WA power disconnections at record high

More residents are having their electricity disconnected and are struggling to pay their bills in Western Australia than anywhere else in Australia, according to the Economic Regulation Authority’s 2016/17 report.

According to the data, the number of residential electricity disconnections increased by more than 63 per cent from 9,774 in 2015/16 to 15,935 in 2016/17 – the highest number of disconnections since the ERA began reporting in 2007.

“Western Australia had the highest disconnection rate for residential electricity customers (1.60 per 100 customers) and residential gas customers (2.41 per 100 customers),” the ERA report said.

“Prior to 2016-17, Western Australian retailers had the lowest electricity disconnection rate.”

Business electricity disconnections also rose by 14.2 per cent to 885.

The figures were supported by a six-year high in the number of residential electricity and gas customers placed on an instalment plan or granted payment extensions. There were 64,219 residential electricity customers on instalment plans last year, up from 48,057, while gas customers climbed from 15,833 in 2015/16 to 17,054.

More than 33,000 electricity customers and 25,000 gas customers additionally owed debts to their retailers, including an average of $596 for electricity customers on the government’s hardship utility grant scheme. Access to the HUGS scheme, which provides financial help to people struggling to pay their bills, was tightened in December, rendering many people ineligible.

WA Shadow Treasurer Dean Nalder said the McGowan government was showing “callous disregard” for families experiencing financial hardship, while the former Liberal-led Government kept its last electricity price rise to a modest three per cent.