the last financial year. “One of our key areas of focus is supporting the most vulnerable members of our community who can least afford price increases,” said Mr. O’Grady at the inquiry. He further elucidated the various facets of their hardship program like flexible payment options, tailored bill relief, energy efficiency advice, financial counselling services, and access to government subsidies.
Protection from Disconnection
A notable assurance provided by Origin Energy’s hardship programs is the protection from disconnection. This ensures that despite their financial struggles, these families are not left devoid of essential energy supply. This is a critical lifeline to many households, especially during periods of extreme hot or cold weather, where any disruption in energy supply could pose serious health risks.
AGL Energy’s Affordability Measures
Another significant energy entity, AGL Energy, has also put forth measures aimed at ameliorating energy affordability issues. Suzanne Falvi, the executive general manager, stated that they have earmarked a minimum of $70 million to be dispensed over the next two years to assist households having difficulty in bill payments. “The funding provides both direct and indirect support to customers, and includes targeted payment matching and debt relief for eligible customers experiencing hardship,” Falvi shared.
Reducing Bills with Solar Energy
AGL Energy is also contemplating an initiative to facilitate the installation of solar panels for eligible customers. This ambitious project seeks to help households reduce their energy bills by shifting towards renewable and sustainable energy sources. This innovative approach not only addresses the crisis of energy affordability but also aligns with the global thrust towards greener alternatives.
Charities Feeling the Pinch
On the frontline of this cost of living crisis are charities like Foodbank WA, experiencing an overwhelming demand for their services. The organization reported an enormous increase of 315% in food relief-related web searches. Kate O’Hara, Foodbank WA’s chief executive, revealed that the number of average daily customers has swelled from 510 to 738 a day. “The majority of our customers are households we never expected to support,” she lamented, underlining the severe toll of the financial strain on families across the nation.
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