NSW gov't unveils power bill assistance measures

In a bid to assist New South Wales bill payers tackle rising electricity prices, the state government has unveiled a raft of measures to help low-income earners.

Energy minister Chris Hartcher has announced a $16 million package that will see residents of retirement villages able to access the state government's Low Income Household Rebate.

The rebate will increase from $215 to $225 from the beginning of the next financial year, and rise by another $10 in the following one.

Mr Hartcher said: "Pensioners and customers holding certain concessions cards and who receive a bill from a retailer are eligible to receive the rebate.

"However, most customers who live in retirement villages and are supplied electricity by their landlords have been unable to access the rebate."

Customers of electricity suppliers should check to see if they are eligible for government assistance, Mr McArdle said, with customers having to be specifically charged for energy consumption by a retirement village business.

The person must also hold a Department of Veterans' Affairs Gold Card, which would indicate a war widow or widower pension, totally or permanently incapacitated or disability pension.

An eligible applicant could also hold a Pensioner Concession Card, which are issued by the Department of Human Services.

The state government has also made changes to a number of systems, including the Energy Accounts Payment Assistance Scheme and the emergency voucher scheme, which is reserved for households during a crisis or emergency.

New administrative initiatives will see community groups help customers and focus less on paperwork, while the vouchers will rise to $50 at the beginning of the 2013-14 financial year.

The minister said: "Last year, the New South Wales government announced a $210 million package of assistance measures to help households manage rising electricity costs."

The state government is doing all it can to deal with the issue of increasing electricity prices, Mr Hartcher explained.

"We're capping network price increases at CPI [consumer price index] over the next six years and continuing reform of the state-owned businesses - shedding cosy management jobs and perks," he said.

Those most in need will be protected by the O'Farrell government, the minister concluded, as electricity bills are placing a massive burden on households.

Posted by Charlie Moore