Time for more light and less heat on energy bills

ACOSS and CHOICE call for regulatory reform to benefit consumers

The peak national community services body, ACOSS has joined with people’s watchdog CHOICE, to call for reforms to the energy sector to break the trend of sharply rising costs.

Co-hosting a one-day conference in Canberra’s Parliament House today, aimed squarely at Australia’s decision-makers, the two groups have identified the urgent need for fairer energy prices, better products, and more action to assist low-income energy consumers.

“While recent data shows the average amount Australians are spending on energy has remained fairly constant over the long-term, this doesn’t tell the full story, with low-income households spending a higher proportion of their weekly income on home energy bills”, says Tony Westmore, ACOSS Senior Policy Advisor.

“With prices increasing by about one-third in the last three years, some of our most vulnerable energy consumers are struggling to afford an essential service."

CHOICE Head of Campaigns Matt Levey says the energy sector is geared towards increasing costs for consumers, while it is hard to meaningfully choose between energy products.

“Currently the whole energy sector, from generation through to the power point, has incentives to increase bills for consumers, which is perverse at a time when governments are talking about easing household budgets,” says Mr Levey.

“At the same time, consumers find it difficult to compare energy products and make meaningful choices to save money. We need reforms that give consumers access to better information and more control without making an already complex area more difficult.”

CHOICE and ACOSS are co-hosting today’s ‘Energy at Home’ conference at the Theatrette, Parliament House Canberra, which includes a program of speakers from 9:30am to 4:30pm (see program listed below).

Tony Westmore [ACOSSS – 0419 256 339] and Matt Levey [CHOICE – 0488 214 066] are available in Canberra today for comment.

‘Energy at Home’ conference program details:

Date: Tuesday 13 September, 2011
Time: 9.30am – 4.30pm
Where: Theatrette, Parliament House, Canberra

Session 1: What’s happening and why?
Paul Simshauser, Chief Economist and Group Head of Corporate Affairs, AGL Energy
Matt Levey, Head of Campaigns, CHOICE
Clare Petre, Energy & Water Ombudsman NSW

Session 2: What can be done in the short term?
Tony Westmore, Senior Policy Advisor, ACOSS
Lauren Solomon, Policy Manager, Clean Energy Council
Rod Sims, Chairman, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission

Session 3: What can be done in the longer term?
Chris Dunstan, Research Director, Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology, Sydney
Iain MacGill, Joint Director, Centre for Environment & Energy Markets, University of New South Wales
John Pierce, Chairman, Australian Energy Market Commission
Tony Wood, Program Director Energy, Grattan Institute

Media enquiries:
· Ingrid Just, CHOICE, Head of Media: 0430 172 669 (www.choice.com.au)
· Fernando de Freitas, ACOSS, Media and Communications: 0419 626 155(www.acoss.org.au)

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