Community sector organisations have urged the State Labor and Liberal parties to commit funding to energy-efficiency programs that have shown they reduce the heavy burden of power bills for low-income Tasmanian households.

The Tasmanian Council of Social Service, Anglicare Tasmania and Sustainable Living Tasmania joined today to make the call, in a situation where federal government energy-efficiency programs for households have been axed and no funding exists for state-based programs beyond 2014 – except for the NILs (No-Interest Loans) program.

“It’s great to see that Labor and Liberals have both committed to continue funding no-interest loans for low-income households to purchase energy-efficient appliances,” TasCOSS CEO Tony Reidy said.

“But only the Greens, at this stage in the election campaign, have pledged to support and expand other programs that help reduce power bills for low-income households.”

Since 1999, electricity prices in Tasmania have increased by more than 100 per cent.

Anglicare Tasmania CEO Chris Jones said no one should have to ration food in order to heat their home.

“As a community, we don’t accept that people should be forced to seek emergency assistance to feed their children or keep the power on,” Dr Jones said.

State government-funded programs providing retro-fitting and energy-efficiency advice that will conclude this year include Energy Champions (for public housing) and Stay Warm, Save Money (for private housing). Tasmania has also suffered a blow with the federally funded Wise Warm and Well program and Home Energy Saver Scheme being axed.

Sustainable Living Tasmania co-delivers the Energy Champions program with Housing Tasmania and also delivers the federally funded Get Bill Smart project for low-income people who are renting privately or own their own homes.

“Programs such as Energy Champions have runs on the board: the cost of the project is recouped within three years by energy savings for the households involved,” Sustainable Living Tasmania energy program manager Anton Vikstrom said.

“These programs have been shown to be highly effective in reducing people’s power bills, and we hope to see new commitments to maintain and expand existing programs,” Mr Vikstrom said.

Disconnections for non-payment are on the rise in Tasmania with an 80 per cent increase in disconnections between the third and fourth quarters of 2012-13. And 64 per cent of households that were disconnected in the final quarter of 2012-13 were still without power a week later.

In 2012-13, 1057 Tasmanian households were disconnected for non-payment of power bills, and many have accumulated heavy Aurora debts to repay – in some cases as high as $8000.

TasCOSS is also urging the next state government to introduce a concession for eligible low-income tenants to assist with water usage charges passed on to them by property owners.
TasCOSS CEO Tony Reidy