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Government responses to COVID-19 in the energy sector

Last updated 24/03/2021

  • The Australian Government and state and territory governments are working together to manage the impacts of coronavirus (COVID-19) on the energy sector.
  • The National Cabinet agreed on 9 April 2020 to a nationally consistent approach to hardship support across essential services for households and small businesses.
    • Protections for households and small businesses during COVID-19 have been extended to 30 June 2021.
    • The Statement applies to households and small businesses in Queensland, NSW, ACT, South Australia and Tasmania
  • The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) has set reasonable expectations of energy companies to protect householders and small business customers during the COVID-19 pandemic,
  • To get the latest information on COVID-19:
    • Download the 'COVIDSafe' government app in the Apple App Store or  Google Play Store. This highly secure app enables public health workers to notify people who may have been exposed to COVID-19 more quickly and effectively. The COVIDSafe app is now available in Arabic, Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Greek, Italian, Korean, Punjabi, Turkish and Vietnamese.  
    • Download the 'Coronavirus Australia' government app in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. This app includes essential information on government actions, a symptom checker, news and contact information.
    • Join the WhatsApp channel on iOS or Android.
  • News and information for Australians about the development, approval process and plans for COVID-19 vaccines is available from health.gov.au. This includes how to make an appointment to be vaccinated for those in Phase 1b. There are 3 steps you can take now to get ready: 
    • create a myGov account and link Medicare
    • check your contact details for Medicare are up to date
    • view your immunisation history statement.

The former Council of Australian Governments Energy Council (COAG Energy Council), comprising the Australian Government and state and territory government energy ministers, agreed to a coordinated and comprehensive approach to identifying and managing the impacts of COVID-19 on the energy sector. This response builds on arrangements already in place for dealing with energy sector impacts, such as extreme weather events and bushfires.

Ministers agreed that governments and industry will work together in a number of key areas and will be supported by emergency management arrangements adapted to meet the needs of the current situation. This includes the former COAG Energy Council and the newly established National Coordination Mechanism.

The Energy Coordination Mechanism brings together senior executives from governments and industry. This cooperation is important to allow governments and industry to ensure the energy sector continues to support the economy and community. Ministers encouraged energy generators, retailers and networks to consider support measures for customers experiencing difficult circumstances as a result of the coronavirus.

Energy Market response to the coronavirus pandemic

The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) is now and has been implementing its full suite of pandemic responses to provide the maximum possible protection and resilience for its critical operations and people. AEMO is also working with the energy industry including electricity generators, gas facilities, network businesses and other market participants to support additional pandemic management actions across the sector.

The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) has set reasonable expectations of energy companies to protect householders and small business customers during the COVID-19 pandemic. These have been extended to 31 March 2021. The AER’s Statement of Expectations sets out a range measures, including:

  • waiving any disconnection, re-connection and/or contract break fees for small businesses which have gone into hibernation, along with daily supply charges to retailers, during any period of disconnection until at least 31 March 2021
  • offering all households and small businesses who indicate they may be in financial stress a payment plan or hardship arrangement
  • not disconnecting residential or small business customers in financial distress that have made contact with their retailer or responded to communications before 31 March 2021 and potentially beyond
  • deferring referral of any customer to a debt collection agency for recovery actions, or credit default listing until at least 31 March 2021 and potentially beyond
  • minimising the frequency and duration of planned outages for critical works, and providing as much notice as possible to help households and businesses to manage during any outage.

Hardship support for energy, water and rates

The National Cabinet agreed on 9 April 2020 to a nationally consistent approach to hardship support across essential services for households and small businesses.

State and territory governments adopted similar principles for essential services, including water utilities and local governments. Some protections in some states and territories have ended. Please check your state or territory COVID information for details (links below).

The principles ensure simple and easy access to support for essential services. Businesses eligible for the JobKeeper payment are automatically considered to be under ‘financial stress’ for the purposes of accessing hardship support.

The principles, based on the government’s Statement of Expectations for the energy sector, include:

  • offering flexible payment options to all households and small businesses in financial stress, including small businesses eligible for the JobKeeper Payment
  • not disconnecting or restricting supply/services to those in financial stress that have made contact with their retailer or responded to communications
  • deferring debt recovery proceedings and credit default listing
  • waiving late fees and interest charges on debt
  • minimising planned outages for critical works, and providing as much notice as possible to assist households and businesses during any outage.

Ongoing support for energy users during COVID-19 The Hon Angus Taylor MP, Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, media release 30 October 2020

Further support to households and small businesses during COVID-19 The Hon Angus Taylor MP, Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, media release 28 July 2020

Hardship support for energy, water and rates The Hon Scott Morrison MP, Prime Minister, media release 9 April 2020

AER extends COVID-19 energy customer protections Australian Energy Regulator

Support for households and small businesses facing hardship in paying for essential services (11 principles) National Cabinet

Statement of Expectations of energy businesses - protecting consumers and the energy market during COVID-19 Australian Energy Regulator

Retailers must support their customers as COVID-19 continues Australian Energy Regulator

Fuel supply during the COVID-19 pandemic

The Australian Government is working with the major petroleum refiners in Australia to ensure continuity of supply during the pandemic.

In April 2020 the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) made an interim authorisation allowing the major petroleum refiners and their representative body, the Australian Institute of Petroleum, to discuss and put in place measures so fuel supplies remain available during the COVID-19 pandemic, and after the economic hibernation ends. In September 2020, the ACCC issued a final determination granting conditional authorisation until 31 March 2021.

Australia has a highly reliable fuel supply, even during significant global and local disruptions. The local market is well supplied with fuel products and demand for fuel is lower due to the coronavirus.

Australia imports fuel from more than 70 countries, with no single country providing more than 20% of our total petroleum imports (crude products and refined products such as petrol and diesel). If there is a problem with fuel supply in a specific region, Australia can source fuel from other places.

Oil companies allowed to co-operate to secure fuel supply during COVID-19 pandemic ACCC

Australian Institute of Petroleum conditional authorisation ACCC

Read more

COVID-19 daily updated information (Department of Health) Australian Government

COVID-19 pandemic response plan AEMO

Latest COVID‑19 news, updates and advice from Australian Government agencies Australian Government

Find COVID-19 help from your state or territory government

ACT 

NSW 

Northern Territory

Queensland 

South Australia

Tasmania 

Victoria

Western Australia