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Thousands of Queenslanders who can’t afford electricity headed towards ‘energy poverty’

Queenslanders forced into darkness

Poverty: “As people struggle to pay their bills many are forced to go without other basic needs to the detriment of their health.”

EACH month more than a thousand Queenslanders are having their electricity cut off because they can’t pay their power bills.

There were 18,000 household disconnections during the first nine months of the 2016-17 year, while more than 40,000 Queensland power customers are in debt, owing an average of more than $500.

As the struggle to pay power bills escalates, a new report calls for a national policy shift to prevent “energy poverty” by providing affordable, reliable and clean energy for people on low incomes.

The report, Empowering disadvantaged households to access affordable, clean energy, was produced by the Australian Council of Social Service, Brotherhood of St Laurence and The Climate Institute after consulting with more than 120 community, environment and energy experts.

The Brotherhood of St Laurence’s head of energy and climate change Damian Sullivan said action was long overdue.

“We hear harrowing accounts of the impacts of higher energy costs,” Mr Sullivan said.

“As people struggle to pay their bills many are forced to go without other basic needs to the detriment of their health.

“We’ve had people in our programs who don’t have hot water because they can’t afford to get it fixed.

“Others report going to bed early so as not to put the heater on. Some families are already having their electricity or gas disconnected.

“Some of the measures recommended in this report can give immediate relief for families as well as help reduce power bills long-term through energy efficiency, installing rooftop solar, and well-targeted concessions.”

ACOSS chief executive officer Dr Cassandra Goldie called Federal and State governments to work together on “one of the most pressing issues of our times, by better aligning climate, energy and social policy”.

“We already have almost three million people living in poverty in Australia,” Dr Goldie said.

“We need to provide urgent relief for thousands of people suffering as a result of energy stress, and map a way forward now to ensure those numbers don’t increase further.”

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