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Newsletter: May 2024


Energy Consumers Australia

From the CEO

Everywhere I go at the moment I am reminded how much people are feeling financial pain.

The other day, I caught up with a friend who provides family care packages. She told me more than half of her clients have full-time (or multiple part-time!) jobs, but just can’t make ends meet. I’ve also heard some terrible stories of the trade-offs people are making to look after their kids.

Worryingly, we’re seeing this pain across the board when it comes to paying high energy bills. A survey we just completed – to be released soon – shows a considerable increase in strain for those in higher income brackets. Three years ago, 2% of people earning more than $150K told us they were under financial pressure; this month that number has risen to 12%, by far the largest percentage since we started tracking this figure in 2016.

Small businesses – often overlooked in these discussions – are clearly feeling the pinch as well. Council of Small Business Organisations Australia (COSBOA) recently completed a report, funded by Energy Consumers Australia, which examines how Australia’s 2.5 million small businesses are feeling about their energy bills and the transition. Strikingly, 34% said they experienced energy hardship in the last year – a higher figure than during the COVID lockdowns – and 21% said they’d had difficulty in paying their energy bill on time and in full.

Remarkably, 62% of small businesses within a shopping centre or embedded network (where they pay a landlord for energy) say they’re in energy hardship – a number regulators should keep in mind while they review embedded network rules.

Also remember this: while energy retailers are obliged to offer hardship assistance to residential customers, there is no obligation to do the same for small businesses, although some certainly do. This is a significant problem, and one that needs considerable attention.

So, it’s clear that cost pressures haven’t really abated for energy consumers. Pleasingly, the recent Federal Budget will provide some very welcome relief for both households and small businesses, but the underlying challenges remain.

Here at ECA we’re not going to shy away from advocating for solutions to these problems. We’re busy finalising our strategic plan for the next few years – which I can’t wait to share with you – laying out how we want to tackle these challenges for consumers so everyone can benefit from the energy system in future.

Brendan French
Chief Executive Officer

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Federal Budget Announcement

ECA welcomes the Federal Budget provision for all households and small businesses to receive an energy bill rebate. However, as the energy transition accelerates, we have a real opportunity to close the energy divide for good, not just for the winter. ECA had the opportunity to discuss what the budget means for energy consumers on TV and radio including ABC News.   

From the Grants Team

New small business report

Through our Grants Program, we supported the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia (COSBOA) to undertake research into the unique challenges and opportunities for small businesses when it comes to the energy transition. 

The new report provides new insights into the varying levels of motivation, ability, and opportunity that different types of small businesses face in the energy transition, and finds that energy costs have hit small businesses harder than COVID. Read some of the coverage in Inside Small Business.

Follow the journey of our Gill Owen scholar

Madison Sturgess, our 2024 Gill Owen scholar, is currently in the United Kingdom to research community led strategies for a democratised and just energy transition in Australia. She’s writing a blog throughout her travels where you can get real-time insights into her research (plus see some photos along the way).   

Help shape the newsletter

It’s important to us that our newsletter is useful and relevant to you. That’s why we’re asking you to complete a short survey to share your views on our newsletter. We want to know what you find helpful, what you want more of, and what we could do better. 


Achieving a net zero energy system in Australia requires the active and willing participation of every household and small business. The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water’s Electricity and Energy Sector Plan is an important step in mapping out how this will be achieved.  

Our submission outlines several key recommendations including the need for a One Stop Shop, ensuring that the consumer protections framework is fit-for-purpose, and the need to provide Australians with a guaranteed right to access affordable, reliable, and clean energy.  

We also made a submission to the Australian Energy Regulator on the Draft Consumer Engagement Toolkit, where we proposed a suite of recommendations to enable energy businesses to do better by their most vulnerable consumers. Additionally, we made a joint submission with Victorian consumer advocates on the Victorian Default Offer to the Essential Services Commission.  

Catch up: Small Biz Matters podcast

Our CEO, Brendan French, was a recent guest on the Small Biz Matters Podcast. Brendan discussed the unique needs of small businesses in the energy transition and the work the ECA is doing to advocate for small businesses in this space. 

For your calendar

ECA is getting out and about and participating in a number of upcoming events:  

  • The Energy and Water Ombudsman NSW is hosting a FREE forum on building resilience during the cost-of-living crisis on 5 June in Sydney. Our CEO, Brendan French, will discuss the work we’re doing to advocate for energy consumers in the face of rising costs. Grab your ticket here
  • Brendan is also speaking at Australian Energy Week (11-14 June) on ensuring the energy transition benefits consumers instead of causing suffering. Secure your ticket here and use the code ECA10 for 10% off.  

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