REPORT: Energy debt higher than ever as low-income households priced out of essential service

Consumer Action Law Centre CEO Stephanie Tonkin says the Centre’s new report Energy Assistance Report 4th Edition: Keeping the Lights On published today, highlights that thousands of Victorians are struggling to cope with ballooning energy bills and debt, and outlines priority areas of reform to enable energy affordability amidst a rapidly changing energy landscape.

In 2023, 7,087 people from across Victoria called Consumer Action’s financial counsellors on the National Debt Helpline (NDH) and 849 callers (or 12% of all) presented with energy bills as one of their top three financial difficulty areas, compared to 10.5% in the previous year.

“Average energy debt of callers has increased to $2,626, with the highest debt recorded at $34,102. As the cost-of-living crisis deepens, we are seeing the highest number of large energy debts in the six years since we first began publishing this report,” Ms Tonkin said.

“What is clear is that low-income households are being priced out of an essential service, necessitating structural reforms that support all Victorians to access affordable energy,” she said.

“People shouldn’t have to choose between putting food on the table and keeping their lights on, or racking up debt they may never pay off. Access to this essential service must be protected regardless of income.”

The report also reveals that the number of people with old energy debt from previous retailers has doubled since last year and that some retailers are pressuring customers into unaffordable payment plans, by threatening disconnection.

“We know that industry is receiving government funds to relieve energy debt, yet despite these schemes, debt is growing for too many Victorians.

“Retailers need to come to the table to make sure they’re meeting their obligations to assist Victorians struggling with their energy bills, which is why we’re recommending a cross-sector initiative to help those who need it most.

“This is one of the key takeaways of this report and we are bringing all the evidence and recommendations to the energy industry and Victorian Government,” Ms Tonkin said.

Download the full report and recommendations Energy Assistance Report 4th Edition: Keeping the Lights On

Download the 4th Energy Assistance Report data spreadsheet


Media contact: Mark Pearce, Media and Communications Adviser, 0413 299 567,



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