02 October 2014

Hands holding a candle. A new study undertaken by the University of South Australia and Uniting Communities in conjunction with South Australian Council of Social Service (SACOSS) has shown that the rising cost of energy is taking a heavy toll on South Australians on both lower and moderate incomes.

According to Dr Janine Pierce from UniSA Business School, the impacts include people not using any heating or cooling and substituting blankets and extra clothing to stay warm, sitting in the dark, using candles instead of electric lights and trading off food purchases to pay for power bills.

Dr Pierce says the study shows that for people in the lower income brackets the rapid rises in energy prices often have had very real impacts on their ability to live healthy lives.

“The study shows people are actually buying cheaper and less healthy foods such as packet noodles rather than fruit and vegetables and avoiding the more expensive Australian food suppliers altogether,” Dr Pierce says.

“They are also living with an enormous sense of stress and distress, worrying about how they will pay their next power bill.

“Overall power price rises indicated the cost of energy is having a significant negative impact on quality of life for lower income groups in South Australia.”

Uniting Communities’ Mark Henley says consumers want more action from both government and energy regulators and more transparency in energy contracts.

“I think people feel ambushed by the price rises and powerless to make a difference,” Henley says.

“They say they need more support and not only with concessions, but help with ideas on cost cutting, including home energy audits so they can make informed decisions about their energy use.

“These finding are timely, particularly given that the Commonwealth Government has just released its Energy Green Paper for public comment.

“It still seems that our governments do not understand the extreme financial pressure being placed on many households from continually rising energy costs.”

The full report and associated photo exhibition will be released later this year.

Contact for interviews:

Uniting Care, Mark Henley mobile: 0404 067 011

UniSA, Dr Janine Pierce office:  08 83020756

Media contact: Michèle Nardelli office: +61 8 8302 0966 mobile: 0418 823 673 email: Michele.nardelli@unisa.edu.au

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