I’m acutely aware of how price rises are impacting Australian households and businesses, and supported the opportunity to discuss how to ease prices and cost of living pressure with the Prime Minister this week.
I agreed with the Prime Minister that it is not acceptable that anyone in Australia should feel unable to heat their home in winter or that they need to keep the lights off to save money.
We are a smart country with a reliable energy system – customers have the right to ask why energy prices have risen so sharply, so suddenly.
In simple terms, we have less electricity supply available, which has led to a big rise in wholesale prices. Old coal-fired power stations have been retired and not replaced. The closure of the 1,600 megawatt Hazelwood Power Station in April, with very little notice, resulted in higher wholesale prices across the eastern states.
Over the past weeks, there have also been criticisms levelled at retailers, and questions about what we’re doing to protect customers in hardship.
When prices rise, it’s critical we support people in hardship with their energy bills, so they can continue to turn on their lights and heat their homes and are not burdened with undue stress over bills. We’ve already announced that customers in our hardship program will not pay the most recent price increases. We’ve also earmarked $12 million to help vulnerable customers reduce their energy bills.
Retailers have also been criticised for offers and discounts being too complex and not doing enough to communicate when discounts end.
Origin already notifies customers when their discounts are coming to an end and outlines new offers are available and on the front page of a customers’ bill, we clearly state the details of their offer and timeframe for the benefits ending. We commit to continue doing this, and to making our communication even clearer in terms of what will happen if customers do nothing.
Energy prices are a whole of industry issue including networks, generators and retailers. While we don’t have a magic wand to fix everything alone, retailers are on a path to make energy simpler and to start providing relief to customers, and the meeting with the PM was an important step forward.
I believe these actions can help customers. Especially, when backed up with the necessary investment in cleaner and smarter energy supply.
We’re ready to get on and make things easier for customers, and help bring some much needed price relief.
Frank Calabria is Origin Energy’s CEO. Origin was one of seven energy companies to meet with the Prime Minister in Canberra to talk about pricing on 9 August.