Our response to assisting 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 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
- Culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities
- 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|
|Culturally and linguistically diverse communities/ new migrants||
|Ongoing health issues - disability, mental health, ageing||
|Isolated / regional / rural community||
|Life Support 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.
- 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
- Preparing for power outages
- Messaging re fridges/ freezers and how long food items can last
- 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