Multinet Gas Networks – Response to COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the entire Australian community, forcing us to change the way we work and interact with each other. Multinet Gas Networks (MGN), part of the Australian Gas Infrastructure Group (AGIG) has developed a COVID-19 response plan to address these challenges.
Our plan recognises that the supply of natural gas is an essential service. AGIG is committed to delivering safe and reliable gas services to more than 2 million customers across Australia.
Meter reading contactless approach
Measures have been put in place to ensure that Meter Reading Services are able to be continued under Stage 4 restrictions including following COVID protocols and safety practices such as wearing of masks, hygiene procedures and social distancing measures. However they have now been broaden to include contactless service, ensuring the safety of our customers and staff whilst playing our part in reducing the virus impact.
All reads will be completed as long as there is clear, unhindered and contactless access to the gas meter. If there is any locked gates or other means such as doorbells or knocking required, readers will be unable to obtain these reads to ensure no customer contact in delivering meter reading services.
We will continue to leave a card at site where an actual reading is not obtained. Please contact your gas retailer to discuss providing a customer read should you be concerned with an estimated read if no access can be provided in line with the current COVID protocol.
New Help for Victorians with their energy bills
- The Victorian Government has rolled out a team of financial counsellors and community workers in partnership with community organisations to give targeted advice and support to Victorians who need help with their energy bills.
- The suite of programs involves webinars delivered by the Consumer Policy Research Centre and a tailored Energy Assistance and Brokerage Program to help people get the best value energy deal, run by a consortium which includes the Brotherhood of St Laurence, the Australian Energy Foundation and Uniting Vic.
- The support is available online and over-the-phone (Financial counselling is available in languages including Arabic, Mandarin, Hindi and Vietnamese). For support, please call 1800 830 029, and live webinars to help households manage their energy costs can be accessed at energyinfohub.org.au
- Please contact your gas retailer for any other financial assistance that may be available also.
Our plan focuses on assisting our customers and local communities.
- We are working with industry to implement the principles set out by the Australian Energy Regulator (aer.gov.au) to protect customers and the energy market during this difficult time.
- We are supporting energy retailers by not disconnecting residential or small business customers who may be in financial stress, to 31 July 2020 and potentially beyond.
We are implementing a network relief package – this package includes supporting energy retailers by either rebating or deferring network charges to eligible residential customers who go on payment plans or hardship arrangements as a result of COVID-19 for the period 1 April to 30 June, and providing tariff relief to eligible small business customers who experience financial stress, or temporarily close, as a result of COVID-19 for the period 1 April to 30 June.
For further details on the energy network relief package, please see link https://www.energynetworks.com.au/miscellaneous/covid-19-electricity-and-gas-network-relief-package/
Customers who have been impacted by COVID-19 should contact their energy retailer to determine what type of financial assistance may be available.
Gas Disconnections – Victoria
The Essential Services Commission Victoria (ESCV) has updated their position regarding disconnections in Victoria as a result of the State Government declaring Victoria a State of Disaster and announcing Stage four restrictions. In summary, the Commission expects until 31 October 2020 (and potentially beyond) :
Electricity and gas retailers:
- take steps to satisfy themselves that the disconnection of a customer’s supply address would not in any way immediately endanger the health or safety of any person before raising a service order for disconnection
- where they are able to obtain confirmation from the customer that the health and safety of any person would not be immediately endangered, the retailer will notify the distributor that confirmation has been obtained
Electricity and gas distributors:
- take steps to contact a customer before actioning any disconnection service request, where a retailer has raised a disconnection service request and has not obtained confirmation from a customer that any person’s health or safety would not be immediately endangered (for instance because the retailer’s attempts at contact have not been successful)
Further, in the absence of being able to obtain confirmation that any person’s health or safety would not be immediately endangered, not proceed with disconnection
As a result of the ESCV position, effective from (20 August – 31 October 2020 and potentially beyond) Multinet Gas Networks and Australian Gas Networks (Vic) will not complete disconnections in Victoria until further notice. On an exception only basis, we will assess special disconnection requests.
We will continue to monitor and review this position as we proceed through the declared State of Disaster period in Victoria. Please contact your retailer for further information.
Please note that network disconnections for safety will still continue where applicable.
Our work environment
We have enacted a series of measures as part of our response plan across the Group to maintain a healthy and safe work environment. These include:
- We are practicing strict social distancing at all times as recommended by Government Authorities
- Where possible, employees are now working from home to reduce the risk of spread, and for those persons unable to work from home, we have strict controls in place, including cleaning regimes, alternating work groups and increased hygiene expectations to maintain a clean work environment
- We have mandated a 14-day self-isolation period for a series of select criteria
Our operational focus is to safely maintain the reliability of gas supply for our customers and the broader community. This service has not been impacted by COVID-19.
- We are continuing to provide critical services including responding to gas faults and emergencies, carrying out emergency repairs, as well as operational and maintenance activities to ensure customers receive a safe and reliable gas supply.
- As part our commitment in improving gas supply and delivering essential gas distribution services, our contractors will be performing works on the gas assets located within the vicinity of customers’ premises and we will be continuing to read gas meters.
- We are taking every precaution to ensure the safety and health of our customers, employees and contractors, but we need customers help by maintaining a high degree of vigilance. Our employees and contractors have been directed, and we ask customers to maintain social distancing (>1.5m) at all times.
- If the customer’s gas supply needs to be turned off for planned maintenance, we will send customers a notice of this work so that they can plan ahead. We are aware that these types of planned outages may have a greater impact given that more people than ever before are now at home due to the COVID – 19. In these circumstances, we are closely evaluating the need for particular work activities to proceed and how we might be able to minimise the impact on customers in the current circumstances.
- We are requesting any customer who is impacted by our field work activities such as above to declare if they are showing signs of flu symptoms, to ensure that we can make arrangements to protect the safety of our employees and contractors.
Faults and Emergencies
Our faults or emergency service has not been impacted by COVID-19. If customers experience any gas faults or emergencies, please call on 132 691 (24 hours).
Our Customer Enquiries centre can be contacted on 1300 887 501 (Business hours). Whilst this call centre is operating normally, we do encourage customers to email your query to firstname.lastname@example.org. Email enquiries are still being responded in a timely manner during business hours.
Meter Reading activities are continuing and all Field Staff are following strict hygiene and physical distancing. Meter Readers are not to enter the home of any of our customers. All works related to entry have ceased. Meter Readers who encounter members of the public are to ensure they practice social distancing techniques – maintaining a minimum of 1.5m distance, no physical contact (ie shaking hands)
MGN acknowledges that the COVID-19 situation will remain highly fluid for some time yet. We will continually update this information on our website as circumstances change.