The Department of Planning and Environment provides more than $245 million in energy rebates to around 27 percent of NSW households. This report highlights that the department is not monitoring the rebate schemes to understand whether they are delivering the best outcomes.
Most rebates are ongoing payments applied directly to energy bills reducing the amount payable by the householder. The structure of these rebates is complex and can be inequitable. Some households are eligible for four different rebates, each with its own eligibility criteria. Also, some households in very similar circumstances receive different levels of support depending on what type of energy is used in their home or which adult in the house is the energy account holder. For example, a household using both electricity and gas receives more assistance than a household with electricity alone even if total energy bills are the same.
1. Executive Summary
|Rebate||Value||Eligibility*||How paid||2017-18 Budget|
|Ongoing support||Low Income
|$235 per year||PCC, HCC or
DVA Gold Card
|$90 per year||PCC, HCC or
DVA Gold Card
|$235 per year||PCC, HCC, DVA
Gold Card (any)
|$150 per year
$15 per year for
those eligible for
Benefit A or
|Lump sum onto
electricity bill at
the end of the
|$50 vouchers up
to $250 twice a
year ($500) per
|Must be in
and at risk of
Providers), to be
used to pay
electricity or gas
bills. Soon to be
|Low income Household Rebate||176,830||184,505||187,708||187,314|
|Medical Energy Rebate||1,231||1,758||1,696||1,966|
|Family Energy Rebate||4,441||6,949||5,777||4,333|
|Energy Accounts Payment Assistance||14,400||12,493||11,790||15,718|
By September 2018, the Department of Planning and Environment should:
- Ensure effective strategies are in place to make information about rebates available to all eligible, low-income households
- Evaluate alternative models and develop advice for government to reduce complexity and improve equity of ongoing rebates
- Establish measurable objectives for schemes that provide ongoing support, and monitor and measure performance of all schemes against objectives and outcome measures
- Assess the impacts of the forecast increase in embedded networks and develop strategies to manage any increased administrative risk
- Strengthen assurance that EAPA is being provided in accordance with its objectives and guidelines by implementing accreditation and compliance programs
- Ensure those eligible for EAPA financial support are not disadvantaged by inflexible payments, inconsistent provider practices, or inability to access an EAPA provider in a timely manner. Options include:
- moving from a fixed-value voucher to a flexible payment based on need irrespective of energy type
- establishing a ‘Provider of Last Resort’ facility for households that cannot access an EAPA Provider.
4. Key findings
4.1 Ongoing support rebates
4.1.1 Objectives of rebate schemes
KPIs for organisational units involved in administering rebates, as well as for the rebate schemes themselves, should be based on the objectives of the schemes, but this is not possible unless clear, measurable objectives and outcome measures are in place.
4.1.2 Equity within the ongoing rebate schemes
|Household A||Household B|
|A family of five lives in Sydney in a 4-bedroom home. Their energy needs are all met through electricity. The family is eligible for Family Tax Benefit. Electricity bills, typical of a 5-person household are $714.08 per quarter, or $2,856.34 per year.||A family of five living next door in the same size house has both gas and electricity connected. Energy bills, typical7 of a 5-person household, are $656.82 per quarter $2,627.29 per year|
Rebate: $235 per year for Low Income
Household Rebate +$15 Family Energy Rebate = $250 or 9 per cent of energy costs.
Rebate: $235 per year for Low Income
Household Rebate +$90 Gas Rebate + $15 Family Energy Rebate = $340 or 13 per cent of energy costs.
4.1.3 Structure of ongoing rebates
Low Income Household Rebate accounts for 80 per cent of the budget for ongoing rebates, with the remaining 20 per cent administered through four9 separate schemes, each with its own eligibility criteria. This structure has built up through successive responses to different community needs. None of the individual schemes have been reviewed since implementation, and never as a holistic package. Family Energy Rebate was introduced in 2012 with the intent to review it after five years. That review timeframe coincides with this audit. An opportunity exists to review all the ongoing rebates as an overall package of support, looking for opportunities rationalise schemes and improve equity and targeting.
4.1.4 Embedded networks
The Department has advised that the number of households in embedded networks is increasing. In addition, the managers of large apartment developments increasingly are taking on the role of energy suppliers to their residents. This may mean more customers within embedded networks become eligible for rebates. As yet, the Department has not considered the impact of the potential increase in energy rebates associated with embedded networks, which could be felt in terms of administrative budget. We are informed by Department staff that work will soon be underway to better understand the potential growth in embedded network customers.
4.1.5 Marketing and communication about ongoing rebates
During the conduct of this audit, our auditors were invited to observe a technology class for Arabic speaking seniors. During class, the participants were instructed to access the energy rebates webpage on the Department's internet site. The participants had previously been shown how to navigate to webpages, and most found their way to the energy rebates web page, but at that point their search for information stalled as the page was only available in English.
The instructor asked the participants if any of them had heard of energy rebates, and none had. Some were aware of discounts offered by energy retailers for early payment of bills, but none knew about government support to pay energy bills.