The BULB  •  Issue #16  •  June 2019
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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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Bring Your Bills Roadshow at City of Charles Sturt


ConnectEd will return to the City of Charles Sturt next week, offering 'Bring Your Bills' drop-in sessions at different time slots at different libraries over five days! 

Anyone can bring their bills along to these sessions and ask questions, collect information, and find out about free financial counselling or home energy assessments from skilled ConnectEd Educators and Financial Counsellors.

Monday 17 June  –  11.30am - 2.00pm at Hindmarsh Library 
Tuesday 18 June – 2.30 - 5.00pm at Findon Library 
Wednesday 19 June – 5.00 - 7.30pm at Henley Library
Thursday 20 June – 5.00 - 7.30pm at West Lakes Library
Friday 21 June – 10.00am - 12.30pm at Woodville Library

These events are free. Please bring your utility bills with you. 
See all the events on the City of Charles Sturt website

Information sessions open to everyone 


Offered once a month across four locations in metropolitan Adelaide: Christies Beach, Port Adelaide, Smithfield and Beulah Park.

Learn how to read your bills and use less electricity, gas and water to save you money. You can also qualify for a FREE home energy assessment.                                              

Come for a cuppa and 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 and 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.

Find out here when the next session is offered near you.

August Training for community workers


Presented over 5 weeks in Marion, this series of half day modules is offered through August 2019, Thursday mornings 9:30am - 1pm.

You may choose any of the modules, and an individual module makes a great refresher/introduction to utilities literacy; however for best results, attend all five!

Module 1 (Thursday 1 August) Bills & Meters
Making sense of bills and meters - "Why is my bill so high?"

Module 2 (Thursday 8 August) Getting a Better Deal
Contracts, Energy Made Easy and retailer marketing

Module 3 (Thursday 15 August) Saving Energy & Water
Household usage: calculate running costs; detect trouble spots

Module 4 (Thursday 22 August) Help in Hardship
Rules on hardship and disconnection; concessions and assistance

Module 5 (Thursday 29 August) Innovation & Change
Solar power and batteries; energy networks and tariff reform

Register here

Telecommunications Training for community workers


ConnectEd's new half-day workshop for community workers gives you the opportunity to learn new information, clarify your understandings, and discuss the issues your clients may have with access to telecommunications.                                             

Thursday 19 September 9:30 - 1:00
at UCWB Marion office, 730 Marion Road, Marion.

The workshop will explore:

- Technology and Connectivity

- Choosing a Plan

- Understanding Bills and Usage

- Hardship and Consumer Protection

- Security

- Accessibility

If you've enjoyed learning about electricity, gas, and water with ConnectEd, please join us for this new workshop: Register here

September 2-day 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 2-day workshop will provide some answers!                                             

Day 1: Wednesday 4 September 9:30 - 4:30
Day 2: Wednesday 11 September 9:30 - 4:30
at UCWB, 77 Gibson Street, Bowden.

ConnectEd's 2-day 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.

Register here

See the Events page on the ConnectEd website for more information.
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Increased discount for Origin "Value" deal 


As reported in BULB #13, in 2017 the SA Government invited electricity retailers to tender for the opportunity to offer a more attractive deal to consumers who receive the energy concession.

Origin Energy won the tender and from December 2017 introduced a discount offer that included an 18% discount on electricity usage and supply charges, and no extra fees and charges.  Origin committed to maintain this offer up to 30 June 2019. They also offered an 11% discount on natural gas usage and supply.

origin logoFollowing negotiations between the SA Government and Origin Energy to continue the discount offer beyond 30 June, the electricity discount has been increased from 18 to 20% for both usage and supply charges, effective from April. The gas discount remains at 11%.

Consumers already on the offer will have the higher discount automatically applied. While this discount offer does not have an end date, Origin may vary the electricity discount with 90 days’ notice.

About 50,000 South Australians have signed up for this Origin “Value” offer. Another 120,000 are eligible to sign up to this offer as they receive the SA Government energy concession payment. 

Read the State Government website's Concessions Energy Discount Offer page for more information, and phone Origin Energy on 1300 791 465 to apply for the Concessions Energy Discount Offer. It’s also necessary for the customer to transfer their energy concession to Origin – this can only be done after receipt of their first bill and new account number from Origin. Call the ConcessionsSA Hotline on 1800 307 758 to arrange the transfer – the concession for the first bill will be applied retrospectively and credited to the second bill.

See also our review of the implementation of SACEDO in BULB #15.
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SA Water Accessibility Initiative


SA Water has announced a scheme which aims to make essential water services more easily accessible to all South Australians, particularly those living with disability.

The scheme seeks to apply Universal Design Principles, which recognise that anyone can find themselves living with an impairment which makes it difficult to do what a fully fit and able person may be able to do. Such an impairment may be either short term, for instance recovering from a sprained ankle or nursing a newborn, or ongoing, such as living after a brain injury or limb amputation. Universal Design aims to create products or processes that include as many people as possible in the first instance, and are also easily customisable to the needs of particular users.

The new scheme was inspired by the 2018 SACOSS Disability and Essential Services Conference, where presenters shared their dependence on and difficulty accessing essential services. SA Water then consulted more closely with some of those people and a number of other South Australians living with various disabilities. The program identified up to 15 potential initiatives or changes, with some already being implemented and others requiring investment over coming years.
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Changes in the electricity generation mix

The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) has outlined some significant recent developments in the SA energy market in their latest South Australian Electricity Report.

  • Installed electricity generation capacity in SA, including rooftop solar PV, increased almost 800 MW or 14% during 2017-18 to just over 6,200 MW
  • As of July 2018, a further 700 MW of generation equipment was committed for development. While most of this is new wind and solar projects, there is a noticeable increase in the amount of new battery, pumped hydro, and gas-fired peaking projects publicly announced.
  • Total electricity generated in South Australia increased 27% during 2017-18 to just over 14,000 GWh. The extra generation was used to meet local demand and exported to Victoria.  2017-18 was the first time in at least nine years that SA was a net exporter of energy.  
  • Rooftop solar PV delivered almost 500 MW at the time of peak consumer demand (supplied by the grid & consumer owned solar PV). The peak demand on the grid has moved from 6:30 pm in the previous year to 7.30 pm. Now that maximum demand has moved into the evening, future rooftop PV installations are unlikely to further reduce this operational peak unless combined with energy storage.
  • New sources of supply contributed to lower wholesale prices in 2017-18 with average price of electricity sold by generators 11% lower than the year before.
The full report on the AEMO website can be accessed here.

Image: Bungala Solar Power Plant near Port Augusta (credit: ABC News).
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A Default Market Offer for electricity consumers from 1 July 2019

What is this new acronym in the energy market - DMO, the Default Market Offer all about? Let's start by setting the scene...

The free market in electricity is supposed to result in the best prices, as rational consumers keep pressure on retailers by shifting to the best-priced offers. However, there is a problem when consumers with limited numeracy – or limited time and interest – compare offers on the basis of competing headline discounts. For instance, a 30% discount appears to be a better deal than a 25% discount; but if the second deal has starting prices just 7% lower, it will end up cheaper than the 30% off contract. And it gets even more complicated if both deals have a range of prices for supply and energy charges and feed-in tariffs.

For the first decade of the retail energy market, prices were regulated – in South Australia, the Essential Services Commission set maximum prices for energy standing contracts. However, in moving towards fuller competition, this regulation was removed in 2013 so that retailers could have the freedom to innovate and offer different kinds of energy contracts that might suit different consumers for different reasons.

The standing or default tariff is the price charged to consumers who have not signed up to a market contract.

In 2018, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) Retail Electricity Pricing Report found that standing offer prices are unjustifiably high, and have been used by retailers as a high priced benchmark against which to advertise market offers with large discounts, and that comparing market offers is overly confusing.
The Commonwealth Minister for Energy then asked the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) to develop Default Market Offer (DMO) prices for residential and small business electricity customers.

The DMO price, which will take effect from 1 July 2019, has been set half way between the mid-point (median) of all existing market contracts and the mid-point of all existing standing offers.

The DMO for SA residential consumers has been set at $1,941 per year based on an annual consumption of 4,000 kWh. For those with a Controlled Load as well (typically for water heating) the default price is $2,420 based on 6,000 kWh per year. For small businesses, the DMO price is $9,120 for 20,000 kWh per year.

Electricity retailers must structure their default tariff so that it does not exceed these prices for the assumed energy consumption figures listed above. As long as their bill totals are not exceeded for the assumed consumption levels, retailers have flexibility in setting the mix of their daily (cents per day) and usage (cents per kWh) charges. The actual bills of individual customers will vary depending on how their retailer sets those charges, and how much electricity they use.

Retailers are expected to ensure that customers are not worse off under a DMO – that is, retailers are asked not to increase their current standing offer tariffs.

The DMO price will also function as a reference bill. Retailers are to use this price and consumption level as the benchmark for comparing their market offers – any discounts they advertise must be off the DMO price, rather than off their own standing offer prices. Additionally, advertised discounts can only include guaranteed discounts, and not discounts that rely on paying on time or by direct debit, or other conditions.

This policy will have a smaller impact in South Australia than in other National Energy Market regions, as we have the highest proportion of both gas and electricity customers already on market contracts. More than 91% of South Australia’s residential electricity customers are on market contracts, compared to only 75% across the whole National Energy Market.

The greatest impact will be felt by AGL – 19% of AGL’s SA customers remain on standing contracts.

The policy will also have little impact on customers on ongoing market contracts with “benefit periods” that expire and revert to non-discounted market prices.

The DMO is not designed to represent the cheapest price. Most, if not all, market offers will be cheaper than the default market offer price.
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Free Home Energy Visits 


ConnectEd has experienced Energy Assessors who can provide community members with home energy audits and give tailored energy advice.

Clients need to be referred to this FREE service via ConnectEd staff, so if you know someone who needs help with their household energy costs, send an email to: If you have seen a financial counsellor or if you have attended ConnectEd community information sessions you are also eligible.
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Correction: Confusion alert story 

Just to add to the confusion, our story in BULB #15 on the Home Battery Scheme contained an error regarding the capped subsidy amount for households. While the subsidy will vary depending on the size of the battery, it is capped for everyone at a maximum of $6,000 per battery installed.
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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