Queensland launches new $2b energy plan

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The Queensland government has announced a $2 billion Affordable Energy Plan aimed at cutting electricity bills for regional Queenslanders.

The move will see all the dividends from Queensland’s publicly-owned electricity assets reinvested in an “all-out attack on affordability”.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the decision was part of a comprehensive package of measures to tackle the challenge of electricity bills.

“Owning our power assets gives us a unique ability to reinvest all the dividends in making electricity more affordable, something other states that have sold off their generators, poles and wires cannot do,” she said.

The Premier said the Affordable Energy Plan will ensure typical Queensland households and small businesses will see no increase in their power bills above average inflation over the next two years.

The plan features $300 million of new initiatives that will be implemented from January 1.

Regional customers would benefit from a raft of measures introduced through the plan, including annual discounts of $75 for Ergon regional household customers and $120 for small businesses that take up direct debit weekly, fortnightly or monthly payment options.

The plan also includes an Asset Ownership Dividend of $50 a year for every household bill in the next two years, starting from January 2018, and $200 off bills per year for another 4000 regional households who participate in the expansion of the Energy Savvy program starting next year.

The Premier met with electricity retailers today to deliver an ultimatum – pass on the full savings that flow from public ownership of Queensland electricity assets, or come face to face with a publicly-owned electricity retailer that will undercut them.

“With our fleet of young and efficient coal and gas-fired generators and adding large-scale solar, we’re producing the cheapest and most reliable wholesale electricity in mainland Australia,” she said.

As part of the plan, which was announced on Sunday, the government today announced a new suite of measures to create savings, including the removal of a restriction on regional electricity customers going back to Ergon Energy.

The new initiatives, announced by Treasurer Curtis Pitt and Energy Minister Mark Bailey, complete the $300 million package.

Mr Pitt said the government was investing $40 million to remove barriers to regional Queenslanders switching retailers and to improve access to solar panels and household storage batteries.

“The Palaszczuk government is removing Ergon’s ‘non-reversion’ policy,” Mr Pitt said.

“We recognise the desire of regional customers to have more choice of electricity retailers, so we will amend the current policy that prevents customers who switch away from Ergon Retail from returning.

“Removing the policy will give regional customers more choice and control over their energy bills which is good news for electricity bill savings in regional areas.

“It will also free up customers to return to Ergon Retail to take up the $75 Easy Pay Reward.”

Mr Pitt said the Palaszczuk Government would also be offering no-interest loans to help Queenslanders who don’t have access to the upfront capital required to invest in solar and battery technologies.

“Solar panels and batteries are a great way for households and small businesses to cut their electricity bills, but for some the upfront cost can be a challenge,” the Treasurer said.

“It will also help in supporting to kick start the growth of the battery industry in Queensland.

“Queenslanders will be able to apply from March 2018, with savings of up to $700 per year expected for those who take up solar.”