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City hit hard

Friday, 15th April, 2011

By Gayle Hogan 

An increase in electricity prices will hit the city hard.

City Council said it's going to be tough to manage the budget while Business Broken Hill said businesses will find it harder to make ends meet while residents are seeking help from charities to pay their bills.

The NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) yesterday announced electricity price increases of up to 18.1 per cent from July 1.

It means average household bills will rise by between $228 and $316 a year while small businesses will see their bills leap by up to $528.

The NSW Business Chamber reacted angrily to big rises in state power bills, saying the days of cheap energy are over.

"This is a crippling blow for every energy-reliant business in NSW and a savage blow to local exporters who have yet to come to terms with the impacts of a very high Australian dollar," Mr Cartwright said in a statement.

Business Broken Hill's new President Paul Seager agreed.

"I echo those sentiments," Mr Seager said.

"In addition the reduction in the solar feed-in-tariff.....means businesses and consumers are going to find it increasingly difficult to make ends meet.

"Operating expenses are going up.

"It's poorly timed given the other economic pressures on businesses at the moment."

City Council General Manager Frank Zaknich said electricity already took a big bite out of Council's budget.

Electricity cost $600,000 last financial year and has already cost $785,000 so far this financial year. The yearly bill is now expected to increase by as much as $200,000.

"It's not going to be any easier in terms of balancing the budget and providing services," Mr Zaknich said.

"All that will impact on the budget quite significantly.

"It means we've got to be more energy efficient as much as possible."

Council said street lights and facility lighting accounted for a large portion of electricity use.

St Vincent de Paul Society Regional President Phil Sky told the BDT this week that more low-income earners in the district have been seeking financial assistance to pay their power bills.

Member for Murray-Darling John Williams welcomed the NSW Government's three point plan designed to try and ease the impact of the proposed price rises announced by (IPART).

"We recognise that for many households and small businesses, the proposed increases will hit budgets hard," Mr Williams said.

"But I can assure households and small businesses, the Coalition Government is doing everything it can to minimise the impact of price rises and prevent such massive increases in the future."

The Coalition Government's three point plan involves:

  • The introduction of a $200 Low Income Household Rebate, available to customers on low or fixed incomes from July 1, 2011;
  • An immediate review of the electricity network license conditions; and
  • Seeking compensation for the Federal Government's Renewable Energy Target to offset the price rises, which IPART blamed for a large part of yesterday's proposed energy price hike.

The Government will also be making a submission to IPART and is requesting advice on containing future costs.

The Liberal/National Government has also promised to give 1.4 million NSW residents access to rebates under the Family Energy Rebate, to be implemented from July 1 2012.

Mr Williams encouraged electricity customers who are concerned about the proposed price increases to make a submission to IPART up until 12 May 2011. 

To make a submission visit IPART's website at www.ipart.nsw.gov.au

Meanwhile, Mr Seager is the interim President of Business Broken Hill after former president John Groenendijk stood down earlier this week.

Mr Groenendijk's commitments with the Southern Cross Hotel and Broken Earth Restaurant as well as his commitments as a City Councillor were behind his decision to stand down. BDT/AAP 

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