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Power prices fall as renewables increase the market share

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South-east Queensland residents should have benefited from a fall of $126 a year in electricity costs, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

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In the national electricity market, which covers the eastern and southern states, electricity prices fell by almost 9 per cent since the middle of last year and there was $900 million in potential savings.

The falls in SEQ were the best of the mainland states, but behind Tasmania, and the ACCC said prices should continue to fall as renewable energy increases its market share.

Compared to 2019, average wholesale spot prices had fallen by 58 per cent in Victoria, 49 per cent in South Australia, 43 per cent in New South Wales and 39 per cent in Queensland.

“Spot prices have been significantly lower for a year now, so retailers should be experiencing significant reductions in their costs already,” ACCC chair Rod Sims said.

He said a significant increase in generation capacity, attributed to renewable generation and falling fuel costs, had led to much lower wholesale electricity costs and it was vital that all Australians now saw the savings.

“Prior to this, we had a decade of sustained electricity price increases that placed unacceptable pressure on households and small businesses,’’ Sims said.

“The ACCC is now investigating whether electricity retailers’ current prices, including to their existing customers, are in line with recent wholesale price reductions, and if electricity retailers haven’t passed on the savings to consumers as required by law, they can expect to hear from us.

“We also expect further significant price reductions from retailers over time, as the reductions in wholesale spot prices flow through to retailers’ contracting positions.”

The ACCC is warning electricity retailers that the onus was on them to comply with new energy market laws, and pass on reductions in their costs to existing customers.

“There are two ways that households and small businesses can get the hip-pocket benefit of recent reductions in retailers’ costs: by changing to a new, cheaper plan; or, by waiting for their retailer to lower the rates on the plan that they’re already on,” Sims said.

“While we encourage consumers to cash in on the available savings by switching to a better deal, new laws require electricity retailers to pass on cuts in the wholesale cost of electricity.”

The ACCC said the Prohibiting Energy Market Misconduct (PEMM) laws which came into effect in June 2020 meant electricity retailers had to make reasonable adjustments to their prices in line with their costs of procuring electricity. Companies that failed to comply with the laws faced serious penalties, including fines of up to $10 million or 10 per cent of their turnover for each breach.

The ACCC has already approached a number of electricity retailers who may not have adequately passed on cost savings to their customers.

“While the ACCC will be enforcing the new laws, we also urge people who haven’t seen their bill come down to contact their electricity retailer and ask to be put on the best offer for their circumstances,” Sims said.

 

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