As the mercury drops, our power prices rise
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As the mercury drops, our power prices rise

The mercury hovered below 10 degrees on Saturday and was forecast to dip again Sunday, with the Bureau of Meteorology predicting a maximum 7 degrees. Snow was spotted just past Corin Dam while dispatches from Thredbo and Perisher showed plenty of action.

Canberrans have likely piled on the jumpers and jackets as winter well and truly shows its teeth. But increasingly, we're told, people are not turning on their heaters. Indeed, more and more Canberrans are cutting their power supply entirely.

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Credit:The Canberra Times

The latest figures from the Australian Energy Regulator showed 427 Canberra residential electricity disconnections in the 2016-17 financial year and 159 this year. There were 423 residential gas disconnections in 2016-17 with a further 192 in the months since.

Despite this, the ACT's largest energy provider, ActewAGL, this week confirmed it would pass on its maximum allowable price rise of 14.29 per cent from July. This means residential customers will face a $299 increase to their annual bills unless they take up an offer that would provide a 25 per cent off-market discount. The trade-off? The price would be variable according to market conditions, and the discount only applied for 12 months, at which point the customer would be placed on a new plan.

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The Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission allowed ActewAGL's price increase based largely on rising wholesale prices in the past 24 months, which have since fallen. An ActewAGL spokeswoman this week told The Canberra Times the provider's standard retail contract was "always aligned" with the commission's determinations and that the allowed increase reflected "the prudent and efficient costs of ActewAGL Retail supplying electricity to customers".

Energy Minister Shane Rattenbury has previously said he would ask ActewAGL to justify its price rise given the company's branches in NSW, Queensland and South Australia made cuts to their electricity prices.  New ACT entrant Origin Energy, meanwhile, chose to retain its 2017-18 prices.

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ActewAGL's decision comes as an Australian Energy Market Commission report revealed consumer trust in the nation's energy companies fell from 50 to 39 per cent in the last year.

Customers would be forgiven for following Mr Rattenbury's lead in demanding an explanation for a not insignificant increase to their power bill.

Meanwhile, those with the least will continue to struggle most.

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