High charges hit low earners

Tasmanian Council of Social Service chief executive Tony Reidy

Tasmanian Council of Social Service chief executive Tony Reidy

PENSIONERS and low-income earners are being unfairly stung by high energy supply charges, a report has found.

The St Vincent de Paul Society report, Tasmanian Energy Prices July 2013-July 2014, tracked the state’s power tariffs and found electricity bills have fallen on average by between $290-$370  since last year.

But the report also found  low power consumers were paying proportionally higher costs per unit of energy than high consumption households.

‘‘This has significant equity implications as some customer classes characterised by low and fixed income also use less electricity than the Tasmanian average,’’ the report said.

While supply charges have dropped by 13 per cent, customers are still paying between $320 and $460 a year in fixed charges.

Aurora pay-as-you-go customers pay about $160 more in fixed charges a year than those on the standard, regulated rate.

Tasmanian Council of Social Service chief executive Tony Reidy said the fixed portion of electricity pricing should be reduced.

‘‘The impact is particularly felt by those households relying on fixed incomes such as Commonwealth allowances and benefits,’’ Mr Reidy said.

He said reducing the fixed portion of pricing would provide incentives for households to reduce their power usage through being careful  and better thermal efficiency in homes.

‘‘The concession system for electricity and other essentials needs to be even better targeted and directed to those in most need,’’ Mr Reidy said.

‘‘Moves towards full retail competition need to include assurances that Tasmanians struggling to pay their electricity bills will not be left behind.’’

Energy Minister Matthew Groom said the government was developing a comprehensive whole-of-state energy strategy.

‘‘The energy strategy will provide a pathway to ensure we are making the most of our competitive advantage to attract business and ensure Tasmanians are paying lower power prices,’’ Mr Groom said.

Mr Groom said an issues paper would soon be released for public comment.

‘‘This issues paper will cover a range of issues including the cost of electricity, and how we can ensure that people on low incomes are protected and pay fair prices,’’ he said.

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