AS THE Riverina shivers through a bitterly cold start to winter, it is chilling to think that so many people in our community must think twice before turning on a heater.
The wholesale cost of electricity - be it generated through gas or coal - has spiked in recent weeks, with the higher prices filtering through to household bills.
The energy crisis gripping much of Australia's eastern seaboard means yet another hit to family budgets already stretched to breaking point.
The cost of housing, food, fuel and now electricity have all risen sharply, while most people's wages are not even close to keeping pace.
North Wagga man Luke McNorton lost his job last week and worries how he will pay his rent - let alone power bills - if he is forced to live off unemployment benefits for any period of time.
"I almost find myself rationalising it in my head already what I'd do if the power was cut off," he said.
Despite his predicament, Mr McNorton still considers himself fortunate to have a roof over his head, unlike the growing number of people living rough at Wilks Park.
A heart-wrenching story this week by Daily Advertiser reporter Hayley Wilkinson documented the daily struggles of being homeless.
Married couple Aaron and Skye Buschmann moved to Wagga from South Australia at the start of the year optimistic about securing reliable work and cheaper rent.
But for the last two months they have been living out of a tent at Wilks Park and it is taking an enormous toll on their health.
"I felt like I was gonna die [on Tuesday] it was that cold," Mr Buschmann said. "I've got asthma and epilepsy ... the cold nights just hit me and I can't breathe."
Sadly, these experiences could become more common if power prices are not brought under control.
There is no easy fix, but the Albanese government must start by working with state and territory counterparts on a comprehensive national energy policy that truly prioritises supply to the domestic market.
All the best for the week ahead,
Ross Tyson, editor
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