A novelist couldn’t bend the truth more

The bullshit spread about energy prices! The ACCC issued a prelim report to the government in mid October that sweeps away much nonsense. Over the last 7 years, our residential electricity bills have increased by 30% more than inflation, so yes, our electricity has gotten dearer. This increase (over and above inflation) is a few hundred, say $300, per household (that’s my quick impression, I haven’t spent much time on the calcs), not exactly make or break for most of us.

Why do we pay more? Well, it has very little to do with the greenies or the carbon tax or our gas issues or closure of junky old coal plants. Only 7% of our total bill is due to “environmental effects” (less than $100). As astute observers keep telling us, the main factor in rising prices has been the energy companies gaming the system, gold-plating the “network” (wires and equipment) because they take higher profits. They’ve increased our bills because they can, because there isn’t much genuine heated competition, and because any governmental oversight is blunted by slick lobbyists. I know I’m sounding inflammatory and a tad bitter, but the ACCC report makes clear how little of the current debate is based on the real maths.

Of course, we shouldn’t ignore the fact that we SHOULD pay more dollars for our electricity. Wind is fast catching up with gas as the cheapest means of generating electricity, and wind mostly gazumphs coal around the world now. Solar prices tumble and will be competitive soon enough. But we must, must, must close down coal plants, for the sake of our grandchildren, and if the price of that is a few hundred dollars a year more in our electricity bill, well, most of us would barely notice. Those who are disadvantaged can be given rebates at not much cost to the public purse.

But please ignore the shock jocks and coal Neanderthals – the ACCC report points out price issues but says that our our policy should target the energy companies and the regulatory system, not climate change action.

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