COVID-19 Energy FAQs

Answers about COVID-19 (coronavirus) and energy

How does the current pandemic situation affect energy and gas? We’ve compiled answers to some of the questions we are receiving from customers. The situation is evolving, so we’ll keep this page up to date with new information as it is released.

COVID-19 Energy FAQs

What if I can’t pay my electricity or gas bill?

If you can’t pay your bill for any reason, you should contact your energy retailer. The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) has stated energy retailers should establish arrangements for customers in financial hardship, even if those customers wouldn’t normally meet the retailer’s criteria for financial stress.

As such, you’re in a much better position now to be able to negotiate with your energy retailer if you’re struggling to pay your bill.

Additionally, the AER says no residential or small business customer who has indicated they’re in financial stress should be disconnected (unless with the customer’s agreement) until 31 July 2020.

You may also be able to request the following options, which are available until at least 31 July 2020:

  • referrals to debt collection agencies deferred (and no impact to your credit rating); and
  • waived disconnection, reconnection, broken contract fees and daily supply charges for small businesses who’ve closed down as per the announcement on 27 March 2020.

For Victorians, energy retailer are regulated by the Essential Services Commission (ESC). On 27 March 2020, they announced a number of measures specifically for Victorians suffering bill stress, including:

  • flexible payment options;
  • debt repayments put on hold for six months to those that participate in payment plans or receive bill assistance;
  • no debt collection for households receiving bill assistance; and
  • no disconnections for customers who have arranged a bill assistance payment plan.

These measures from the AER and ESC are in addition to the typical support programs already in place designed to help customers who are struggling to pay their bills, such as:

  • payment plans;
  • bill smoothing;
  • billing frequency changes; and
  • hardship programs.

By contacting your energy retailer directly, you may be able to work out a payment plan that’s within your budget and keeps the lights on. If you don’t get in touch, you could risk having your power turned off.

If you’re looking for ways to save on household costs, you could try our energy comparison service and see if one of our energy partners could offer you a better deal. Our service is free to use, and it’ll only take a few minutes to find out if we can help you save money.

You can even speak directly with one of our energy professionals on 1800 990 003.

Last update: 02/04/2020

Can my electricity or gas be disconnected?

Yes, your energy could be disconnected if you don’t pay your bill, though the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) and Essential Services Commission (ESC) stipulated on 27 March 2020 that you can keep the power turned on if you contact your retailer and inform them you’re in financial stress.

Additionally, customers who may be excluded from disconnection for non-payment (DNP) are those who have someone relying on life support at their premises. However, they’re only exempt if they register this need with their energy retailer - either before or after they sign up for their plan. Any customer requiring a life support machine should inform their retailer to ensure the correct provisions are in place to guarantee a supply of energy to that address.

If you’re worried about being disconnected, contact your energy retailer to work out alternate arrangements to pay for your home’s power.

For more answers to your energy-related questions, visit Sergei’s Solutions Hub.

Last update: 02/04/2020

Will there be an increase in power outages?

We don't yet know if COVID-19 will have an impact on power outages. However, the Essential Services Commission (ESC), which regulates the energy sector in Victoria, released a statement on 2 April 2020, stating that they have asked energy distributors (e.g. Ausnet Services, United Energy Distributors, Citipower, Jemena or Powercor Australia) to be mindful that interruptions to energy supply because of planned maintenance will be more disruptive than usual because of the high number of people working from home or in self-isolation.

 

Last update: 02/04/2020

Will energy prices change due to COVID-19?

At this point, we do not know the answer to this question. However, in areas regulated by the National Energy Customer Framework (NECF), energy prices are typically reviewed between July and August.

Regions in the NECF include:

  • New South Wales;
  • Victoria;
  • Southeast Queensland;
  • South Australia;
  • Tasmania; and
  • ACT.

Prices for energy in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and regional Queensland are regulated, and residents don’t have as much choice between retailer. The prices in these parts of Australia are reviewed every year in December and any changes made take place on 1 July in the following financial year.

If your energy price has changed - even for the better - it’s worth comparing around this time of year to make sure you’re not paying too much for a basic household necessity.

Through our free energy comparison service, you can compare plans from various retailers. n just minutes, you can find out if one of our partnered energy retailers can offer you a better price on your energy bill. For this reason, it always pays to compare.

 

Last update: 02/04/2020

What if I notice trees or bushes going too close to the electricity network during the COVID-19 situation?

It depends on where the trees or bushes are. If they’re growing outside of your property, they’re your local council’s responsibility to maintain. In this case, you should contact them directly.

However, if the trees or bushes are growing within your property, it’s your responsibility to maintain them. That said, do not attempt any pruning or maintenance yourself if it’s near a power line. Contact professionals who can remove the obstruction safely.

 

Last update: 02/04/2020

What happens if my power supply is interrupted during the COVID-19 situation?

Your energy retailer should notify you ahead of time if they need to cut power to perform repairs or maintenance. In the case of an unplanned power outage, you should prepare and react as you would have previously before the pandemic. This may include:

• checking if your neighbours have power;
• setting up temporary lighting around your house, where safe (e.g. torches, candles);
• leaving your fridge and freezer doors closed;
• connecting backup power (if available);
• checking for (and reporting any) fallen power lines, while staying a safe distance away;
• letting your employer know that you’re experiencing an outage, if you’re now working from home.

Once you’ve taken the proper actions, contact your distributor (e.g. Energex) - not your retailer - if you need to learn more about the outage. If you’re unsure of who the energy distributor is in your neighbourhood, they’re typically listed on your electricity bill.

 

Last update: 02/04/2020

How can I reduce my energy bills?

If you’re spending more time at home - whether working or looking after kids or family members - there are various simple ways to cut down on your energy usage. These include things like:

  • switching off any appliances that use standby power at the wall (e.g. televisions);
  • only charging your phone, laptop or other devices when needed;
  • wearing warm clothing during the colder months;
  • washing your clothes in cold water and using your dryer sparingly;
  • maintaining solar panels so they’re working efficiently;
  • Having a smart meter installed to monitor usage; or
  • Only using high-energy appliances - such as hot water systems and pool pumps - during off-peak periods (e.g. early hours of the morning), or putting them on separately controlled load tariffs (i.e. charged separately to your regular bill, potentially at a lower rate).

There are also ways you can reduce your costs by changing your energy plan. If you haven’t switched plans in the last 12 months, then you are likely on a ‘Default Market Offer’ (DMO). These are tariffs set by the Australian Energy Regulator that cap the amount that energy retailers can charge consumers for their electricity.

If you are on a DMO then you are probably paying too much for your energy as they are not priced competitively. They are designed to protect consumers against energy retailers charging too much once the consumer’s original energy discount has expired. By switching onto a market offer, you could take advantage of more competitive rates and discounts, meaning you could save money on your next bill.

Victorian residents don’t have the DMO, but they do have the Victorian Default Offer (VDO). While the DMO is a capped price, the VDO is a regulated price deemed fair by the ESC, though it is possible to be on a plan that is more expensive than the VDO.

In short, if your current plan is due to expire, or you haven’t compared your options in some time, shop around! There may be better opportunities for savings in your household. You can start the search for great value electricity or gas plans with us, or through our call centre on 1800 990 003.

 

Last update: 02/04/2020

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COVID-19 FAQs