Energy networks across several states have announced a new relief package to provide support for those suffering hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Energy networks across New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia have announced a suite of measures in the Electricity and Gas Network Relief Package.
The package compliments other initiatives across the gas and electricity sector and will take effect from 1 April 2020.
Energy Networks Australia CEO, Andrew Dillon, said the comprehensive package was aimed at small business and residential customers and would help ensure energy retailers can better assist those facing hardship.
“Networks understand these are extraordinarily tough times for small businesses and energy bill relief will really help,” Mr Dillon said.
“For small businesses that are mothballed, electricity and gas network charges will not be applied from the start of April to the end of June 2020, if their consumption is less than a quarter of what it was in 2019.
“Networks know it is in everyone’s interest to support small businesses through what is an extremely challenging period.”
The package also includes measures to support households by helping energy retailers provide further assistance to those who fall into hardship as a result of COVID-19.
“Networks will be deferring or rebating electricity and gas network charges for impacted customers,” Mr Dillon said.
“This assists impacted customers and helps energy retailers, who administer energy hardship programs.
“Networks and retailers realise it’s important the industry pulls together to support the many small businesses and households who will face growing challenges over the months ahead.
“Networks will work with energy retailers to ensure the benefits of this package flow through to customers smoothly.”
Governments have already announced various energy support measures for affected customers and several energy industry players have voiced their support.
The Australian Energy Council’s (AEC) Chief Executive, Sarah McNamara, said the relief package recognised that retailers and network businesses both have a part to play in supporting businesses and households in financial distress.
“This package, when implemented, should complement the hardship and payment plan measures that retailers already have in place,” Ms McNamara said.
“It is critical that this package is implemented quickly, with clear guidelines so small business customers can realise the benefits immediately.
“We will be working with network businesses to achieve this outcome and to ensure consistent support for businesses and households in financial distress across retailers.”
Endeavour Energy also welcomed the commitment by the industry to support households and small businesses in hardship.
Endeavour Energy has worked with network electricity and gas operators across NSW, Victoria and South Australia on measures to help retailers provide eligible customers facing financial hardship with temporary relief from their electricity bills.
Endeavour Energy Interim Chief Executive Officer, Leanne Pickering, said, “We know this is a very difficult time for all Australians.
“We will continue to work with the industry, our workers and unions, retailers, regulators, consumer advocates and the government to ensure the safe and reliable delivery of electricity, now and into the future, and that customers facing genuine hardship are given the practical support they need.”
Jemena’s Managing Director, Frank Tudor, said energy networks were working collaboratively to deliver the package which is an additional complement to the measures announced by the Australian Energy Regulator in its recent Statement of Expectations of Energy Businesses.
“This package provides relief and certainty to customers at this trying time by deferring or waiving network charges for those customers who have been financially impacted as a result of COVID-19,” Mr Tudor said.
“The package builds on the principles outlined by the Australian Energy Regulator in its Statement of Expectations of Energy Businesses and, in addition to financial support, ensures a consistent approach across network businesses when handling issues such as disconnections, reconnections and planned maintenance.”
Mr Tudor said the Energy Network Relief Package complements other measures taken by Jemena in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve looked critically at all parts of our business and have adapted to new ways of working so we can keep the lights on and the gas flowing while protecting the health and wellbeing of our own people and the broader community.”
For more information on the Relief Package, click here.