One Nation WA seeks answers to lower electricity prices

One Nation’s Colin Tincknell has demanded solutions to rising home electricity costs in WA, as more families and youth face unaffordable power bills in the state.

The WA leader of Pauline Hanson’s party has called for new measures to reduce the burden, blaming rising energy prices to tackle state debt and tightened criteria for hardship assistance that has made help less available.

Mr Tincknell said in Parliament on Thursday that electricity costs had caused more Western Australians to apply for the Hardship Utilities Grants Scheme (HUGS).

He told WAMN News that a large number of Western Australians were getting assistance while facing high bills, following a 28 per cent rise in electricity costs over two years.

“80 per cent of the people that access HUGS are people that have got energy charge profits,” Mr Tincknell said.

However, the State Government made changes to the scheme in 2017, aimed to rein in spiralling costs associated to the scheme, amid suspicions some utilities were directing customers to the scheme first to recover overdue accounts.

“The government’s made them (households) trying to access that program much harder and they did that because they were running out of money,” he said.

“We found out that Synergy has been sending people to that program too easily without really running a special program themselves.”

Mr Tincknell said reforms were needed to reduce the cost burden caused by reduced help and high prices, but lowering power costs was crucial.

“I want charges lowered,” he said.

“Number two, I want the system that’s put in place to run better. They can do that, they have control over those agencies and those utilities.”

However, he also believed that new ways to help people were needed.

“I want us to look at creative ways of fixing the problem,” Mr Tincknell said.

Households Face Embarrassment of Power Shut-Off: Opposition

Opposition Deputy Leader Liza Harvey said households were hurting, with fees and charges increasing by $700 per house.

She said increases were now not only affecting low income earners, but also people who were usually able to pay their bills.

“I had a friend of mine same age as me, she’s got four children and she had a power bill come in for over a thousand dollars and she said ‘I just don’t know how to pay for this’,” Mrs Harvey said.

Mrs Harvey said households faced the threat of their power being turned off, with changes to HUGS not assisting people while also leaving them behind on bills before it helped them.

She said the State Government needed to respond to the cost of living pressures.

“We’re hoping in the next budget, in the next state budget is that the government will have a freeze on electricity and water increases, a freeze on all fees and charges actually,” Mrs Harvey said.

Alternative Energy Sources to Reduce Future Power Cost: Researchers

Curtin University energy researcher James Eggleston said recent actions by energy retailers had resulted in higher costs for consumers, claiming it was an area that needed reform.

“We have seen some behaviour by electricity retailers basically charging more for electricity than what they should,” Mr Eggleston said.

He said prices were the way they were because “we’re paying back a big asset that connects us to reliable electricity with those who “can least afford it are hit the hardest by this.”

However, he said changing to alternative energy sources would help reduce costs such as solar power.

“Given the fact that the asset lasts 25 years and it pays itself off in avoided energy costs which are only going to go up over the next few years, solar is a good investment.”

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