THE Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has again highlighted a broken energy system in a final report into the retail electricity pricing inquiry,
The ACCC report Restoring Electricity Affordability and Australia’s Competitive Advantage largely tells farmers what they already know: higher prices have placed enormous strain on business viability and the current situation is unsustainable.
Queensland Farmers’ Federation president Stuart Armitage said farmers want to know what is going to change and when they will see affordable energy prices.
“While the ACCC acknowledged the lowering of network prices from their peak in 2017 and increased retail competition leading to limited price decreases and some reduction in network tariffs, there has been no real or demonstrable decrease in Queensland’s farmers electricity bills,” Mr Armitage said.
Farmers want to know what is going to change and when they will see affordable energy prices.
“According to the Australian Energy Regulator, there was an 82 per cent increase in the number of small businesses disconnected by Ergon Retail last financial year.
“This comes as no surprise with some farmers on the receiving end of electricity cost increases of more than 200pc in 10, while CPI has increased by just 24pc over the same period.
“And based on current state government policy and tariff offerings, many regional customers face further bill increases in excess of 50pc when they are forced on to standard business demand-based tariffs in less than two years.”
Mr Armitage said farmers welcomed the ACCC’s recommendations that the COAG Energy Council consider a NEM-wide approach to standalone systems and that Queensland write-down the Regulated Asset Base on the state’s transmission and distribution networks.
“These recommendations would likely have a positive impact on regional businesses, including the agriculture sector,” Mr Armitage said.
“However, for this to occur, the report needs teeth and support from State Government. This support, and changes to regulatory structures, policies and budgets occur, cannot happen soon enough for Queensland’s agricultural sector.”
Mr Armitage said if action was not taken, unsustainable electricity price increases and lagging productivity would result in more expensive food and fibre and a loss of international competitiveness.