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Power bill and disconnections relief for SA energy customers

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SA Power Networks has committed to an estimated $10m worth of bill relief to SA household and business customers, as part of a move by energy firms in South Australia, Victoria and NSW to provide cost of living support during the coronavirus economic downturn.

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SAPN said it would provide “a suite of measures” to support South Australians enduring hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The initial package would provide roughly $10 million in relief for small and large businesses as well as residential customers, with SAPN exploring additional support measures for local customers, including medium businesses.

CEO Rob Stobbe said small SA businesses experiencing financial stress and “hibernating” between April 1 and June 30 as a result of COVID-19 would be eligible for support.

“We will provide immediate tariff relief through the retailer for up to 80,000 small businesses using up to 40 MWh per annum, who between April and the end of June consume less than 25 per cent of their usual consumption for that three-month period,” Stobbe said.

“We also will support a number of small retailers who are working hard to sustain their most vulnerable residential customers on hardship programs.”

Small retailers who began receiving relevant government benefits from April 1 will also be able to claim network charges, including electricity transmission, electricity distribution, metering and jurisdiction charges.

Residential customers of large retailers – such as AGL, Origin, Energy Australia Simply Energy – on payment plans or hardship arrangements as a result of COVID-19 will be able to defer payments.

A SAPN spokesperson told InDaily further details regarding payment plans and deferrals were being examined.

“Industry is meeting with retailers in the next couple of weeks to work through the arrangements,” they said.

SAPN has also committed to supporting retailers to ensure residential or small businesses would not have power disconnected before July 31 and would not charge retailers for disconnections of small businesses who have stopped trading due to COVID-19.

It would also “seek to minimise the frequency and duration of planned outages for critical work” and would “provide as much notice as possible to assist households and businesses to manage during any associated outage.”

“We’re looking at how to manage outages and ways to reduce the impact on customers and businesses,” the spokesperson said.

Energy retailers will administer the relevant rebating changes in arrears by the end of September.

Gas distribution network Australian Gas Infrastructure Group (AGIG) welcomed the announcement.

It said the measures would help soften the blow for customers stressed by indefinite business uncertainty and loss of household income related to coronavirus.

Australian Gas Infrastructure Group CEO Ben Wilson. Image: supplied

AGIG CEO Ben Wilson said the support was critical to ensuring customers survived the crisis and were able to contribute to the economy and community when the virus subsided.

“Small business are not only the backbone of Australia’s economy but fuel the household spend at a grassroots level,” Wilson said.

“Within this environment, Australia’s whole energy supply chain has a role and responsibility to step up and ensure some easing in energy bill payments.”

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