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Green power scheme ‘to double power bills’

The Gillard government’s green power scheme will double the usual increase in Queensland power bills next year.

Premier Anna Bligh yesterday said she was “shocked” that the federal renewable energy target (RET) would fuel half the 5.83 per cent increase in the state’s electricity prices next year.

The Queensland Competition Authority (QCA) attributed half the rise to the RET, which forces power utilities to source a fifth of their supplies from expensive wind and solar sources within a decade.

Queensland Energy Minister Stephen Robertson said while increasing investment in renewable energy was a good principle, he was shocked at the size of the price tag it carried.

“This is coming at a price, a price on electricity, and it’s a lot for consumers to pay,” Mr Robertson said.

“As I understand it, most people involved in this area were expecting about 1 per cent (attributed to RET), not nearly 3 per cent.”

Mr Robertson said the Queensland government would be objecting strenuously to the size of the increase because of the RET component.

The QCA is the first state body to rule on the cost of a RET.

Queensland’s opposition yesterday said the rise would cost households $100 a year on average – with half due to the RET.

In Sydney, households are rationing their electricity, slicing consumption by 6 per cent to cope with soaring power prices.

Sixteen per cent of low-income households in Sydney could not afford to pay their electricity bills this year, the NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal said yesterday.

IPART chief executive James Cox foreshadowed changes to rebates, to help shield low-income earners deal with spiralling power prices over the next three years.

“We are concerned because rising electricity prices are having a particular impact on lower-income households,” he said.

“The obvious thing to suggest is to look at rebates, and ensure the right rebates are going to the right people.”

Many Australians face double-digit increases in electricity bills next year, with NSW prices set to surge 40 per cent over the next three years.

Households in Sydney are switching to solar power or installing roofing insulation to save on electricity.

Mr Cox said the Sydney trends would be reflected across Australia.

While Australians were buying more appliances such as airconditioners and clothes dryers, he said, they were buying energy-efficient products and using them “more carefully”.

“Power prices are going up in all states and that’s obviously had an influence – people are being far more conscious about using less power,” he said.

“People are moving from electric hot water systems to gas and solar systems.

“Hot water is a major user of power, so moving away from electricity would make quite a difference to your bill.”

One in three Sydney apartments now has an airconditioner – more than double the proportion four years ago.

The number of households with solar hot water systems doubled to 6 per cent, as consumers switched from power-hungry electric hot water systems.