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A Guide to Energy Hardship Programs

Most households in Australia are no strangers to rising electricity & gas prices. 

In fact, since 2008 electricity and gas combined to be the fastest-rising household expense1 in Australia. Electricity spending by households has increased by 117.4 per cent in that same time period alone.

For many households and families across the country, keeping up with bill payments is a constant grind. Fortunately, there are various electricity hardship programs and grants that are available to certain households in need.

Hardship programs are designed to assist households with meeting their energy payments. 

The exact terms of the program have to be negotiated with your energy provider, and you may be placed on a different program to someone else. The program is designed for you personally – depending on your financial situation and time duration.

This is because every single case with a household joining the hardship program has to be visited separately. There are no one-size fits all, and as such, the energy provider will work with you to determine the specifics of the program. 

This way, the program is designed specifically for a household, keeping in mind the various factors that are preventing a household from paying their energy bill.

 

What is a Hardship Program?

Simply, a hardship program is a support-system for you, and it is overseen by your energy provider. The hardship program is designed to assist you in keeping on top of your energy bills when you’re unable to make payment.

There can be many reasons as to why some households are unable to make their bill payments. Below are some of the reasons:

Employment

Sometimes losing your job can cause financial duress. Losing your job may already be such a stressful time for your household. In times like these, your energy provider may assist you by placing you on a hardship program. You can then remain on the hardship program until you are back on your feet with a new place of employment.

Illness or Medical Reasons

You may have sustained an injury or a serious illness that has rendered you incapable of being able to make your energy bill payments. Perhaps your injuries or illness has prevented you from returning to work, and as such, you are no longer getting paid. Whatever the reasons, get in touch with your energy provider and let them know as soon as possible, so that they can work with you to build a hardship program to allow you to still meet the bill repayments.

Major Life Events

If you are undergoing a major life change, such as a relationship break-up, then you may require a temporary respite from your energy bills. Again, contact your energy provider if you feel that these life changes will prevent you from meeting your bill payments on time.

Surprise Expenses

Then of course, life can throw major curveballs at you in terms of ‘surprise’ or unexpected costs that may leave you in dire financial strife. Maybe a car crash has required you to spend a hefty amount of savings to fix, or important surgery has eaten into your savings. Whatever the case, if you feel that you barely have enough savings to pay your energy bills, then contact your provider to work out a hardship program. 

Basically, whenever there is an unplanned life event that takes place and renders you in a financially difficult position, then you may be eligible to apply for your energy providers hardship program. 

The hardship program can also be a major help to pay the bills for low income families, who may require the financial assistance.

 

The Facts with Hardship Programs

While the hardship programs are great because they can assist households, who are not in a financial position to meet their bill payments, they can also provide a dire insight into the state of the energy market.

The Essential Services Commission (ESC), a government organisation who regulates the energy market in Victoria, discovered some scary findings2

According to their findings, the ESC revealed that there was a 25 per cent increase in households who had entered into a hardship program in the last financial year. The number of households increased to just under 100,000 households who had entered into a hardship program with their energy provider. 

At any one time, there were just under 50,000 households in a hardship program in the last financial year.

The increase in households who have entered a hardship program is significant of the energy market at the moment. Clearly, there are many households who are struggling to pay their energy bills – and these facts prove that.

In the same findings, the ESC further found that electricity prices have increased by 16 per cent in the last financial year. 

With electricity prices being such a high commodity for households, it is imperative to ensure that you are getting the best deal possible.

 

Tips to Save Money on your Energy Bill

Fortunately, there are ways you can try to reduce your energy bill at home. Think of the hardship program as a last-resort. Prior to that, you can try to compare the energy plans on the market to see if there is a better deal out there for you.

Switch to Market Offers

The first thing worth finding out is making sure you’re not on a standing offer. By default, ‘standing offers’ are much more expensive than ‘market offer’ plans. By simply switching from a median standing offer to the best market offer, you could save up to3

  • • $832 in South Australia
  • • $574 in Victoria
  • • $504 in Queensland 
  • • $365 in New South Wales

If you are already on a market offer, then consider performing a few tasks around the home. Whether it’s turning off power outlets when they are not in use, to not opening the fridge or freezer doors for large portions at a time. 

Employ Energy-Saving Tips in Your Home

Previously on our blog, we have listed six tips for saving money around your home – as well as a 12-step energy-saving list for summer. Try to employ some of these strategies around the home to see if they make much of a difference with your energy usage.

Are You Eligible for Energy Concessions?

If you are a pensioner with a valid pension card, or you have a Health Care Card, then you may be eligible for an energy concession or rebate, depending on which state you live in.

Check out the quick breakdown below for how much you could save.

 

NEW SOUTH WALES

Electricity - $285 rebate / annual bill

Gas - $110 rebate / annual bill

 

QUEENSLAND

Electricity - $340.85 rebate / annual bill

Gas - $72.51 rebate / annual bill

 

SOUTH AUSTRALIA

Electricity & Gas^- $223.01 discount / annual bill

 

VICTORIA

Electricity - 17.5% discount / annual bill

Gas* - 17.5% off / Winter discount 

 

^In South Australia, the pension discount is offered as a joint discount for both electricity & gas.

*In Victoria, the Gas discount applies the 17.5% discount to the gas usage during May 1 to October 31.

 

Each state has their own eligibility requirements for each discount or rebate. Read more about the energy concession and rebate eligibility requirements.

If you wish to discuss your concession eligibility requirements, then give us a call at 1300 683 009 and our energy experts will be able to assist you.

Compare Energy Discounts

Lastly, it is worth learning a little bit more about the various energy discounts on offer. On the surface, discounts sound great as they can save you a bit of money on your bill. However, there are more to discounts than meets the eye. Learning about all the elements that make up a discount and how discounts are applied, as well as which conditions have to be met to receive them are vital for you being able to maximise your opportunity to save money on your energy bill.

 

Tips for Energy Discounts

If you’re thinking about switching your energy plan to a more affordable rate for you, you will come across plans with discounts.

While getting a discount sounds great on paper, there are a few pitfalls you may need to know about to avoid being in over your head with hefty bills.

  • • For example, a bigger discount may not necessarily be the cheaper plan. A quarterly bill with a flat rate of $1000 is cheaper than a 25% discount off a $1500 bill.
  • • Most energy discounts will only apply to your usage charges. However, you may come across some plans that also offer discounts off the supply charges as well. 
  • • Be aware of the conditions attached to discounts. To get a discount, you need to meet the requirements of the plan – things like paying the bill on time or paying by direct debit only. If you do not meet these requirements, then you may not receive the discount, and you may end up having to pay a lot more.
  • • Some discounts are only offered for a period of time. For example, one plan may be 15% off for 24 months – or a second plan might offer 35% off for 12 months. You’ll have to decide whether you prefer the longer-term commitment at a lower rate or take the higher rate for a shorter period of time. Be aware that once the time-frame is passed, then you may lose your discount and you may have to pay your bill at full-price.

If you think that comparing discounts is confusing – then you’re right. Discounts can be confusing to understand due to the different factors and variables that come into play.

 

At Youcompare, we compare heaps of different market offers with competitive discounts.

Call our energy experts at 1300 683 009 to compare the best market offers and see if they are right for you.

Otherwise, you can browse our energy plans online to see if there is a better energy deal for your household.

 

What We Do

If your power bills are out of control or you are finding it difficult to keep on top of the expensive costs, then luckily there is something you can do it about it.

At Youcompare, we can compare your latest energy bill with a range of offers by our providers. 

We are experts at comparing energy plans: whether it is electricity or gas. 

We understand all the technical jargon that comes with comparing different plans, discounts, supply rates and usage charges.

Our aim is to take all of the stress and worries off your shoulders, by doing all the heavy-lifting for you.

Simply give us a call at 1300 683 009 to speak to one of our energy experts to compare your energy bill over the phone.

Or if you would prefer, you can browse our energy plans online so you can compare plans at your own pace.

Plus, our services are 100 per cent free to you! We will not charge you a single cent for comparing or switching your energy plans. 

That means you have nothing to lose by comparing your energy plan and everything to gain.

So what are you waiting for?

 

Compare Energy Plans

Compare your electricity plan – and if you do find a better deal with us, then we can switch you across and handle all of the paperwork between your old and new provider.

We quickly compare 100’s of electricity offers for your area based on usage, rates, discounts, contracts and more!

If you do not find a better deal than what you are currently on, then no worries! 

Because energy providers are always adjusting their energy plans, you will always have an opportunity to see if a better deal has come along.

Just because there isn’t a better plan today, does not mean that there won’t be a better deal tomorrow!

Give us a call at 1300 683 009 or browse our plans online and see if there is a better energy deal for you.


Sources

1Electricity Second-Fastest Rising Expense (ABC Chart)’ Youcompare

2 ‘More Victorians disconnected as power price rises bite into bills’ The Sydney Morning Herald. All of these stats refer to Victorian households

3 ‘Retail Electricity Pricing Inquiry: Final Report 20 June 2018’ Australian Competition and Consumer Commission

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