POWER bills are up there with sharks and tsunamis as things that strike fear into the hearts of Eurobodalla residents, but the good news is that there is some help available.
Batemans Bay Salvation Army’s Kylie Cursio is the South Coast worker for HESS, the Australian Government-backed Home Energy Saver Scheme, and since last October she has been visiting homes from Ulladulla to Bega helping people cope.
Given the sharp increase in power bills in recent years, she has her work cut out for her, but she is making an impact, whether it be by showing people how to reduce the cost of running appliances, negotiating payment plans or preventing disconnections.
What’s more, she’s doing it for free.
“What I like about this scheme is that it is about behavioural change rather than a handout,” Ms Cursio said.
“People ring up for different reasons. It could be that they are about to be disconnected or that they just simply need education on ways to reduce electricity use.
“In the last five years, electricity prices have risen so dramatically that behaviour has to change as well.”
Ms Cursio said it was common for people to all of a sudden have a massive bill and not know why it was so big.
“It may be that they have bought a new appliance and had no idea it would use so much power,” she said.
There are many other things that escape people.
“People often play DVDs on a Playstation, without realising that this is the most expensive way to watch a DVD,” Ms Cursio said.
“It doesn’t cost much to have one appliance on stand-by but if you have 10 things on over a long period of time it does.”
A crucial weapon in the HESS battle is the power mate, an electrical device Ms Cursio uses to measure how much it costs to run each appliance per hour.
Low-income earners are the hardest hit by power bills, and it is Ms Cursio’s job to help them find a way to pay, especially when it gets out of hand.
“It’s not uncommon for a quarterly bill to be $2000, and sometimes a debt will reach $10,000 over 10 months, so I have to go in and show them a way to pay it off,” she said.
“About 70 per cent of income goes to power and rent, and if someone is on Newstart allowance that can be very difficult.”
To find out more about HESS, call 1800 007 001.