Victoria: Electricity bill savings wipedgreenspun.com : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread
Electricity bill savings wiped By SHAUN PHILLIPS 31mar01
THE savings brought about by sweeping electricity reform are set to be wiped out next year with average family bills expected to rise by as much as $150.
Experts say 2.2 million small customers face rises of 15 to 20 per cent as soaring wholesale energy prices pulse through the privatised market. The prediction came as an investigation revealed touted savings this year had not materialised for many Victorians.
Wholesale prices have doubled in the past year.
In the country particularly, the rising costs have wiped out distribution savings of up to $55 enforced by the State Government from January.
And for the first time in four years Victorians will have to get by without the $60 winter power bonus.
The bottom line is that an average family is paying up to $70 more for power this year compared with 2000.
Experts say worse is to come with wholesale prices to continue to rise as the national electricity market struggles to meet ever-increasing demand.
The final stage of electricity privatisation will hit Victoria in January when small customers are given the ability to choose their power company.
Currently householders and businesses with bills of less than $5000 a year are tied to one of five host retailers - the city-based AGL, CitiPower and Pulse, and rural companies Powercor and TXU.
Industry consultant Dr Robert Booth said it was inevitable that the ever-increasing wholesale price of power would be passed on to households.
"There could be an increase of at least 15 per cent for domestic customers," he said. "That is a clear understanding across the industry."
Other senior industry sources said the hip-pocket impact could reach 20 per cent, or up to $150 on an average family bill, depending on how much retailers would be willing to absorb.
Distribution and retail companies refused to comment on the size of likely price rises.
And in a further blow to power reforms:
COMMUNITY organisations said country residents and low-income earners were likely to miss out on the benefits of full competition.
THE Australian Industry Group said medium-sized businesses given the right to change power companies this year had not benefited. The looming power bill rise is set to create a major problem for the Bracks Government, which has reserve powers to cap prices. Any move to intervene would be opposed by the industry.
Energy Minister Candy Broad yesterday conceded market forces would be largely responsible for the price paid by customers next year.
Ms Broad said the Government would use its reserve powers to prevent price increases "if retailers are seen to be taking unfair advantage of their customers".
Distribution charges account for 30 to 40 per cent of a bill and have been fixed for the next five years by the Office of the Regulator-General.
They fell on average between $20 and $55 across the five distribution regions this year, but rising wholesale and transmission prices have cancelled that benefit for most families.
CitiPower customers using 5500 kilowatt hours a year have fared best, with bills falling $46 to $702, better than the average network cut of $25 a customer. The figures exclude the former winter power bonus.
Comparative Powercor bills rose $10 despite a $44 network cut, Pulse ($20 network cut) and TXU ($55 network cut) remained stable at $748 while AGL fell $24 ($39 network cut).
-- Martin Thompson (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 30, 2001