CHOICE urges Governments to fix energy system

CHOICE says this Friday’s Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to fix Australia’s broken electricity system and reduce future pressure on household bills.

The consumer group has welcomed reports today of the Federal Government’s electricity reform proposals and says COAG should listen to Australian households, who have identified electricity bills as their number-one cost-of-living concern.1

“After four years when the average household electricity bill has increased more than 50%, Australians want to see our governments put aside political point-scoring and turn the momentum of recent months into lasting reforms,” says CHOICE CEO Alan Kirkland.

“CHOICE has been urging governments to rein in the multi-billion cost of energy infrastructure, the single biggest factor pushing up bills.

“This means changing the electricity market to ensure we meet demand in the most cost-effective way possible, including by reducing peak consumption.

“We are pleased to see proposals to make energy networks more efficient, and greater resources for the Australian Energy Regulator to scrutinise spending,” says Mr Kirkland.

CHOICE has welcomed moves to give consumers a greater voice in energy decision-making through a Consumer Challenge Panel.

“Consumer interests are outgunned in the electricity market, where complex proposals from well-resourced energy businesses flow into soaring household bills,” says Mr Kirkland.

“That’s why we support giving consumers a formal role in the decision-making process, and we also want to see resources to create a national voice for household energy users.”

CHOICE is also calling for stronger consumer protections and much better information to help households compare electricity products.

The consumer group says these actions should be a pre-requisite to any further deregulation or rolling out time-of-use pricing and smart meters.

“Our research shows that almost half of households who recently switched electricity providers are not confident they made the best decision, while one-third say it’s too hard to compare different offers,” says Mr Kirkland.2

“Electricity retailing is a mess, and before making this market even harder to navigate, we need to understand a lot more about the impacts on particular types of households.

“We also need to see stronger protections for energy consumers nationally, and much better tools for Australians to compare products and take control of their energy use.”

CHOICE recently joined with the Australian Industry Group, the Brotherhood of St Laurence and the Energy Efficiency Council to launch A Plan for Affordable Energy, proposals to reduce the pressure on electricity bills.

CHOICE has also launched Take the Power Back, a campaign that has helped almost 4,000 Australians write to their state and federal energy ministers demanding reforms.

1‘CHOICE supplementary submission to the Senate Select Committee on electricity prices’, figure 1.
2 See above, figure 8.