Small business electricity bills ‘unsustainable’: report

Small businesses in Australia need relief from the high costs of electricity, according to a new report released by Energy Consumers Australia.

The report, which tracks the electricity bills of small businesses, shows electricity retail bills were up 22 per cent in South Australia and the ACT in April, compared with the same time last year. In NSW, bills increased by 15 per cent.

“While major retailers have announced some relief from July 1, with retail electricity prices for small business either flat or falling, the competitiveness of the small business sector and jobs depends on prices coming back down to more normal levels,” Energy Consumers Australia acting CEO Lynne Gallagher said.

“Small business consumers are saying they want to be able to run a competitive small business, but electricity prices are making that harder and clearly this is having a negative impact across the small business sector.”

The report found only in Queensland were bill increases less than double digit (4 per cent) while average electricity bills for the typical small business fell slightly in Tasmania in the past year.

“Small businesses are telling us that trust in energy retailers has never been so low, and only one-third say the market is working in their interest,” Ms Gallagher said.

“These businesses are telling us they are doing what they can to be energy efficient, but relatively few are using technology to manage their energy use.”

With the ACCC review of electricity prices due this month, Ms Gallagher said a “cultural shake-up” of the sector was expected to get companies focused on more affordable power.

“Prices have to come down and we need much more action on the part of retailers to help consumers manage their use,” he said.

“Less than half of small businesses tell us there is enough easily understood information available to them, or that they have the tools they need to manage their energy use.

“Retailers and other service providers should be working with businesses to provide them more opportunity to reward flexibility in their energy use where this is an option.”