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Households in the dark II

Mapping electricity disconnections in South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and South East Queensland
Electricity Electricity consumption Household finance Energy security Cost and standard of living Queensland New South Wales Victoria

The focus of the research presented in this report has been to geospatially analyse where electricity disconnections occur as well as explore when and why they occur based on the socioeconomic indicators that characterise these areas. It is, however, also important to consider what electricity disconnections for non-payment actually mean in a broader context.

Electricity is an essential service and disconnection from supply is regarded as last resort by policy makers, regulator, retailers and, in all likelihood, households themselves. Disconnection is the ultimate manifestation of a household’s inability to afford electricity supply and while there are numerous factors that can contribute to electricity becoming unaffordable, key factors include:

  • Low and/or unpredictable income (including income support)
  • The cost of electricity (including the adequacy of alleviating measures such as concessions)
  • Consumption levels

For many households facing disconnections, more than one of these factors may have contributed to their plight. Furthermore, households without a financial safety-net may quite easily find themselves in a situation where the electricity bill cannot be paid due to small unforeseen events.

This project has analysed and mapped approximately 395,000 electricity disconnections for non-payment raised by AGL in South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and South East Queensland between 1 July 2015 and 30 June 2018.

As the purpose of this project has been to explore when, where and why households are disconnected from electricity, rather than a single retailer’s disconnection practices, the data set has been normalised based on AGL’s market share. This study therefore shows when, where and why households are disconnected if all retailers disconnect at similar rates to AGL. Furthermore, in analysing the postcodes with the highest disconnection numbers, we have normalised the data based on the postcodes’ number of occupied private dwellings.

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