ACT households already spend the most on energy, and bills are rising
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ACT households already spend the most on energy, and bills are rising

The average ACT household's annual gas and electricity bill has risen by $378 in a year, according to a new analysis of energy prices.

The territory's Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission has allowed electricity providers to increase prices by no more than 14.29 per cent this financial year, following a 17 per cent rise in the September quarter last year.

The average ACT household's home energy bill has risen by $378 in a year, according to a new study.

The average ACT household's home energy bill has risen by $378 in a year, according to a new study.Credit:James Alcock

Before the effects of the current fiscal year's price increase have even been felt, a new study by the St Vincent de Paul Society and Alviss Consulting has found that the average "dual fuel" household - one with electricity and gas - is looking at an annual bill of $3977. That represents an increase of $378 from July 2017.

All-electric households with a typical consumption level face an annual hit of between $2165 and $2400, depending on the type of tariff they are on. That is an increase of between $275 to $330 when compared to July 2017.

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Gas prices also went up from July 1, with the average yearly bill rising $124 to $1980.

To analyse changes to energy costs in the ACT, the study assumed typical household consumption of 8000 kilowatt hours per annum for all-electric households, electricity consumption of 6500 kilowatt hours per annum for "dual fuel" households, and 48,000 megajoules per annum for gas.

St Vincent de Paul social policy unit manager Gavin Dufty said the price rises would hit many Canberrans hard, with households here using more energy than those in other parts of the country because of the colder climate.

"If you're a pensioner, you're looking at a whole week's income, just gone, on this increase," Mr Dufty said.

"The easiest way to avoid these price increases is to shop around.

"Other strategies that people use include going without, but that has health implications."

Mr Dufty said while some homeowners could consider cost-cutting measures like solar power, people who were renting or struggling homeowners faced a tough predicament.

"There aren't many offers out there [in the ACT], which is disappointing," he said.

ActewAGL, the territory's main energy retailer, passed on the full price rise allowed by the Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission to its customers.

In June, however, it offered residential customers a 25 per cent discount for 12 months if they signed up online and submitted to direct debit withdrawal to pay their bills.

Energy Australia and new market entrant Origin Energy, which has frozen its prices at 2017-18 levels in a bid to attract new customers, are the only other retailers providing electricity and gas to residential customers in the ACT.

Mr Dufty encouraged customers to visit the federal government's Energy Made Easy website to find the best deal.

A separate analysis, released on Tuesday, found that ACT households spent more on home energy than those in other Australian states or territories.

The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey, conducted by the Melbourne Institute, did not provide an exact breakdown on how much households spent in each state or territory.

Instead, it provided data in the form of a regression table, showing that ACT households forked out an average of $173 more than the next highest spender, the Northern Territory.

The table compared all states and territories' spending to NSW, showing that typical ACT households spent $539 more than those in NSW.

However, it did not specify how much NSW households spent, and study co-author Inga Lass said she did not have the number on hand.

ACT Energy Minister Shane Rattenbury urged customers to shop around, pointing out the St Vincent de Paul report's finding that the average territory household could save up to $240 per annum by switching from ActewAGL's standing offer to its market offer.

Typical households could also save up to $259 a year on gas by switching from ActewAGL to Energy Australia, according to the report.

"The difference between offers is interesting, which makes it more important than ever that customers shop around," Mr Rattenbury said.

Mr Rattenbury has spoken to Chief Minister Andrew Barr about the potential to consider widening or increasing utilities concessions for some Canberrans.

Blake Foden is a reporter at the Sunday Canberra Times. He has worked as a journalist in Australia, New Zealand and the UK.

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