In Queensland, Pension cardholders may be eligible for the Queensland Electricity Rebate totaling $320.97 per year (GST inclusive). But many Indigenous people living remotely, who are pre-paid powercard customers have been missing out on obtaining the pension rebate that has historically been offered to account-holder customers who live in urban areas.
In 2014, the Queensland Council for Social Service (QCOSS) released its research report: Empowering remote communities: Experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander customers using electricity pre-payment meters in Queensland, which identified that many Indigenous people living in remote Queensland communities were missing out on the electricity rebate as well as other available hardship concessions such as the “Home Energy Emergency Assistance Scheme” (HEEAS).
People living in remote communities in Queensland are in a unique situation where they pre-pay for their electricity by purchasing power card credit. This prepaid credit comes in the form of paper cards, which are purchased in $20.00 and $50.00 amounts and are inserted into a power box meter on the home premises. Once the card is inserted, the prepaid dollar value amount is loaded into the power meter, providing power for a limited period of time.
On July 11, 2014, the Queensland Government responded to the issue, by providing confirmation that prepaid power card customers are now eligible to receive the same pension rebate offered to their account-holding counterparts. However, there are still many practical barriers for power card customers in getting access to the Electricity Rebate.
ICAN welcomes the release of the QCOSS Energy Factsheet: Rebate for Powercard Customers, which helps to inform customers about how to apply for the government rebate by presenting the step-by-step process in simple terms. The fact sheet also highlights difficulties with the current process, which ICAN feels will affect many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community residents living in remote prepaid meter communities; noting that nearly all prepaid meter communities across Queensland, are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
Some of the issues, which will arise in this process, are:
- The applicant will need to contact Ergon Energy by phone and must request a Queensland Government electricity rebate form to be mailed to them. We note that there is no requirement for an account-holder counterpart to fill out a paper form and that the current process of applying for a rebate is completed by phone.
- The customer must request a form to be mailed or emailed to them, which must then be completed by the customer. Mail delivered to remote communities may take several weeks to receive. Persons may need assistance to complete the Queensland Government Electricity Rebate form.
- The ‘Eligibility Criteria’ itself is not wholly suited for the diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households (See Queensland Government electricity rebate, Page 1) and further requires an applicant to make a ‘declaration’ of their household status.
- The form must then be posted back to Ergon Energy. The rebate will be paid quarterly via cheque in the post. Due to geographical barriers in accessing banking services, remote applicants may not easily be able to deposit rebate cheques, without (in many cases) travelling great distances.
Overall, ICAN feels the process could be improved, by allowing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prepaid powercard customers to apply for the rebate by phone (as is currently the process for account-holders), and by the ability to receive the rebate as an electronic deposit into their bank accounts.
QCOSS has raised this feedback with the Queensland Government and Ergon Energy to resolve these issues.
If you need assistance in applying for your electricity rebate, please contact ICAN at: 1300 369 878.