Vulnerable Customers

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Our response to helping vulnerable customers

Access to essential services, such as electricity, is necessary to sustain the health and wellbeing of our community. The affordability of energy is an issue across Australia and is influenced by a range of factors.

There are a number of ways energy companies can support vulnerable customers and SA Power Networks is committed to working with our Community Reference Group to understand customer needs and ensure the customer voice is considered and heard in our decision-making.

Our response to helping vulnerable customers

Access to essential services, such as electricity, is necessary to sustain the health and wellbeing of our community. The affordability of energy is an issue across Australia and is influenced by a range of factors.

There are a number of ways energy companies can support vulnerable customers and SA Power Networks is committed to working with our Community Reference Group to understand customer needs and ensure the customer voice is considered and heard in our decision-making.

  • Keeping warm as the weather cools

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    30 Apr 2020
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    Keeping warm as the weather cools down can impact your power costs, especially with many of us home during the day.

    Heating and cooling your home can be responsible for up to 40% of your electricity bill, so it’s important to review and evaluate all your energy choices.

    For more top tips to save power at home, please visit our website.

  • SA Power Networks is going on a bear hunt

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    30 Apr 2020
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    For those that haven’t heard about it yet, bear hunting is a recent global phenomenon inspired by the 1989 children's book by Michael Rosen, "We're Going on a Bear Hunt".

    In recent weeks it has sparked the imagination of many with people putting teddy bears and other soft toys in windows and trees, encouraging children to get outdoors for a walk with their parents while hunting for bears.

    Eddy - more formally known as Edison (by his mum) wanted to join the fun of the Adelaide Bear Hunt, so he's recently made his debut at SA Power Networks. Let us know if you spot Eddy (clue: he's a bit of an Adelaide train spotter). You can learn more about the bear hunt here.

    For an activity that is fun and free for the kids (and adults) to do, you can also print out (or import into a digital drawing app) our colouring-in sheet and do your best to stay between the lines:

  • Our response to assisting vulnerable customers

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    08 Apr 2020
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    Access to essential services, such as electricity, is necessary to sustain the health and wellbeing of our community. The affordability of energy is an issue across Australia and is influenced by a range of factors.

    There are a number of ways energy companies can support vulnerable customers and SA Power Networks is committed to working with our Community Reference Group to understand customer needs and ensure the customer voice is considered and heard in our decision-making.

    Our Vulnerable Customer Strategy

    SA Power Networks developed a Vulnerable Customer Strategy in the latter part of 2019, in consultation with our Community Reference Group.

    The strategy acknowledges that vulnerability is not a label - it is a situation in which customers find themselves.

    A vulnerable customer is someone who, due to their personal circumstances, is susceptible to detriment or personal hardship. There are a variety of reasons that customers may be considered vulnerable, including but not limited to:

    • Financial – energy affordability
    • Disability
    • Culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities
    • Age
    • Education or employment status
    • Geography – regional or remote living

    Our strategy identified six characteristics of vulnerability in relation to access to energy services:

    • Financial hardship
    • Culturally and linguistically diverse communities/ new migrants
    • Ongoing health issues - disability, mental health, ageing
    • Isolated/ regional/ rural community
    • Small business
    • Life support customers
    Characteristics of Vulnerability Description
    Financial hardship
    • Rely on financial support
    • Face disconnection for non-payment
    • Often in rental accommodation - poor quality housing stock and low quality appliances
    Culturally and linguistically diverse communities/ new migrants
    • Language barriers
    • System complex
    • Often don’t understand energy usage
    Ongoing health issues - disability, mental health, ageing
    • Rely on electricity to function and maintain life
    Isolated / regional / rural community
    • Limited access to infrastructure
    • Lower levels of reliability
    Small business
    • High bills make being competitive difficult
    • No access to funding if outages
    Life Support customers
    • Life support customers system allows no visibility of critical customers


    In light of the current coronavirus pandemic, we are looking at quickly progressing a number of initiatives to help vulnerable customers over the next few months, whilst ensuring we maintain an essential service to the community.

    This includes:

    • Customer information and education regarding reducing consumption and energy efficiency whilst working from home
    • Distribution support
    • Establishing a COVID-19 One Stop Shop on Talking Power and the SA Power Networks website providing regular and consistent information to our customers
      • Links to how to pay your bills and financial assistance available, including temporary COVID-19 payments, retailer hardship programs or other financial support
      • Links to mental health resources if feeling lonely and isolated – Lifeline, Beyond Blue
      • Energy advisory tips
    • Investigating our approach to planned work and communication on outage times
      • Acknowledge that these types of planned outages may have a greater impact given that more people than ever before are now at home due to coronavirus.
      • We are evaluating the need for particular work activities to proceed and how we might be able to minimise the impact on customers in the current circumstances.
      • Look at providing an estimate of the hours required to do the job
      • Target planned work on non-essential services being closed where possible
      • Encouraging customers to register for P@MP and to receive notifications on planned/ unplanned outages
    • Developing simple messages for our culturally and linguistically diverse communities to help us engage during the COVID-19 situation
    • Providing advice to customers who have stockpiled supplies in the case of unplanned outages
    • Continue to engage and work with our Customer Consultative Panel and Community Reference Group to investigate other possible options and initiatives to help vulnerable customers
    • Implementing a number of changes to our work practices so we can safely maintain our services
      • Working to ensure we minimise the impact of an extended shutdown on our vital services to customers, including outage and emergency response
      • Instructed our people in appropriate social distancing and hygiene protocols to safely manage interactions with customers
  • COVID-19 Response

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    08 Apr 2020
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    We understand that this is a challenging time for all South Australians, the COVID-19 situation places some members of our community under additional health, social and financial stress.

    In line with our recently developed Vulnerable Customer Strategy, we are looking at quickly progressing a number of initiatives to help vulnerable customers over the next few months, whilst ensuring we maintain an essential service to the community.

    This includes:

    • Customer information and education regarding reducing consumption and energy efficiency whilst working from home
      • Practical advice to reduce consumption around your home
      • Investigate undertaking audits virtually for our energy advisory service
    • Distribution support
      • Electricity relief package for small business and residential customers and assistance for energy retailers
      • Tariff relief through the retailer for up to 80,000 small businesses using up to 40 MWh
      • Defer network charges for residential customers of the larger retailers who go on hardship arrangements
      • Support for small retailers
    • Establishing a COVID-19 One Stop Shop on Talking Power and the SA Power Networks website providing regular and consistent information to our customers
      • Links to how to pay your bills and financial assistance available, including temporary COVID-19 payments, retailer hardship programs or other financial support
      • Links to mental health resources if feeling lonely and isolated – Lifeline, Beyond Blue
      • Energy advisory tips
    • Investigating our approach to planned work and communication on outage times
      • Acknowledge that these types of planned outages may have a greater impact given that more people than ever before are now at home due to coronavirus.
      • We are evaluating the need for particular work activities to proceed and how we might be able to minimise the impact on customers in the current circumstances.
      • Look at providing an estimate of the hours required to do the job
      • Target planned work on non-essential services being closed where possible
      • Encouraging customers to register for P@MP and to receive notifications on planned/ unplanned outages
    • Developing simple messages for our culturally and linguistically diverse communities to help us engage during the COVID-19 situation
    • Providing advice to customers who have stockpiled supplies in the case of unplanned outages
    • Continue to engage and work with our Customer Consultative Panel and Community Reference Group to investigate other possible options and initiatives to help vulnerable customers
    • Implementing a number of changes to our work practices so we can safely maintain our services
      • Working to ensure we minimise the impact of an extended shutdown on our vital services to customers, including outage and emergency response
      • Instructed our people in appropriate social distancing and hygiene protocols to safely manage interactions with customers
  • SA Power Networks move supports SA Community

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    08 Apr 2020

    Relief Package announced

    SA Power Networks has revealed a suite of measures to provide support to South Australians enduring hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The relief package is effective from 1 April 2020 and will be delivered via retailers.

    SA Power Networks CEO Rob Stobbe said the initial package could provide about $10 million in relief for local businesses and residential customers. “These are extraordinarily tough times for all South Australians,” he said.

    “We will provide immediate tariff relief through the retailer for up to 80,000 small businesses using up to 40 MWh per annum who between April and the end of June consume less than 25% of their usual consumption for that three month period. We also will support a number of small retailers who are working hard to sustain their most vulnerable residential customers on hardship programs.

    “This will support those customers who are doing it tough and help support continued retail competition. We also will defer network charges for residential customers of the larger retailers who go on hardship arrangements as a result of COVID-19,” Mr Stobbe said.

    “The initiative reflects the comprehensive and co-operative way that the industry has sought to respond to this unprecedented situation. Networks will work with energy retailers to ensure the benefits of this package are passed on to customers smoothly.”

    Meanwhile, Mr Stobbe said SA Power Networks was working hard to balance its responsibility to help minimise the spread of the coronavirus in South Australia and continue to deliver essential electricity distribution services.

    “We continue to take advice from medical experts to shape how we manage our operations so we can safely deliver services to our customers during this time,” he said.

    “We have instructed our people who are in the field working on our physical assets and other customer-facing staff to observe appropriate social distancing and hygiene protocols to safely manage interactions with customers.

    “We will continue to undertake planned work, as it is critical to maintaining a reliable electricity network. However, we are reviewing the work we do and how we communicate with customers so we can minimise the impact of associated power interruptions,” Mr Stobbe said.

    “If we need to adjust or change things we will, but safety of our people and helping our community get through this pandemic are our priorities.”

    SA Power Networks support for electricity customers.

    1. Small Business Customers: full tariff relief

    Network charges will be rebated for small business customers experiencing financial stress and who are temporarily hibernating as a result of COVID-19. Relief will apply to all small business customers who:

    • Are temporarily hibernating over the period of 1 April to 30 June 2020 as a result of COVID-19
    • Eligible small business customers are those that consume less than 40MWh per annum (based on 2019 consumption) and use less than 25% of their historical average consumption for the April-June period
    • This will apply for customer network charges from 1 April to 30 June 2020
    • Rebating of retailer payments will be processed by networks in arrears of monthly invoicing, with networks providing a rebate of the relevant network charges by the end of September 2020 for the period from 1 April to 30 June 2020 following receipt of supporting evidence by 1 September 2020.

    2. Small Retailers: Residential rebates

    For small retailers, network charges will be rebated to retailers for residential customers that go into default as a result of COVID-19. Relief will apply for residential customers who:

    • Are existing customers with retailers (excluding noted large retailers) as at 1 April 2020
    • Are receiving relevant government benefits as from 1 April 2020 (and were not before 1 March 2020)
    • Are in payment default/arrears and this was not the case as at 1 March 2020
    • Residential customers are those that are currently on a residential tariff
    • This will apply for customer network charges from 1 April to 30 June 2020
      • Network charges cover electricity transmission, electricity distribution, metering and jurisdictional charges
    • Rebating of payments to retailers will be processed by networks in arrears of monthly invoicing, with networks providing a rebate of the relevant network charges by the end of September 2020 for the period from 1 April to 30 June 2020 following receipt from retailers of supporting evidence by 1 September 2020.

    3. Large Retailers: Payment Plan incentives

    Retailer Network charges will be deferred for residential customers of large retailers who go on payment plans or hardship arrangements put in place as a result of COVID-19. Relief will apply to large retailers for residential customers of large retailers who:

    • Are existing customers with large retailers as at 1 April 2020
    • Are receiving relevant government benefits as from 1 April 2020 (and were not before 1 March 2020)
    • Are on some form of payment plan/hardship arrangement and this was not the case as at 1 March 2020
    • This will apply for customer network charges from 1 April to 30 June 2020
      • Network charges cover electricity transmission, electricity distribution, metering and jurisdictional charges
    • Deferred payment will be processed by the networks in arrears of monthly invoicing, subject to the retailers providing supporting evidence. The retailers will make all deferred payments under the Relief Package in full on or before 30 September 2020

    4. Other help for customers

    We will commit to our customers that we will adhere to the principles set out by the AER:

    • We will support retailers in not disconnecting any residential or small business customers who may be in financial stress, without their agreement, before 31 July 2020 and potentially beyond
    • We will support retailers in not disconnecting any large business customer, without their agreement, before 31 July 2020, and potentially beyond, if that customer is on-selling energy to residential or small business customers (for example, in residential parks or retirement villages)
    • We will waive disconnection and/or reconnection fees for small businesses that have temporarily ceased operation
      • During this period of disconnection, small businesses will not pay the daily supply charges
    • We will continue to prioritise the safety of customers who require life support equipment and continue to meet responsibilities to new life support customers
    • We will seek to minimise the frequency and duration of planned outages for critical works, and provide as much notice as possible to assist households and businesses to manage during any associated outage.
  • Our Community Reference Group - listening to our community

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    08 Apr 2020
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    Our Community Reference Group provides a forum for listening and discussion on issues facing particular groups within the community, particularly vulnerable customers.

    Wendy Shirley, CEO South Australian Financial Counsellors Association and Chair of our Community Reference Group says:

    “I have been on the Customer Consultative Panel and the Community Reference Group since its inception. I have worked with SA Power Networks for over 5 years’ and have a high level of interest around electricity distribution in SA. Collaboration and working together in partnership to help all customers will assist in ensuring SA Power Networks remains in tune with all of their customers.”

    The group consists of representatives from the following consumer advocacy and customer groups:

    If you would like more information about the group or to contact any of the members please click here.

  • Our Customer Consultative Panel - ensuring the Voice of the Customer is shaping our decision-making

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    08 Apr 2020
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    Our Customer Consultative Panel (CCP) was established in 2009 to ensure the customer voice is considered in our decision making. Our CCP consists of a broad range of stakeholders with an interest in shaping the decision-making of SA Power Networks and includes customer advocacy representatives.

    A new 15 Member panel was appointed in January 2020 for a two-year term and one of their focus areas will be vulnerable customers and the implementation of our Vulnerable Customer Strategy. The panel consists of the following members:

    Chair – Dr Andrew Nance – The Energy Project

    Residential customers

    • Michael Leane
    • Doug Strain
    • Angela Faulkner

    Vulnerable customer advocates

    • Wendy Shirley – SA Financial Counsellors Association (and Community Reference Group representative)
    • Mark Henley – Uniting Communities

    Business customers/advocates

    • Mark Yates, Yates Electrical – Riverland
    • Andrew McKenna – Business SA

    Renewable energy advocates

    • Matt Curnow - Sustainable Savings Pty Ltd
    • Mike Stone – Clean Energy Council

    IT/ Government/ Policy

    • Scott Bayliss – Department of Education

    Retailer

    • Elizabeth Molyneux – AGL

    Arborist Reference Group

    • Kelvin Trimper

    Local Government

    • Cr John Woodward – West Torrens
    • Karina Ewer – District Council of Streaky Bay

    The CCP Chair is Dr Andrew Nance of The Energy Project who brings a wealth of experience in the energy sector and is committed to ensuring the customer voice is heard loudly so we deliver the services our customers expect and value.

    Andrew says:

    “There is no doubt that SA Power Networks delivers an essential service. There is also no doubt that some customers are more vulnerable than others to losing continuous access to the electricity grid.

    For some it’s their financial circumstances that makes them vulnerable to being cut off for unpaid bills. For others it’s their health that make them vulnerable due to a reliance on the grid to power essential equipment. For some it is a vulnerability to more frequent or longer outages because of location or bushfire risk.

    The CCP strongly supports SA Power Networks efforts to understand the vulnerabilities of their customers and to be a leader – empowering South Australia - even if it’s not always something they can fix directly.”

    For further information on our panel please contact Alex Lewis, Customer Consultation Lead.


  • Energy Saving tips - practical advice to help you reduce residential energy costs today

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    08 Apr 2020
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    With many people now at home and adjusting to a new way of life, households may see an increase in their energy use. The following tips will help reduce your household energy costs now and into the future.

    Heating and cooling

    • Run your heating and cooling appliances between 18° and 21° in winter and 24° and 27° in summer. Every degree higher or lower adds up to 10% to the running cost
    • Use a portable or ceiling fan instead of your air-con
    • Make the most of zoning, sunshine, curtains/blinds or a breeze to moderate the temperature
    • Reduce unwanted draughts by adding seals around your doors and windows.

    Lighting

    • Replace old incandescent light bulbs with LED bulbs. LEDs use less power, last longer and can reduce lighting running costs by up to 80%
    • In your home workspace, use a desk lamp with an LED bulb instead of multiple ceiling lights. If you can, position your desk next to a window to maximise natural light.

    Kitchen

    • Your fridge can be the most expensive appliance to run, check the temperature settings are between 3° to 5° for your fridge and -15° to -18° for your freezer
    • Use a full dishwasher over hand washing dishes, saving energy and water
    • Consider turning off any second older bar/beer fridge – these tend to be highly inefficient.

    Cooking

    • Put frozen food in your fridge to thaw out and reduce cooking time
    • Use small appliances such as toaster ovens, pressure and slow cookers, microwaves, or convection ovens for small meals.

    General power usage

    • Standby power can cost you an extra $250 on your bill annually. Switch off electronic appliances like your computer, printer, scanner at the power point once you’ve finished working
    • Shopping around for a new energy retailer or negotiating with your current one, could get you a better deal on electricity and save you money. Energy Made Easy is a free and independent energy price comparison tool that compares offers from more than 20 retailers and can typically save $760 a year when changing from a standard offer to the cheapest market offer.
    • Customers should contact their retailer if they are worried about their ability to pay their bill as usual over the coming months.

    Assistance

    • If you would like a free energy comparison you can also email our Energy Advisor Harry with a copy of your latest bill.
    • There may also be government concessions you are entitled to
  • Customer engagement

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    08 Apr 2020
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    SA Power Networks is committed to engaging and collaborating with our customers to drive better outcomes for customers, the business and our community.

    SA Power Networks engages with customers in many ways and our engagement with our Customer Consultative Panel, Reference Groups and Working Groups is one way we seek customer input into our decision-making.

    We have a number of consultative groups that ensure the interests of customers are considered and provide a platform for ongoing, meaningful engagement. Of particular interest to vulnerable customers is our ongoing dialogue with our Customer Consultative Panel and our Community Reference Group.

    You can learn more about our engagement journey here.

  • Thriving Communities Partnership: cross-sector collaboration to ensure everyone can access essential services

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    08 Apr 2020
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    The Thriving Communities Partnership (TCP) is a cross-sector collaboration with the goal that everybody has fair access to the modern essential services they need to thrive in contemporary Australia, including utilities, financial services, telecommunications and transport.

    Being led by partners from SA Water, EWOSA and AGL a local chapter of TCP is being established with representatives from a range of organisations, including utilities, banks, energy retailers, state government, consumer advocacy groups and community representatives to tackle issues specifically relating to SA and to engage local organisations in the TCP approach. Local chapters are supported by TCP National, to engage in a process to initiate, discover, scope and build a local partnership to deliver on the local priority issues.

    While the establishment of a SA Chapter is in its early stages there is a commitment to work collaboratively together and provide assistance for people experiencing vulnerability.

    SA Power Networks is a member of the newly formed SA Chapter and we are looking forward to working with other local organisations to ensure everyone in our community is able to thrive.

    For more information go to: https://thriving.org.au/