Energy bill woes

Many Australians living on an Age Pension or fixed income are doing all they can to reduce their electricity use. YOURLifeChoices member Helen is doing just that, but when over 80 per cent of the bill is for the supply charge, is she fighting a losing battle?

Q. Helen

I have just received my latest electricity bill, it was for $130.00, but I only used $16.00 worth of electricity, the rest is the supply charge. How can these energy companies justify this? I sit at home freezing because I can’t afford to put my heater on, I don’t turn my lights on of a nighttime (I use candles), I don’t have an air conditioner and I don’t have a washing machine. I cannot do another thing to cut down my usage and it really doesn’t matter, as 3/4 of my bill is the supply charge, which I have to pay whether I use electricity or not. Being on an Age Pension I am so aware of what I buy etc., but I cannot do anything about this charge. Who do I complain to? Who will listen, and who really cares? Do you have any suggestions?

A. Helen, this really does seem a ridiculous situation and one which is being faced by many other Australians. The charge for distribution is set by the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) and in most cases, is passed on in full by electricity retailers as a supply charge. You can try shopping around for a retailer which has a lower supply charge, but it isn’t likely to be much less than you’re paying now.

Below is a link to the NSW Trade and Investment webpage, which has a question and answer section on electricity and gas prices. This explains how an energy bill is broken down and who is responsible for setting prices. It also has information on organisations in NSW, which may be able to help those struggling with energy bills.

You can also consider taking your complaint to the Energy and Water Ombudsman. To find out more visit

It may also be worthwhile contacting your local Government office to ensure you are receiving any concession you may be entitled to on your energy bill.

Are you in a similar position to Helen? Do you have any further advice?