Australia’s Energy Crisis

Image: Creative Commons

By Louisa Irvin

The state of the nation’s energy seems to be a topic forever caught in the news cycle. Whether it be the need to cut emissions, last year’s state wide blackouts or the recent price hike, we can’t escape the notion of an ‘energy crisis.’

There is no denying it, electricity prices across Australia are rising. But just how do we compare to the rest of the world?

The way that we measure electricity prices vary. Some countries choose to measure the wholesale or market exchange price – that is, the price at which the energy is sold to suppliers, before it is then sold to consumers. Some, such as the US, measure prices non-inclusive of tax, while others use the prices at which customers purchase their energy, which the graph below shows:

Comparison of electricity prices.  Mountain, B.R., 2017, Submission to IPART Draft Report on the performance and competitiveness of the retail electricity market in New South Wales (NSW)

Conducted by IPART, this report showed 2016 prices. Since then, Origin, AGL and EnergyAustralia have all raised their prices.

South Australian residential customers saw a rise of 18 per cent under AGL, 16.1 per cent with Origin and a staggering 19.9 per cent with Energy Australia.

Residents in New South Wales far a little better, however still saw an increase of more than 15%, moving the average bill up to $310.

In the Central West, and St Vincent de Pauls says demand for assistance is high, with many struggling to stay on top of their bills.

 

So, what can be done?

On an individual level:

 At the start of August, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called on the power companies to meet in the nation’s capital, amidst revelations customers are being shifted to higher priced rates without their knowledge.

A survey conducted by Energy Consumers Australia of 2,300 consumers and 200 small businesses found many people simply weren’t aware of what else was on offer.

If you are willing to shop around, the regulator found New South Wales residents could save up to $1,400 if they switched from the worst offer to the best.

As a nation:

When it comes to electricity, our ultimate goals are to eliminate the risk of blackouts, and reduce costs/emissions.

In the short term, forms of energy storage can be a quick and easy way to harness the discrepancy of levels throughout the day, keeping the energy not used when demand is low, and using it when peak energy consumption hits.

In the long term, the alternative forms of energy such as renewables offer a new alternative to the traditional coal.