AGL Energy Limited (AGL) announced today that it will commit six million dollars over the next three years as part of a program of improvements to provide greater support for vulnerable energy customers.
The commitments that AGL makes to community organisations today recognises and reflects the effective engagement of these organisations on energy affordability issues with AGL.
AGL developed its Affordability Initiative following ongoing engagement with their Customer Council and more than three months of intensive consultation with 35 consumer, financial counselling and community groups across in Australia. With its Affordability Initiative AGL is committing to a range of improvements to Queensland Council Of Social Service, Public Interest Advocacy Centre, St Vincent de Paul Society, South Australian Council Of Social Service, Brotherhood of St Laurence, Kildonan Uniting Care and Financial Counselling Australia.
Early intervention for customers struggling financially was identified by consumer groups as a key area for improvement for the sector. As a result AGL will commit to improving accessibility of support information for customers, improving the training of employees dealing with energy affordability issues as well as introducing a dedicated phone line and email address for financial counsellors and community workers to access AGL hardship specialists.
Group General Manager Retail Energy, Stephen Mikkelsen, said energy affordability is a challenge for the community and AGL recognises that the industry has an important role to play in working with governments and community groups to deliver effective support for vulnerable energy consumers.
“That’s why today we are committing to enhancements to our existing programs as well as the introduction of some new initiatives to help to ensure vulnerable customers are prioritised and provided with greater support,” said Mr Mikkelsen.
“Insights gained during our meetings with consumer and community groups helped guide the development of a program that will help deliver meaningful improvements to energy customers in greatest need. Their feedback was vital in shaping what we’ve announced today as well as a significant program to improve our operations, communications and support for energy consumers which will be rolled out over an 18 month period.”
The allocation of significant funding to support payment incentives, independent financial counselling services and energy audit services was also recognised as integral to retailers providing greater integrated support to vulnerable customers.
“Consumer and community groups were very clear there are some customers where the gap between ongoing costs and income needs to be bridged. To help support these customers we’ll be putting six million dollars towards financial counselling, energy efficient appliances and home audits, as well as payment incentives and other initiatives to support customers facing short-or long-term financial hardship.
“The framework for the expenditure of this fund will be outlined in February 2015,” said Mr Mikkelsen.
In addition, AGL will continue to champion a number of initiatives to make it easier for customers to compare and understand different energy offers. This includes supporting a St Vincent de Paul Society policy proposal to have the publishing/gazettal of standing offers all on the same day.
“Some other immediate areas identified for improvement that we’ll be focussing on are better and earlier identification of at-risk customers, specialised training of customer service employees to manage vulnerable customers and the accessibility of AGL expert advice,” said Mr Mikkelsen.
AGL always encourages customers experiencing payment difficulties to contact AGL on 131 245 to discuss their options.
For more information on the commitments made in the initiative visit agl.com.au/commitment.
AGL is one of Australia's leading integrated energy companies and largest ASX listed owner, operator and developer of renewable energy generation in the country. Drawing on over 175 years of experience, AGL operates retail and merchant energy businesses, power generation assets and an upstream gas portfolio. AGL has one of Australia's largest retail energy and dual fuel customer bases. AGL has a diverse power generation portfolio including base, peaking and intermediate generation plants, spread across traditional thermal generation as well as renewable sources including hydro, wind, landfill gas and biomass. AGL is taking action toward creating a sustainable energy future for our investors, communities and customers.