FOR 23 years Geoff Lawton worked for Victoria's State Electricity Commission as a linesman.
Yet it took a casual conversation in the supermarket for the Roxburgh Park pensioner to learn that he could get a meaningful discount off his energy bills and pay them by direct debit every fortnight.
Geoff believes energy companies make it hard for people to understand the best way to manage their bills.
"I was struggling, my bills were over $2000," said Geoff, adding that gas heating was a major concern.
His energy provider had told him if he wanted a better deal he needed to go online and pay on time.
"That was upsetting, I don't know how to get online and I can't pay on time - who can? It's disgusting how they treat pensioners."
Then Geoff found out about the Brotherhood of St Laurence Your Energy Broker program through his local carers' meeting.
The energy brokerage service was set up by the state government in October 2018, in partnership with the not-for-profit, to connect 10,000 low income households with energy brokers to help them find and switch to better energy offers.
"I got the number and everything started to happen. Now we are on a new plan with a 30 per cent discount on gas (up from 17 per cent)."
He is relieved to be saving around $860 a year. The Your Energy Broker team also helped him recoup the outstanding discount for over three years.
"The energy broker program was very good and we are very happy. They explained everything clearly - we would recommend the program. It worked for us."
Damian Sullivan, Head of Energy, Equity and Climate Change at the Brotherhood of St Laurence said the program had helped hundreds of people to switch.
"We've been surprised by how big the savings are," he said.
"On average, we are saving participants over $450 in the first year, with most of the saving coming from getting better electricity and gas deals.
"However, people also benefit from energy retailer sign-up bonuses and the Victorian government's $50 power saving bonus.
"As a Victorian government-funded service we are able to pass on all the savings to low income and energy stressed households."
The service uses the government's energy price comparator - Victorian Energy Compare - to help compare prices and take advantage of the $50 Power Saving Bonus.
Energy brokers are available to help either over the phone, at special events or through home visits.
The pilot scheme, which runs until September 30, is available to Victorians with low literacy, no or restricted computer access, English language difficulties or lack of confidenec using digital tools.
Your Energy Broker has organised over 500 switches, with bills savings estimated at over $118,000 in total in the first year for low-income Victorians.
The service is open to people in greater Melbourne and the Shepparton area until September 30.
- Call 1800 830 029 or visit www.bsl.org.au/energybroker