'Energy poverty': Desperate calls for reliable, stable power

A GROUP that represents some of Gladstone's industries has warned that major manufacturers could close without interjection into high power prices.

Major Energy Users made the dire warning in its submission into the consumer watchdog's inquiry into electricity prices and supply.

The group, which represents Orica Australia and its Gladstone branch, and other businesses in mining, steel, cement and automobiles, said the National Energy Market (NEM) needed stability and incentives for lower prices.

"The MEU hopes that the ACCC review will identify not only the causes of the ever increasing prices for electricity, but recommend solutions that will drive prices down," the submission said.

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The MEU considers one of the major problems with the NEM to be a lack of competition between electricity and gas generators, and issues were causing "energy poverty".

"From an industrial view, the promising outcomes from the well thought out energy reforms, begun in the 1990s to enhance Australia's economic development, have been sadly overturned by the loss of our international competitiveness in electricity and, more recently, gas pricing," it said.

It recommended "in the absence of strong and vibrant retail competition" that a retail pricing cap be reintroduced.

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Earlier this year QAL claimed its energy bill rose by 90% in ten years, and Boyne Smelter Limited slashed jobs and production earlier this year, citing high power prices.

Gladstone's major industries raised concerns about securing long-term electricity contracts last month with Shadow Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr and Queensland Labor Senators, Anthony Chisholm and Chris Ketter during a round table discussion.

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Senator Carr said one of the key issues for Gladstone companies was with the energy regulator.

"There's a real anxiety about the regulator and that the energy market is broken," he said.

"People can't rely on a model that was set up for a different time and is no longer fit for purpose."

The ACCC's preliminary report is expected mid-September.



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