Hunter power price rises among state's biggest

HUNTER households are again facing some of the biggest power price rises in the state, with the carbon tax and rising electricity network costs likely to add $338 a year to EnergyAustralia bills and $381 to Country Energy bills from July.

The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal released a draft determination yesterday recommending an average 16per cent rise in retail electricity prices in NSW.

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Under the proposal, EnergyAustralia customers face the biggest proportional increases, with prices to rise up to 19.2per cent, adding another $338 a year to average residential bills to bring them to $2101.

Small businesses would be slugged an extra $439, for an average annual bill of $2729.

Prices for Country Energy, which covers rural parts of the region, would rise 17.6per cent or $381 a year for average household bills and by $494 for small business bills.

Tribunal chairman Peter Boxall said about half the increase was due to forecast cost increases retailers faced for the electricity networks, or the ‘‘poles and wires’’.

The rest was due to increasing wholesale electricity costs for retailers from the introduction of the federal government’s carbon price on emissions from electricity generators.

“We are aware that these proposed price increases will be difficult for many customers, but they are necessary to ensure that retailers can recover the costs of providing electricity and remain financially viable,’’ Dr Boxall said.

The changes come on top of increases of between 10per cent and 17per cent across NSW in 2010-11 and 2011-12, which the tribunal said were driven by rising network costs and green scheme costs.

NSW Energy Minister Chris Hartcher said yesterday the federal government should immediately review green schemes and the closure of the federal renewable energy target when the carbon tax comes in, to help reduce costs.

NSW Opposition energy spokesman Luke Foley said the state government should audit energy distributors’ $14billion capital expenditure ‘‘to find out if gold plating is taking place, and if so, cut it back’’.

The tribunal will hold public hearings before releasing its final price determination in June.

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