Bendigo is among the most disadvantaged postcodes for household electricity disconnections, according to the St Vincent de Paul Society.
Its Households in the dark report maps about 200,000 AGL electricity customers in Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales and south-east Queensland whose service was disconnected for non-payment between July 2012 and July 2015.
Bendigo ranked equal fifth with Tarneit and Mildura in the list of postcodes where 50 customers or more were disconnected three times.
Hebersham in New South Wales topped the list with 338 customers, compared to Bendigo’s 71.
Bendigo also ranked among the top rural and regional postcodes where 200 customers or more were disconnected twice.
Orange, New South Wales, topped the list with 477 customers affected.
Bendigo took out the 11th rung with 221 customers affected – less than Corio, Shepparton, Ballarat, Morwell and Warrnambool.
Central Victorian suburbs dominated the tail end of Victoria’s top 50 disconnection rates.
Eaglehawk was ranked 37th, Kangaroo Flat 38th, Bendigo 42nd and Maryborough 45th.
The report writers noted these Victorian postcodes were among those with a higher proportion of low-income earners, including sole parents, and couple families where both are not working.
“In Maryborough, for example, 43% of households have an income that is less than $600, compared to 24% in Victoria as a whole,” the report states.
St Vincent de Paul Society energy spokesman Gavin Dufty said Victorian residents were most at risk of being cut off multiple times.
“In Victoria, the roll out of smart meters, which enable disconnections to be done remotely instead of during a site visit, results in an increase in the disconnection completion rate,” he said.
Increasing social security payments for households experiencing poverty was one of the report’s recommendations.
In areas where multiple disconnections are an issue, Mr Dufty said targeted energy efficiency programs might be warranted.
AGL would support a review of energy concessions to ensure that they are best targeted to those most in need, a spokesperson said.
“This report will influence the way we undertake community outreach, with better targeting of energy savings technologies such as solar PV and the distribution of energy literacy information to ensure customers are aware of the available support,” they said.
AGL has invested $6.5 million in an affordability initiative to improve the support for vulnerable consumers.
The spokesperson encouraged customers struggling with their electricity bills to contact AGL's Staying Connected team on 131 245 as early as possible to discuss the support available.