AGL Energy has announced the launch of a fund to install solar for customers experiencing hardship, as part of a broader effort to improve energy affordability and protect those hardest hit by rising power prices.
The rooftop solar fund is part of a $70 million boost to the gen-tailer’s investment in customer support, just days after pricing regulators forecast a further 20-25% jump in electricity prices for those on default market offers.
Retailers are required by law to have so-called “hardship” policies, that set out how they can assist customers that are having trouble paying their energy bills due to loss of work, illness or other life circumstances.
AGL’s hardship program, Staying Connected, currently supports 19,500 customers, but the gen-tailer said on the weekend it expects that number to grow over the coming two years, as inflated power prices and other cost of living pressures bite.
Typically, retailer hardship programs employ measures offering targeted relief, such as bill credits or concessional payment plans. Measures that offer the promise of long-term bill reduction have not been the norm.
“AGL understands that rising energy prices for customers, alongside broader cost-of-living pressures, will be difficult for households and businesses,” said AGL chief customer officer Jo Egan.
“To ensure customers can get the right support at the right time, we’re investing more in our customer support programs.”
On top of existing measures, such as targeted bill credits, AGL says money set aside to install solar panels for customers experiencing hardship will help them to electrify their homes and reduce their energy bills.
Customers will be “proactively assessed” for eligibility, the gen-tailer says.