Northern Territory Council of Social Service

Media Release – Cost of Living Report No. 26

Utilities costs unaffordable for lower income NT households


The Northern Territory Council of Social Service (NTCOSS) released its 26th Cost of Living Report today, highlighting the unaffordability of utilities in the NT for low income households and calling for an extension to concession schemes and government assistance.


The report tells two stories about utilities for low income households. The first story is that the NT has one of the lowest electricity and water tariffs in the country. Electricity tariff prices have dropped over the last three years and despite CPI for water for Darwin[1] increasing at a greater rate over the past decade than every other Australian capital city, water tariffs are still some of the lowest in the country. Average expenditure on utilities is the equal third lowest in the country as a proportion of weekly income (though these figures exclude very remote areas).


The second story though shows that high utilities usage in the NT and low levels of disposable income put consistent utilities usage out of reach of many Territorians.

“Although the water and electricity tariffs are some of the lowest in the country, the NT still has the highest weekly expenditure on utilities at approximately $65 per week. This high expenditure is driven by the unavoidable need to cool and heat houses against the NT’s temperature extremes,” said Jonathan Pilbrow, Policy Advisor, NTCOSS.


“The NT’s lowest income households (lowest 20 per cent) are spending 6.3% of their disposable income on electricity, gas and other household fuels, where those in the highest income households (top 20 per cent) are spending approximately four times less of their disposable income, at a rate of 1.6%,” he said.


Despite the uniform tariffs for electricity across the NT, recent data reveals that some households cannot afford continuous electricity. 62 per cent of the 2,374 households with an urban e-smart electricity meter in the NT have experienced an ‘involuntary self-disconnection’ (where they have been forced to disconnect due to insufficient funds) over a recent 12-month period.


“Many households cannot afford continuous electricity, significantly affecting their standard of living as they are forced to interrupt activities such as cooking, bathing, washing clothes and charging electrical items,” said Mr Pilbrow.


NTCOSS is calling on the Northern Territory Government to do more to help low income households and individuals with their utilities bills.


“The Northern Territory Government should as a matter of priority extend electricity concessions to all Centrelink Health Care Card holders and increase access to renewable sources of power, including solar, for lower income households,” said Mr Pilbrow.


“In addition, the Australian Government should raise the rate of Newstart and Youth Allowance by a minimum of $75 per week,” he said.

Read the 26th NTCOSS Cost of Living Report link
Read the Utilities Cost of Living Fact Sheet

FOR MEDIA INTERVIEWS: Contact Jonathan Pilbrow, Policy Adviser, NTCOSS Ph 0403 611 815

OR Shaun Brockman, Policy and Advocacy Officer, NTCOSS, 0411 039 429



[1] While CPI is measured for capital cities only, given the uniform electricity and water tariffs across the NT, the CPI for these expenditure areas are representative of price changes across the whole of the NT.