Most people would take the reliability of electricity services for granted. When the power goes out, it is frustrating, but not life threatening.
But for many Australians, a loss of electricity is a direct threat to their health. In our comment on the Essential Service Commission (ESC) Strengthening protections for life support customers draft decision, we urge comprehensive regulation of proactive protections for those who need energy for life support purposes.
Reports of 17 potential breaches of life support protections by electricity distributors over the last three years are concerning. It should not take a person dying as a result of a lack of protections to prompt regulators and government to ensure protections are comprehensive.
Broadly we support the ESC’s draft decisions to promptly implement improvements to existing protections. However, while these protections and draft decisions are particularly focused on preventing emergencies where registered people’s lives are put at immediate risk due to an energy outage, the ESC must look to further consider preventing harm to very vulnerable consumers in Victoria before such emergencies arise. Specifically, more should be done to:
- Interface with the health system to ensure that health professionals are aware of protections;
- Ensure that those with serious health concerns (but who do not require life support equipment) still receive appropriate protections;
- Ensure that people receive their life support concessions; and
- Ensure that businesses use their best endeavours to ensure households are registered where appropriate.