Canberrans are going to feel the pain of heating their homes this winter, after the independent regulator decided on a 12 per cent price hike in electricity prices for the next financial year.
The decision equates to a $300 increase in annual bills for a typical Canberra household consuming about 8,000 kWh per year.
As the average minimum temperature dips to below 0 degrees Celsius overnight, chief executive of Canberra’s energy retailer ActewAGL, Michael Costello, said he knew it was “already a tough environment” for many people.
“We’ve seen what it means and we know what it means for Canberrans,” Mr Costello said.
“The simple fact is for 14 years the politicians have been arguing about energy policy — all of them, not singling out anybody — [and] they still haven’t got an answer.
“That’s what has contributed more than half of this price increase.”
ActewAGL assures Canberrans they won’t be disconnected
Nearly the entire increase is out of the retailer’s hands: more than half is due to a rise in wholesale power prices, and a third comes from the growing cost of meeting the national renewable energy target.
Additionally, ActewAGL is still the second-cheapest retailer in the market.
But financial assistance groups said their offices were already full of people saying they would be turning off the heat this winter to save money.
“What we’re seeing is an increasing number of people on middle incomes who are contacting our service about problems with paying their energy bills,” said Carmel Franklin, head of Care Financial Counselling.
“For them, any significant increase is going to make a big difference.
“Yes, we do have lower bills in comparison to other jurisdictions, but we also have a much more harsh winter.”
But Mr Costello said ActewAGL was open to bill discounts of up to 25 per cent for customers who contacted the retailer, alongside its existing joint support fund with the ACT Government.
“I can guarantee anybody in Canberra this: that if they do contact us because they’re struggling, we’ll work with them to find a way through it — there’s no chance they will be disconnected,” he said.