ACOSS supports ACCC investigation but longer term national energy policy needed

ACOSS welcomes the Federal government’s announcement of an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) investigation into retail electricity pricing but says a durable climate and energy policy is urgently needed to address rising energy prices.

Dr Cassandra Goldie, CEO of ACOSS, says she welcomes the ACCC investigation as the current situation with sustained increases in electricity prices and the failure of retail and wholesale competition in the energy market has particularly affected low income and disadvantaged households.

“People are hurting because every small increase in energy price harshly impacts the budgets of vulnerable households,” says Dr Goldie.

“From 2007-2016 low income earners endured electricity price increases of a whopping 65% in real terms, which translates to a spend of up to five times more of disposable income on energy costs than high income earners.

“Retail market competition has failed to deliver on its promise of lower bills for all.

“For example, according to the Brotherhood of St Laurence, disconnections have increased fivefold in Victoria with the retail component almost doubling since 2008 and fixed charges higher than any other State.” 

“We submit the ACCC investigation should also review unfair retail marketing practices including ‘limited benefit periods’ and ‘pay on time discounts’ which can unwittingly increase the cost of a person’s bill by hundreds of dollars.

“We welcome the government’s recognition that failure of competition is one reason for energy price rises. Competition needs to be fair and work for all households.

“Another reason for energy price rises is climate policy uncertainty which is currently adding 4-6c/kWh to wholesale costs, equivalent to a $50 tonne carbon price, as noted by the Australian Energy Council.

“We also call on government to go the next step towards a sustainable energy future.

“The Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market is a good first step in shaping the future of our electricity sector. But we need to do more.

“We need a national coordinated energy plan that is investable and durable, functioning markets and greater consumer protection. We need a market mechanism and regulation to facilitate replacement of aging coal-power with clean renewable energy. And we need Federal and State governments coordinating and implementing effective national policy.

“We’ve had the decade of finger pointing, policy change, and inaction, between the federal and state governments.

“Let’s make the next decade one of positive and affirmative action on energy for the benefit of everyone.”