The cost of Queensland’s electricity is continuing to increase. Unsustainable electricity costs are eroding the viability and productivity of many agriculture businesses and eroding Australia’s international competitiveness. An international comparison of Australia’s key agricultural trading partners conducted in 20121 showed that Australia’s average electricity prices had grown by 40 per cent since 2007. Cost increases for irrigated agriculture have been in excess of 100 per cent for most and as high as 300 per cent for others over the same period.
From 1 July 2016, South East Queensland (SEQ) retail electricity prices were deregulated. This means the Queensland Competition Authority (QCA) no longer regulates retail electricity prices for residential and small business customers (those businesses consuming under 100MW of electricity per year) in SEQ. Retail prices for large customers (businesses consuming over 100MWh per year) in SEQ have been deregulated since 2012. Instead, SEQ-based retailers now determine electricity prices and publish their market and standing offers online and on the Australian Energy Regulator’s independent price comparator website where customers are able to compare and evaluate available product offerings. This reform, it is hoped, will stimulate retailers to set competitive prices and offer SEQ customers a greater range of products and services.
For customers outside SEQ, the QCA reviews the regulated electricity tariffs each year and determines new prices based on a number of factors. These regulated tariffs or prices are sometimes referred to as ‘notified prices’. The QCA has released its final determination for regulated retail electricity prices for 2016–17. The annual electricity bill for a typical customer on the main small business tariff (tariff 20) is expected to increase by $2361 or 11.2 per cent. The annual bill for a typical small business customer on the seasonal time-of-use tariff (tariff 22A) is expected to increase by $660 or 15.8 per cent. ‘Bill impacts’ will vary depending on each individual customer’s level and pattern of consumption.
In addition to the annual increases, rural tariffs specifically designed to meet the needs of irrigation and specific farming activities are to be phased out no later than 30 June 2020, leaving farmers to negotiate higher cost demand-based tariffs.
QFF advocates for a more sustainable system to remove the burden of high electricity costs on Queensland’s food, fibre and foliage producers. This includes supporting sound policy and proven technologies that advance farm-scale renewable energy as part of integrated regional energy supply and demand management solutions, thereby leveraging existing distribution assets; and addressing issues arising from the lack of retail competition.
- ‘Electricity Prices in Australia: An International Comparison’: A report to the Energy Users Association of Australia by Carbon + Energy Markets, 2012