AER releases retail energy market performance update for Quarter 2, 2020-21

The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) has today published its quarter two (Q2) 2020-21 Retail Energy Market Performance Update data, covering the period from October to December 2020. This data is provided by retailers in accordance with our Performance Reporting Guidelines and looks at key retail indicators including disconnections, debt, payments plans and hardship. Key findings include:

There was a decrease in the number of customers on hardship programs and payment plans as retailers offered other types of COVID-19 support that are not captured by our Retail Performance Guidelines.

For the period of the pandemic:

  • The proportion of electricity customers on hardship programs decreased from 1.14% end March to 1.04% end December 2020.
  • The proportion of gas customers on hardship programs decreased from 0.73% end March to 0.64% end December 2020.
  • From end March to end December 2020, the number of residential electricity and gas customers on payment plans started at 139,849 and ended on 105,594.

There was a significant drop in disconnections as retailers responded to the AER’s Statement of Expectations that ensured households and small businesses impacted by COVID-19 could keep the lights on.

  • For the period of pandemic, retailers disconnected a total of 5,961 gas and electricity residential customers over the April to December 2020 period, compared to 52,127 over the same period the previous year.
  • To compare quarter on quarter data, there were 4,697 gas and electricity residential disconnections in Q2 2020-21, compared to 14,653 in Q2 2019-20.

The number of customers in debt and average debt increased over the period of the pandemic, however the level of residential and small business average debt is not significantly higher than in recent years.

To compare quarter on quarter data:

  • The number of residential gas and electricity customers in debt as at the end of Q2 2020-21 was 171,329 compared to 147,098 for Q2 the previous year.
  • Average residential gas and electricity debt at the end of Q2 2020-21 was $1,008, which steadily increased from $796 in Q2 the previous year.
  • The number of small business gas and electricity customers in debt as at the end of Q2 2020-21 was 21,597 compared to 19,474 for Q2 the previous year.
  • Average small business debt for gas and electricity was $2,422 in Q2 2020-21 which increased from $1,767 Q2 in the previous year.

The AER’s most recent annual report on the performance of the retail energy markets can be found here: Annual Retail Markets Report 2019-20. The AER is also undertaking additional and timely reporting on voluntary basis to enable us to have visibility of the effect of COVID-19 on the retail energy market through our COVID dashboard.

Our next quarterly report, covering the period January to March 2021, is expected to be published in mid-June 2021. This report will report further on trends (including disconnections, customer debt, hardship and payment plans) over a key period of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the end of the quarter coinciding with the phasing out of key government support measures.

Issued date: 
6 April 2021
AER reference: 
AC 36/21
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