The supply of electricity is an essential service that is vitally important for the health and wellbeing of families and individuals. Consequently, QCOSS believes it is important to provide a voice for residential customers, and particularly low-income and disadvantaged households, in the tariff reform process currently underway for the Queensland networks.
Thus, QCOSS has made a submission to Round Two Consultation Energy Queensland Tariff Structure Statement 2020-25.
In this submission, QCOSS sets out the potential impacts of tariff reform on low income and vulnerable customers, and requests EQ to consider these impacts in its draft TSS. Although
an improvement on the Ergon Energy and Energex previous cost reflective tariffs, in its current form QCOSS view is that the proposed network tariff – Lifestyle Package – is likely to
lead to bill shock. QCOSS has put forward recommendations that can support low-income and vulnerable customers through the transition to more cost-reflective tariffs:
• A gradual approach to the introduction of cost-reflective tariffs that include customer research (especially for low-income and vulnerable customers) and a data sampling period following installation of a digital meter.
• Adjustments to the Lifestyle Package to reduce bill shock.
• Additional supports to assist customers to understand the Lifestyle Package. QCOSS believes that effective and targeted supports and consumer protections must be in place to manage any significant impacts from tariff reform. Consequently, QCOSS also recommends a number of “enabling factors” – including a technology fund, better education and awareness including an education campaign and improved concessions – to ensure successful network tariff reform for all customers and especially low-income and vulnerable customers.
For low-income and vulnerable customers remaining on legacy tariffs or who are unable to engage with more cost-reflective tariffs, QCOSS is also calling for research on “safeguard” tariff arrangements that would act as a protection against bill shock. Development and analysis of such a tariff offering must be part of tariff reform so that no one gets left behind.