Electricity prices have long been one of the bugbears of Cowra’s budget-conscious families, but especially since the state government signed-off on its controversial electricity generator sale in May, 2012.
At the time, Coalition members of parliament were at pains to point out that privatising NSW’s energy assets would lower household energy bills.
At the time the people of NSW were told that government reports “indicated selling the generators would increase competition in the electricity industry and put downward pressure on power prices”.
That, patently, has not happened.
According to the Grattan Institute, wholesale electricity prices rose across the nation by an average of 130 per cent between 2015 and 2017 (during which time the poles and wires which transported the previously state-owned electricity to our homes were also privatised).
So, we were sold something of a lemon, and now we know it. But exactly how big, in terms of household budgets, is that lemon?
Despite the rising costs, data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows electricity sits at 13th on the shopping list of what the average household spends its money on.
Buying or renting a home sat at No.1 and No.2, with other financial services coming in next ahead of medical bills, restaurant meals, car and fuel costs and holidays.
So electricity costs aren’t THAT much of an issue, right? That depends on who you’re talking to.
The St Vincent de Paul Society, which provides vouchers to help needy people pay their power bills in Orange, revealed this year they had an unprecedented number of cries for help.
What’s the solution? A few years ago there was a campaign in the UK to encourage people to save on their energy bills. Everybody was urged to drop the thermostat, with even a singe degree saving about £60 (roughly $AU100) a year off a bill.
Asking Orange residents to adopt this kind of energy austerity would be pointless when we have heard anecdotes about pensioners forced to choose between heating their homes and eating this winter.
There’s no chance of the government buying back their former electricity assets, so the only option for residents is pretty obvious: watch their energy costs climb higher than 13th in the months and years ahead.