Hopes rise again for lower power bills
In a finding that will surprise no one, the ACCC has found that we are all paying far too much for our electricity.
On Wednesday, the ACCC released its final Retail Electricity Pricing Inquiry report outlining 56 recommendations to significantly improve electricity affordability for consumers and businesses.
If these recommendations are adopted the ACCC estimates it will save the average household between 20 and 25 per cent on their electricity bill, or around $290-$415 each year.
“It is clear that most households are paying far too much for electricity. In addition, some of the most vulnerable in our community are forced to struggle through freezing winters and scorching summers, with many others also having difficulty paying their bills,” said ACCC Chair Rod Sims.
“The National Electricity Market is largely broken and needs to be reset. Previous approaches to policy, regulatory design and competition in this sector over at least the past decade have resulted in a serious electricity affordability problem for consumers and businesses.”
Concentrated wholesale and retail markets, regulation and poorly designed policy have added significant costs to Australians electricity bills, the ACCC found.
As well as households, the ACCC believes Australia’s 2.2 million small to medium businesses could save an average of 24 per cent on their electricity bill, if their recommendations are adopted.
“Many small to medium businesses operate on very small margins and cannot afford the increases to their costs that have occurred over past years,” Mr. Sims said.
Commercial and industrial customers, the heaviest users, could also see electricity costs decrease on average by 26 per cent.
“Commercial and industrial customers, like mining and manufacturing companies, have watched what has been a relative competitive advantage to them, affordable electricity, now threatening their viability,” Mr. Sims said.
“We believe our changes can and will, if adopted, have a powerful and tangible impact on electricity affordability for all Australians; this will reduce economic inequality and enhance our national welfare.”
The ACCC’s recommendations include abolishing the current retail ‘standing’ offers and replacing them with a new ‘default’ offer consistent across all retailers, set at a price determined by the Australian Energy Regulator.
They also recommend changes to make comparing offers between retailers easier for consumers.
“Too many consumers and small business customers have given up trying to understand offers and switch in a confusing retail electricity market. Big changes are required to make it easier for consumers and businesses to understand market offers and improve competition,” Mr. Sims said.
He said implementing their recommendations will involve some difficult decisions.
“Despite poor decisions over at least the past decade creating the current electricity affordability problem, it now falls to current Commonwealth and State governments to make the difficult decisions to fix it,” said Mr. Sims.
The ACCCs full report can be found here: https://www.accc.gov.au/publications/restoring-electricity-affordability-australias-competitive-advantage