Electric shock

Thursday, 14th April, 2011

HURTING: St Vincent de Paul Society Regional President Phil Sky said many residents were already struggling to pay their power bills. HURTING: St Vincent de Paul Society Regional President Phil Sky said many residents were already struggling to pay their power bills.

By Gayle Hogan

More low-income earners in the local district are seeking financial assistance to pay their power bills, as prices are expected to rise yet again.

Country residents can expect a 20 per cent rise in electricity bills under recommendations expected to be announced today by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART).

The rise will add about $325 to an average annual bill.

St Vincent de Paul Society Regional President Phil Sky said the price hike would hurt the local community.

"It's certainly going to impact on our already struggling clients," he said.

"Rents are up 22%, food and petrol are rising. 

"There's rises all around but I don't know if the Centrelink payments are rising very fast."

Mr Sky said the St Vincent de Paul Society handed out $71,100 in power bill assistance in the 2009-2010 financial year.

Already $72,600 in assistance had been given out in Broken Hill and the surrounding district this financial year.

The charity helped on average 10 to 15 people per week pay their electricity bills, Mr Sky said.

Those seeking assistance are interviewed at the centre, with their situation assessed accordingly.

"We are the agency for electricity assistance," Mr Sky said.

"We are working with Industry & Investment to increase the amount of vouchers we get."

Mr Sky said power prices were hurting people "right across the board."

Member for Murray-Darling John Williams blamed the increased power prices, set to come in from July 1, on the Federal Government's Renewable Energy Target.

The Renewable Energy Target requires energy firms to source power from renewable sources such as solar or wind.

"The carbon tax being imposed on working families by the Federal Government is for renewable energy projects, so in a sense, people are being taxed twice for the same thing," Mr Williams said.

"So while the Federal Government is compensating low income earners for the carbon tax, will the Federal Government do the same for this price rise that is directly related to another one of their pointless taxes?"

The latest rate rise was "absolutely devastating" for NSW residents, Mr Williams said.

"It is becoming a real test to meet today's living costs not only for those on fixed incomes but also for families and businesses who are once again being hit with another price rise.

"When one considers the single pension income and the current electricity prices, it is a real concern how these people are expected to cover the cost." 

Mr Williams said the Coalition Government will be seeking answers from IPART on whether there is any way to reduce these increases. BDT/AAP