According to consumer review and comparison site, Canstar, in November 2018 South Australia had the highest electricity prices in Australia at 42.88c/kWh, compared to New South Wales (33.12c/kWh), Victoria (28.25c/kWh) and Queensland (27.62c/kWh). The financial strain that the cost of electricity is putting on South Australian households is unfortunately too apparent for our Financial Counsellors.
One Financial Counsellor commented that she had an elderly client who confined herself to her bedroom with just an electric blanket for warmth, out of fear that if anything else was turned on she would not be able to afford her next electricity bill. Similarly, another Financial Counsellor commented that she had a client who was struggling to pay back a large outstanding electricity bill because her partner, who had recently passed away, relied heavily on electricity for medical reasons in the final months of his life. Therefore, not only did she have to manage the household budget with one less income but she had to repeatedly negotiate with the electricity provider to pay off the outstanding bill.
Unfortunately, these two stories are not isolated incidences; we hear hundreds of stories each month about the strain that the cost of electricity is having on South Australian households. Fortunately, the South Australian Government does provide financial relief through an Emergency Electricity Payment Scheme Grant (EEPS). However this $400 payment, which is only available to clients every three years, provides temporary relief for households feeling the pinch of the rising cost of electricity.
Although we cannot influence how much Energy Retailers charge South Australian households for Electricity, we can educate our clients to take the steps to manage their electricity consumption.
· We check with the client that they are receiving South Australian Government Concessions
· We check with the Energy Retailer that the client is receiving the best available deal/discount
· Through the Energy Retailer, we find out the client’s fortnightly electricity usage as a dollar amount to see how it fits within the client’s budget. If their fortnightly usage is high, we provide information to the client about accessing a Home Energy Toolkit from their local public library and/or contacting a free external Home Energy Audit Service to reduce their electricity consumption.
· We check with the client’s Energy Retailer if they are able to support the client through an incentive plan, whereby the Energy Retailer matches every one or two payments made by the client to assist them out of hardship.
Ultimately, we endeavour to empower our clients to take the steps to be in control of their electricity consumption. We emphasise to our clients that although the Energy Retailers dictate the price, the majority of what the client pays for is ultimately up to them and the electricity that they consume.
 Brendon O’Neill 2019, Average electricity costs per kWh, Canstar, viewed 4 June 2019, < https://www.canstarblue.com.au/electricity/electricity-costs-kwh/>
ConnectEd provides information and advice to vulnerable members of the community on how to better understand and manage their household energy, water and telecommunications services. This is extended in the current context to particularly vulnerable cohorts such as international students and temporary visa holders.
The ConnectEd program at UCWB is able to offer assistance via Zoom, delivering information sessions or small workshops to the community. Topics such as:
- Understanding bills and reading meters.
- Saving energy and water.
- Calculating running costs.
- Concessions, hardship and assistance available.
- Plans, discounts and getting a better deal.
- Solar, batteries and new technologies
To book an online information session email ConnectEd@ucwb.org.au stating your preferred date/time and we will contact you with a link and instructions how to access Zoom. Duration: approx. 1 hour with the possibility of follow-up sessions as required.
Check out [ConnectED](https://www.affordablesa.com.au/programs/utilities/connected-utilities-literacy) for other great ways to save on your Utilities bills and around the home.
Here on the Helpline, we hear the following phrases quite a lot:
‘I haven't been opening my mail'
‘I just put my head in the sand and hoped it would all go away’
Do you have some mail on your kitchen table that you have been avoiding? Amongst the take-away menus and supermarket catalogues, you may have a utility bill or two, a bank statement, a disconnection notice, a demand notice or even a default notice.
Before you know it, a week has gone by, the mail hasn't been touched and your phone starts to ring a lot more than usual.
We appreciate that having to open mail can cause a lot of anxiety, particularly if you are in financial hardship. However, in the long term it can make things a lot more difficult.
If you are sitting at your kitchen table with your cup of coffee staring at a pile of mail and you don’t know what to do, don’t worry help is out there.
A financial counsellor can look over your financial situation, discuss options with you, and if need advocate on your behalf with creditors and utility companies. The important thing to remember is that you do not need to go through this alone. Our financial counsellors are free, friendly and ready to help.
To book an appointment with a financial counsellor call the [Affordable SA Helpline](https://www.affordablesa.com.au/programs/money-and-finances/affordable-sa-helpline) on 1800 025 539 or search for [Financial Counselling Services](https://www.affordablesa.com.au/programs/money-and-finances/financial-counselling-services) in the Affordable SA App.
There are many different ways to pay a bill and everyone has their own preferred method. You can take a paper bill to the post office, send a cheque in the mail, make a payment via Bpay or set up an automatic direct debit.
If you are currently receiving a Centrelink payment or have just recently started to receive one due to the unprecedented effects of COVID-19, then another way to pay your bills is via Centrepay.
Centrepay is a free bill paying service through Centrelink, whereby an agreed amount comes directly out of your fortnightly payment.
To set up Centrepay, you just need to tell Centrelink:
· Who you want to pay
· How much you want to pay
· Which Centrelink payment you want the money to come from
Centrepay can be a useful way to pay for essential living expenses, such as electricity, gas, water, rent, mortgage repayments, etc.
For a full list of goods and services that can be paid via Centrepay, see the following link https://www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/centrepay/how-use-it/goods-and-services
For more information about how Centrepay works, see the attached link and video from the Department of Human Services.