Canberrans to face gas and electricity price hike from July 1

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Dual electricity meters are seen outside of computer science professor Christa Lopes' home in Irvine, California January 26, 2015.
Dual electricity meters are seen outside of computer science professor Christa Lopes' home in Irvine, California January 26, 2015. Reuters/Lucy Nicholson

Households in Canberra will be forced to pay an additional $580 for electricity and gas starting July 1. ActewAGL, Canberra's main energy provider, declared it would raise the average electricity bill by $6.40 a week and that gas will climb to $4.75 per week.

The price hike reflects a 19 percent boost in electricity prices and 17 percent rise in gas prices. That means in the next financial year, an average Canberra household that consumes both electricity and gas will likely cough up an added $11.15 per week or $579.80 annually.

Household energy usage is expected to peak in Canberra during the winter season. The first bill of the approaching financial year will be where Canberrans are likely to feel the biggest impact.

Even ActewAGL admitted that some Canberrans who receive lower pay would struggle to meet the higher electricity and gas payments. But Michael Costello, the company’s CEO, was quick to defend the company’s move to raise prices, stressing that ActewAGL had actually dropped costs by 6.7 percent last year.

The spike in payment is largely blamed on the rising costs of wholesale electricity. ActewAGL and ACT Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission (ICRC) agreed that it is something beyond their control.

Costello described the looming prices as “shocking” and “unprecedented,” but pledged households would not be cut off. “If you are finding difficulty please, please contact us, don't stop using energy, we will find a way, one way or another, to make sure you stay connected,” ABC quotes him as saying.

He said the current energy situation should have been prevented if there was a national energy policy 5 to 10 years ago. The recently announced price hike for Canberrans concurs with a 7 percent rates hike for houses and 19 percent rise for units.

Susan Helyar, ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) director, said the energy price hike was another hit to the community's cost of living. The move, she said, has been a confirmation of concerns that low-income households are being hit on all sides by hikes in the cost of living.

Helyar noted about 28,000 Canberra households currently facing significant financial stress. "For those households $11 per week is the difference between keeping the car on the road, paying for school and keeping your head above water,” she added.

ActewAGL has established an Energy Support Fund. Meanwhile, the ICRC said prices of electricity could possibly rise again in 2018.

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