The BULB  •  Issue #21  •  February 2022
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The Bulb – The Bi-monthly Utilities Literacy Bulletin


The BULB aims to inform and inspire - a platform for ongoing education and support to community services workers, volunteers and the wider community. This publication is from ConnectEd - Keeping people connected to energy, water and communications.
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Utilities Training for Community Workers


Do you have clients who struggle with electricity, gas or water bills? Would you like to help them more, but don’t know how? This workshop will provide some answers!                                             

ConnectEd's Utilities Literacy Training for Community Workers will teach you about:
- Electricity, Gas and Water in South Australia
- Reading and understanding meters and bills
- Using energy and water efficiently at home
- How to choose an energy retailer and get a good deal
- Concessions, complaints, disputes and hardship
- New technologies and tariff reform.

This workshop is available in your choice of online or face-to-face format - COVID-19 restrictions make face-to-face events difficult, but we know that many people just learn better when they can do it in the room with other learners. Choose either option:

Thursdays 3, 10, 17, 24 and 31 March
10:00am - 12:30pm
Register here

Tuesdays 31 May and 7, 14, 21 and 28 June
1:00pm - 3:30pm
Register here

Day 1: Wednesday 6 April 9:30 - 4:30
Day 2: Wednesday 13 April 9:30 - 4:30
at UCWB, 77 Gibson Street, Bowden.
Register here

Day 1: Thursday 30 June 9:30 - 4:30
Day 2: Thursday 7 July 9:30 - 4:30
at UCWB, 77 Gibson Street, Bowden.
Register here


Time of Use Tariff Workshop


Increasingly, electricity bills will feature prices that vary according to the time of day that appliances are used. 

The electricity distributor, SA Power Networks, now charges retailers with a Time of Use tariff for all of their Smart Meter customers. Many retailers will pass that on to their customers: search results on feature lots of ToU offers.

So what do electricity consumers need to know about Time of Use Tariffs to get the best results? Do you know how to talk with your clients about ToU?

Join ConnectEd for a discussion about how this works, who it affects, and what it means.

Thursday 19 May 11:00am - 12 midday Register here

More details here about ConnectEd's FREE training for community workers

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SPOTLIGHT - AER concern about pandemic energy debt

The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) has raised concerns about the way that energy retailers are dealing with customer debt, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to create hardship.

The Annual retail markets report 2020-21 shows that more households are in energy debt, and the average debt is greater, than in the previous year. At the end of June, almost 183,000 residential customers in the National Energy Market were in debt (up by almost 8500), with an average debt of $1000 (up by more than $100). In addition, almost 66,000 customers were enrolled in “hardship” programs, and around half of them are going further into debt, with their payments not covering their usage.

While those in debt increased, the number of customers in retailer hardship programs fell, leading the regulator to wonder whether retailers were being effective in their hardship support. Special conditions which applied during the first disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as a halt on disconnections, may have had some perverse effects.

At the same time, electricity affordability – the percentage of disposable income spent on electricity bills – has improved each year for the last four years. In South Australia, annual bills account for about $2 in every $100 of income on average, though for low income households it’s $4.90 – down from $6.50 in 2017-18. Gas affordability in South Australia has improved slightly for low income households, to $2.30 per $100, and remained steady at $1.10 per $100 for those with average incomes.

South Australia no longer has the “least affordable electricity”, having lost that position to Tasmania; however, SA hardship customers had the highest average debt, at $2438, and seem on average to be accumulating even more debt while on a hardship program.

The most common reason for a customer to exit a hardship program is not that they have successfully dealt with their debt, but that they have been excluded from the program by the retailer for failing to make payments according to their payment plan.
Electricity prices have fallen - householders can stimulate competition between retailers and push the prices even lower by looking for a cheaper contract at the Australian Government's comparison site, Energy Made Easy.
How much can you save?
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SA 101% Renewably Powered


In the final stretch of 2021, the South Australian electricity grid set a new renewable energy record, running on solar and wind for almost a full week. Over a 156 hour stretch, the state’s renewable generation averaged 101% of local demand for energy.

The state’s generation mix did include some gas-fired power, as required by the system operator (AEMO) for system stability purposes - generation in excess of local demand was being exported to Victoria via high-voltage interconnection lines.

South Australia often meets its electricity demand with renewable energy – through October, the average contribution of wind and solar was 72%, and there are more and more periods when solar from large farms and rooftops provides 100% or more. Over the last 12 months, South Australia has supplied more than 62% of its electricity needs from wind and solar generation.

Energy expert Professor Bruce Mountain put South Australia’s renewables success down to “a consistent bipartisan determination to speed up energy transition.”
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Telstra fined for Unconscionable Conduct

Telstra admitted to unconscionable conduct in the Federal Court, and was ordered to pay $50 million in penalties, after proceedings brought by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) were finalised last May.

More than 100 Indigenous Australian customers, many with English as their second, third or fourth language, limited ability to understand the contracts, and no employment, were “saddled with obligations” to pay for products they could not afford or did not want.

The Telstra shop at Arndale in Adelaide’s northwest was one of five stores found by the court to have engaged in “exploitative” practices.
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Switch for Solar program to expand

Home owners who qualify for the SA Energy and Cost of Living Concessions may be able to trade the Concessions for a solar system, through the State Government’s Switch for Solar program.

Applications are currently open to residents in 50 listed South Australian suburbs and localities, however this list is expected to be expanded later in 2022.

To be eligible, concession holders must own a detached or semi-detached house, and be willing to forgo the Energy and Cost of Living concessions for 10 years. For most households, these concessions together are currently worth $450.80 per year. In return, they will receive a 4.4 kW solar system installed by ZEN Energy, and will be able to use their own free solar electricity, and be paid for excess solar generation, as soon as the system is activated.

A 4.4 kW solar system in Adelaide could generate approximately 6800 kWh per year.
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New Green Electricity Guide

The latest update of Greenpeace’s Green Electricity Guide, the first since 2018, has been released.

When it comes to choosing an electricity retailer, consumers take a range of factors into account. Price is important, but so are perceptions of customer service and brand recognition. Some customers feel that a better-known retailer will be less prone to blackouts – though this is not true, as all electricity is supplied through the same generation and distribution network.

For many customers, given that electricity production accounts for about a third of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, the environmental credentials of the retailer are a key consideration. The Green Electricity guide provides information for those who want to make a more environmentally sustainable choice.
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RAA to build Network of Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

The RAA (Royal Automobile Association) will install a state-wide network of electric vehicle chargers, stretching from Mt Gambier and Bordertown in the southeast to Marla in the north and Border Village in the state’s far west. $12.4 million from the State Government will fund 536 charging points at 140 locations, with a maximum 200 km drive between them.

Other SA Government electric vehicle initiatives include a $3000 subsidy for purchase of electric or hydrogen vehicles under $68,750, with a three-year registration fee exemption, and a $2000 subsidy for installation of a household smart charger, to charge an electric vehicle when renewable energy is abundant.

These schemes are intended to support the electrification of the transport sector, in line with achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

With petrol prices across the country close to $2 a litre and pushing all-time highs, a shift to electric vehicles may seem more and more attractive. However, electric cars are still financially out of reach for many. Sales of electric bicycles, however, have increased by 800 percent in 5 years.
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Free Home Energy Assessments by telephone or video call

COVID-19 has made life harder for many, and with incomes reduced and more time at home, energy bills have loomed large. Do you know someone who needs to know how to cut their costs?

ConnectEd's experienced Energy Assessors carry out home energy audits and provide personalised advice on how to cut energy costs. This service is available over the phone, with a COVID-safe face-to-face follow-up in the home when needed.

If you know someone who needs help to review their household energy usage, you can download the referral form from

Utilities Information sessions 


Learn how to read your bills, manage a phone plan, and use less electricity, gas and water to save you money at information sessions offered at various locations in metropolitan Adelaide.

Join us for a relaxed, informal chat to:

- find the best energy plan for you
- read your bills and how to pay them
- learn where your big energy use is
- discuss lower cost alternatives
- ask any questions or share your tips.

To get the most out of this time, bring your most recent utility bills with you.

Check the Events pages for details and to find out here when the next session is offered near you.

If you know a group that would like to learn about utilities, do get in contact with us - we can work with you to provide appropriate education sessions, either face-to-face or online.

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ConnectEd Jukebox

In tribute to Mike Cannon-Brookes and his bid to buy AGL, here's a classic Human League song of longing and rejection.

The Cannon-Brookes' company, Grok Ventures, teamed up with Canadian asset manager, Brookfield, to make an offer to purchase AGL and replace its coal-fired power stations with renewable generation and batteries. At publication, the offer has been rejected as being "far too low".

Mike Cannon-Brookes, you may recall, was the Australian billionaire who bet that Elon Musk that couldn't build the world's then-largest lithium battery in South Australia in 100 days. Cannon-Brookes lost the bet; the Hornsdale "Tesla Big Battery" Power Reserve is located about 3 hours north of Adelaide.
The ConnectEd Program supports people to reduce financial hardship associated with electricity, gas, water and communication services.


4 ways to manage your energy and water bills

Make sure your energy deal is right for you
Find out if you are eligible for a concession
Be mindful of your consumption – save on energy and water use
Know how to get help if you need it
The BULB is brought to you by the ConnectEd team at UCWB.
ConnectEd is funded by the Department of Human Services.

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UnitingCare Wesley Bowden (UCWB) · 77 Gibson Street · Bowden, SA 5007 · Australia

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