Advice on COVID-19 for energy customers
The NSW Government is working closely with energy businesses to support residential and small business customers who are impacted by COVID-19 and may be experiencing financial stress.
The information on this page is provided during a rapidly developing situation and the response taken by NSW Government to COVID-19 may change over time.
Information for residential customers
If you are an energy customer experiencing a short-term financial crisis, looking for information on the NSW Government’s Energy Accounts Payment Assistance (EAPA) Scheme, or are interested in other rebates that provide ongoing support in paying your energy bills, please see the information below.
If you have been affected by COVID-19 and are experiencing a short-term financial crisis or emergency that has impacted your ability to pay your current residential energy bills due to financial hardship, you should contact your retailer to discuss how it can help.
Your retailer can tell you about the programs it has for customers experiencing hardship, including different options to pay your bill, switching energy plans or starting a hardship plan. Energy retailers have committed to working with households impacted by COVID-19 to deliver sustainable support solutions.
It is a legal requirement that all energy retailers maintain hardship policies to support customers experiencing financial stress. You can find your retailer’s contact details on your most recent bill.
The NSW Government’s Energy Accounts Payment Assistance (EAPA) Scheme is available for customers experiencing a short-term financial crisis or emergency, such as unexpected medical bills, or reduced income due to COVID-19.
Approved EAPA delivery partners can assess customer’s applications and can provide vouchers to help pay residential electricity or natural gas bills. With increased demand and changes to the working environment of many of our delivery partners, the NSW Government has introduced new measures to help ensure the EAPA Scheme can continue to operate effectively. These measures include providing an additional $30 million for energy bill relief through the EAPA Scheme.
If you have received EAPA within the current financial year and have been impacted by COVID-19, you can be assessed for another application.
To help customers access the Scheme safely and respond to the increased demand, we have created a new way for people to access EAPA vouchers. Customers can now apply to be assessed for EAPA vouchers online via Service NSW at: service.nsw.gov.au/transaction/energy-accounts-payment-assistance-eapa-scheme.
The NSW Government offers several rebates that provide ongoing support in paying your energy bills. Combined, these programs provide energy bill support to around one-third of all NSW households. You may be eligible to receive one or more of the following rebates:
- Low Income Household Rebate
- Gas Rebate
- Family Energy Rebate
- Life Support Rebate
- Medical Energy Rebate
- Seniors Energy Rebate.
If you have accessed JobSeeker during COVID-19, you may have received your Health Care Card from the Federal Department of Social Services. This may make you eligible to apply for some of the above rebates, such as the Low-Income Household Rebate.
Concession cards are not required for all rebates, such as the Seniors Energy Rebate for self-funded retirees. You can find out more about each of these rebates and whether you are eligible at: service.nsw.gov.au/services/concessions-rebates-and-assistance.
Information for small businesses
Advice for small businesses that have temporarily ceased operation and who wishes to disconnect their energy supply, in addition to sustainable payment solutions for small businesses experiencing financial stress.
If your business is experiencing payment difficulties due to COVID-19, you should get in contact with your energy retailer to talk through different support measures that may be available to you. Energy retailers have committed to working with small business impacted by COVID-19 to deliver sustainable payment solutions.
Energy networks in NSW have also announced a relief package for small businesses. The package outlines the daily supply charges will be rebated for those who are experiencing financial stress or for those that are temporarily closed. These network charges will be rebated to businesses for the period from 1 April to 30 June 2020, if their consumption is less than 25 per cent of what it was in 2019.
Yes. Electricity and gas networks in NSW have committed not to disconnect any small business, without their agreement, before 31 July 2020. However, if a small business that has temporarily ceased operation wishes to disconnect their energy supply no disconnection and/or reconnection fees will be charged. During this period of disconnection, eligible small businesses will not pay their daily supply charges until they have been reconnected at a later date.
The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) released an updated Statement of Expectations of energy businesses: Protecting consumers and the energy market during COVID-19, in November 2020. It outlines ten principles which energy businesses are expected to adhere to during this time. These protections for small businesses and households during COVID-19 have been extended to 31 March 2021.
The Statement focuses on prioritising the safety and reliability of energy supply, ensuring retailers meet the needs of customers in vulnerable circumstances and protecting customers who may be unable to safeguard their own interests.
The NSW Government is continuing to closely monitor the implementation of the AER’s Statement of Expectations in partnership with the Energy & Water Ombudsman NSW (EWON) to ensure customers receive the support they need and protections to which they are entitled.
If you have concerns about your energy bill or any other energy matter, talk to your retailer. If you feel the issue has still not been resolved, you can contact EWON to lodge a formal complaint.
The NSW Government has approved EWON as a free and independent energy dispute resolution body. Through the Ombudsman, customers can:
- Lodge a complaint about their retailer or a distribution network;
- Request help in investigating billing discrepancies or arranging an affordable payment plan;
- Get advice about entering into a new contract; and
- Access information about protections concerning the use of customer data.
EWON works with the customer and retailer to resolve complaints. If a matter is not resolved, the Ombudsman can make binding decisions. The customer can choose whether to accept the Ombudsman’s decision, and if they do, the energy business must comply.
The Ombudsman can also identify and investigate systemic issues. It regularly liaises with the Australian Energy Regulator when there have been possible breaches of laws and rules by energy businesses. The AER can impose significant penalties on energy businesses for non-compliance with the rules.
EWON can be reached through a free call on 1800 246 545, by email complaints [at] ewon.com.au or at: ewon.com.au.
Planned outages are needed to ensure customers continue to receive a reliable supply of energy. It means that the supply of electricity or gas will sometimes be temporarily interrupted so that maintenance work can be completed safely and efficiently.
These upgrades, repair and maintenance work on the network enables new and upgraded customer connections and will also serve to ensure greater network reliability in your area in the future.
The energy sector is avoiding any unnecessary work during the COVID-19 pandemic but will continue with critical work to maintain grid reliability and the security of electricity supply in order to avoid prolonged unplanned outages, connect new customers and maintain economic activity in NSW.
Speak to your energy retailer in the first instance. Your retailer can explain how your estimated usage is calculated. Energy retailers must issue an energy bill at least every 100 days and may base a customer’s bill on estimated usage if meter readers have been unable to carry out an actual read because of safety concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic or access problems like locked gates or a dog in the yard.
Energy retailers are required to attempt an actual meter read at least once within a twelve-month period and are required to advise when an estimated read has been used for the purpose of issuing an electricity bill. Energy retailers can provide information and assistance with submitting a meter self-read.
If you have an electricity accumulation meter, you can now provide your own meter reading instead of accepting retailers’ estimates, such as, sending in a photo of the meter with the reading.
Providing a self-meter read to correct an estimated bill will reduce your risk of being exposed to higher bills based on overestimated energy use or having to repay significant sums due to previous bills based on underestimated energy use. Importantly, you must provide a self-meter read before your bill is due.
Contact your retailer for further advice on how to complete a self-meter read and the requirements of your retailer.
No. Your energy supply should not be disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
All energy businesses are still working to the same rules and obligations the NSW Government has put in place to ensure a reliable and secure energy supply.
If a retailer or distribution network contacts you to visit your property, tell them if you are unwell or are self-isolating. If you are concerned or worried about the actions of a supplier or network company, contact them immediately to explain the issue.
If your meter is outside, it may be helpful for you to leave your meter box unlocked if it's safe to do so.
We expect retailers and network companies to have the safety, health and wellbeing of their customers as a central priority with a focus on risks to vulnerable customers or where customers are at risk of going off supply or have gone off supply.
If you have a dispute or unable to resolve a complaint with the distributor or retailer, you can contact EWON for assistance.
Service NSW - for information and advice for NSW businesses go to service.nsw.gov.au
Health - follow the COVID19 health advice at NSW Health at health.nsw.gov.au
Worker health and safety - follow SafeWork NSW advice at safework.nsw.gov.au
EWON - dispute resolution for electricity, gas and some water customers ewon.com.au