Time for excuses on energy ‘over’

Energy giant AGL has revealed its full-year earnings jumped by more than a quarter in 2017-18, allowing it to post a $1 billion profit, as a key consumer group says the time for excuses on retail costs is over.

Yet its shares slumped after the company warned that lower electricity prices could affect profits next year.

Making sense of energy costs is embroiling tens of thousands of older Australians struggling with confusing energy plans and paying ever-increasing gas and electricity bills.

Meanwhile, the National Energy Guarantee (NEG) is to be decided on Friday. The aim is to reduce emissions, ensure there is enough energy and keep – or should that be make – it affordable.

AGL chief executive Andy Vesey said the company recognised “many Australian households are facing cost-of-living pressures because of the higher energy bills that have resulted from higher market prices’’. He referred to a package of steps to “help vulnerable” customers, including $50 million of hardship debt relief.

He said the NEG would help push prices down further.

“If the NEG is settled, we anticipate being able to make further progress on new electricity projects, including potentially additional gas-fired generation and pumped hydro generation, as well as battery storage projects in the longer term,” he said.

However, Energy Consumers Australia chief executive Rosemary Sinclair says it is past time for more affordable energy. A recent survey found only 44 per cent of respondents believed they got value for money with electricity costs, she said, compared with 73 per cent for mobile phones and 74 per cent for banking. And only 25 per cent were confident things would get better.

Writing in The Age during the week, she said: “With electricity prices having increased by as much as 30 per cent in the past two years, consumers are sick of excuses and want to see prices return to more normal levels.”

She said that analysis by Energy Security Board experts had identified $150 a year in savings for consumers directly related to the introduction of the NEG “by reducing the costs and risks of new investment in energy generation”.

“According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), the biggest

savings are in parts of Queensland, Tasmania and NSW, but even in Victoria, the potential savings are almost $300,” she wrote.

“If we do listen to the experts … then we can expect much bigger falls in electricity prices to be announced by retailers in June 2019 and beyond …”

Do you have faith that energy costs will fall over the next 12 months? Are these costs hurting your retirement?

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