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Nicholls promises to protect families from power price rise

Queensland Treasurer Tim Nicholls.
Queensland Treasurer Tim Nicholls. Dave Hunt

THE man controlling Queensland's purse strings has slammed predictions that annual electricity bills could rise more than 20% in the coming financial year.

Treasurer Tim Nicholls said that was an "unacceptably large price rise" in Queensland as he refused to rule out seeking an asset sale mandate at the next election.

"This government is determined to make sure Queensland families are not kicked in the guts by this huge price rise," he said.

His comments come as the Queensland Competition Authority proposed transitional charges, to meet increased network costs, which would see a typical customer's annual bill increase from $1184 to $1437.

The draft determination forecasts a $21.4% price increase for the common household tariff (Tariff 11) and 15.7% for small business customers (Tariff 20) across Queensland.

The authority released on Friday its draft determination on regulated electricity prices for 2013-14 which had to consider Energex's network charges increasing about 23% and Ergon Energy's network charges increasing about 13%.

The report found energy costs, estimated to increase about 9%, would be the next biggest cost driver.

QCA chairman Malcolm Roberts said greener energy schemes, including carbon tax, accounted for 11% of costs while the solar bonus scheme related network charges in south-east Queensland were expected to rise 23%.

The QCA partially blamed the Queensland Government's decision to freeze the Tariff 11 notified prices in 2012-13 at 2011-12 prices for the need to transition to a higher cost-reflective tariff by July, 2015.

Mr Nicholls continued to blame the Australian federal energy regulator who he said had "taken its eyes off the ball for these companies" in recent years.

"What people are seeing today is the result of poor decision making over the past two or three years; gold-plating of the networks, solar bonus schemes and the carbon tax which has a significant impact in relation to these price rises," he said.

Mr Nicholls said 70% of the increase was outside his government's control but it would study the draft determination to see how it could reduce the impacts on families and make submissions to the QCA.

He said Energy Minister Mark McArdle's team was already working on tariff reforms including removing $2 million worth of expenditure from the networks for the forward years to reduce the price increase rate.

Mr Nicholls told 4BC radio on Friday morning that there might be merit in privatising the electricity industry in Queensland.

He would not rule out taking asset sales to the Queensland public at the next election when speaking to media during the afternoon.

"We've made it abundantly clear a number of times that we would not seek to sell anything without first seeking a mandate from the people," he said.


QLD POWER PRICES

  • 21.4% increase for common households
  • 15.7% increase for small businesses
  • Typical customer's annual bill to increase from $1184 to $1437

Topics:  electricity, mark mcardle, power, queensland government, tim nicholls


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