ACT Energy Minister Shane Rattenbury has asked ActewAGL to consider cutting power prices for the coming fiscal year, in the wake of a decision allowing it to increase prices almost 15 per cent.
Mr Rattenbury on Friday wrote to ActewAGL chief executive Michael Costello asking the ACT's main electricity provider to cut power prices, in the wake of AGL operations interstate deciding to cut their prices.
The territory's Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission last week released its price determination for 2018-19, which would allow the provider to increase power prices by a maximum 14.29 per cent in 2018-19, prompting concerns more low income Canberrans would consider disconnecting their power.
If the provider passed on the full cost of the increase to residential customers, it would equate to about a 12 per cent real increase, or $299 a year; though the ACT's current prices are still among the lowest on the National Electricity Market.
But that determination reflects the rising wholesale price of electricity over the past two years, as well as rising costs of the federal Clean Energy Regulator's renewable energy programs.
Mr Rattenbury said the the current price of wholesale energy was falling, and as a result, AGL last week dropped its prices in NSW, Queensland and South Australia, and he said he wanted to know if ActewAGL could do the same in the ACT.
"Given that AGL in NSW, QLD and SA are adopting a corporate position that they are cutting their prices, I’m keen to find out what they will do," he said.
"We have seen the ICRC has allowed a 14.29 per cent price increase for next year, the question is whether they’ll follow the other states."
Mr Rattenbury said at this stage he was simply posing the question, though he may face an uphill battle given the territory's largest electricity provider has usually increased prices by the full amount allowed by the commission in recent years.
But he said that if the electricity provider was considering such moves, he would be looking for the company, which is half-owned by the territory government, to justify such a move.
Mr Rattenbury also said he had talked to Chief Minister Andrew Barr about the potential to consider widening or increasing utilities concessions for some Canberrans, but first he wanted to understand if ActewAGL ameliorate the potential price rise.
"We're certainly are looking at what further measures we could take, but the first step is whether we can ameliorate the impacts of the proposed increase - if we can see a situation where ActewAGL does not pass this through to everybody," he said.
"One, we need to look at what the company is going to do, and the second part is doing a little bit of research on this, given customers won't face their first bill with these new prices until October, we've got a little bit of time to investigate the options."
An ActewAGL spokeswoman said in a statement the company knew energy prices "hit households hard" and it wanted to "provide relief that will more than offset this price rise", but that it responds to "all ministerial enquiries confidentially".
"We don’t want any of our customers to go without this winter and encourage those experiencing hardship to call our bill helpline on 13 12 93," the statement read.