NSW Farmers' Association calls for more action on regional electricity prices

The maximum cost-saving that electricity customers at Dubbo can make is at best 19 per cent less than that available in metropolitan areas, the state’s peak body for farmers reports.

The NSW Farmers’ Association is calling for more transparency in the retail electricity market to ensure regional Australians receive a fair deal.

New measures were announced after a meeting between Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and electricity retailers on Wednesday, but the association labelled them “disappointing” and said more needed to be done.

Ahead of the meeting, the association urged the federal government to act.

“Regional electricity users are paying the highest electricity prices in Australia, and with the introduction of cost-reflective pricing, some users will see increases in their electricity bill of 200 per cent,” NSW Farmers’ president Derek Schoen said on Tuesday.

“The typical household in the bush pays around $2083, while in Sydney this is $1507.”

Retail markets in regional areas are not competitive, and regional electricity users are not getting a fair deal on their electricity, he says.

“If you are in Dubbo, even if you shop around, you will only get a 32 per cent cost-saving on your electricity from the default market offer,” Mr Schoen said.  

“If you live in Darlinghurst you will get a 51 per cent cost-saving.

“Regional users are not receiving the benefits of a competitive electricity market.”

On Wednesday the government prepared to strong-arm electricity company chiefs into giving Australian households a better deal, with the threat of more regulations if they didn’t act.

The retailers agreed to new measures, including writing to consumers who had reached the end of a discounted plan to clearly explain other offers available.

"This will ensure that thousands of Australian families, hopefully millions of Australian families, better informed, will then be paying less for their electricity because they will be on the plan that works best for them," Mr Turnbull said.

But the meeting did not address the concerns of NSW Farmers’.

“This is a very disappointing announcement,” Mr Schoen said.

“...These band-aid solutions are not enough.

“In the very short-term, we want greater transparency in the retail market.

“...We want a mechanism to help consumers navigate the 100+ [plus] residential offers in the NSW market.

“We suggest a comparison rate for electricity plans, much like comparison rates mandated for home loans, allowing customers to compare offers on face value, and compare apples with apples.

“In the long-term we want greater incentives, such as more reasonable feed-in tariffs, to allow people in the bush to focus on demand management, energy efficiency and local electricity generation.

“We want farmers to take control of their own energy destiny.”