Household energy prices have increased 61 per cent between 2008 and 2014 despite an overall drop in home energy use, new information from the Australian Bureau of Statistics has shown.
Since 2002, energy use per household has decreased by 7 per cent.
That figure includes the energy generated by home solar panels, showing an overall picture of energy efficiency.
“What we’ve been doing in the last few years is seeing the fruits of a number of government efforts that stretch back over a decade to enhance the energy efficiency of our homes and of the appliances we use,” Tristan Edis, an energy analyst for Green Markets, explained.
“We’re becoming more efficient with energy certainly at a household level.
“It’s not necessarily the same in mining, for example. But, unfortunately we’ve got to do a much better effort of regulating the monopoly power companies have so we don’t end up paying more for our electricity than what we need to.”
Mr Edis said environmental initiatives, such as the renewable energy target and the now-scrapped carbon tax, raised bills slightly, but the biggest impact came from companies spending big on infrastructure they did not need.
“The regulators took their eye off the ball starting in 2007 and let the electricity poles and wires companies — the electricity networks — go through a spending binge that turned out to be completely unnecessary,” Mr Edis said.
Phil Barresi, chief executive of the Energy Users Association of Australia, agreed that poles and wires had hit electricity costs hard.
‘Drop in energy usage not reflected in prices’
“With large energy users, that can make up between 55 to 60 per cent of a power bill. With households it can be anywhere up to 40 per cent,” he said.
“In the last few years we’ve seen the exiting of a quite a few large energy intensive manufacturers and there will be more of that in the next few years.
“We’ve seen energy efficiency programs rolled out by various states, so these have all impacted on energy consumption, but it hasn’t been reflected in a drop in prices.”
John Bradley, chief executive of the Energy Networks Association, whose members are responsible for the pole and wires said, “while network costs had increased over the last few years, they’ve stabilised last year and now are trending downwards.”
Mr Edis said the economy continued to perform strongly in the period, showing the price of electricity is not the drag on the economy some would suggest.
“This was an overblown debate about the cost [of electricity] when in fact these are not the main drivers of cost in the economy,” he said.
“They are in fact a small proportion of industry costs and household costs.
“It’s been an absolute disgrace of our policy discussion that so much effort has gone into this issue when there are other things that are far more important.”