Slow down rising costs

Slow down rising costs

The Queensland Government has taken steps to stem the tide of rising electricity prices.

New legislation presented to parliament; the National Energy Retail Law (Queensland) Bill 2014 and the Electricity Competition and Protection Legislation Amendment Bill 2014, aims to remove barriers to competition in the retail electricity market in South East Queensland (SEQ), while maintaining strong customer protections.

In addition, the National Energy Customer Framework (NECF) will be implemented in Queensland in 2014 to allow customers to better engage in the retail market and provide support if they are in financial hardship.

Queensland small businesses have been hit hard in recent years by repeated increases in electricity prices, creating a difficult operating environment.

“With electricity prices doubling for an average business over the past seven years, it has created an enormous hurdle for businesses trying to remain competitive,” Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland (CCIQ) general manager of advocacy Nick Behrens said, welcoming the reforms.

The move to market monitoring will replace retail price regulation, currently set by the Queensland Competition Authority (QCA), for residential and small business customers in SEQ.

Mr Behrens said market monitoring should increase competition by allowing customers to shop around for the best contract deal.

It would also place downward pressure on retail prices.

“Approximately 70 per cent of customers in SEQ are already on market contracts,” he said.

“Removing regulated prices will allow the remaining 30 per cent of customers to negotiate their own market contracts to suit individual needs.

“A fully contestable market can only be achieved where regulated prices are removed. The government and retailers will work to ensure customers understand the market and what types of offers are available.

“Customers moving to market contracts will be further supported by the NECF safety net which will ensure customers are adequately protected and supported if experiencing financial hardship.”

CCIQ had been working with the State Government to allow for increased access arrangements to the Energy and Water Ombudsman Queensland (EWOQ) services.

Currently only small customers consuming less than 100 megawatt hours per year can access these services. Increasing the limit would allow otherwise excluded small business customers access to the support of EWOQ in resolving energy disputes.

CCIQ has urged the State Government to provide, prior to July 1, 2015 a price comparator tool so businesses can compare offers in the lead up to full contestability. This is an essential prerequisite to aid in negotiating market contracts with retailers.

“In summary the reforms will ultimately aspire to benefit customers through increased competition, better outcomes in terms of choice, efficiency, customer service and price discounts,” Mr Behrens said.

“The change will also reduce red tape, encourage new investment and allow retailers to offer better products and prices.”

CCIQ will continue to work with the Queensland Government to provide regions outside SEQ with similar choice options and improved competition. Customers outside SEQ will continue to have electricity prices regulated by the QCA until more adequate retail competition is established.

The move to market monitoring will commence from July 1, 2015 in SEQ.

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