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Koutsantonis looks to regulator to explain energy price hikes

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The State Government has written to the Essential Services Commissioner to ask for an independent assessment as to whether recent cost increases by energy retailers are justified.

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Since AGL last week stung customers in South Australia an extra $228 for the average customer using around 5 megawatt hours per year, its competitors have followed suit, with Origin Energy adding $117 to the average yearly bill and Energy Australia hitting consumers for an extra $261.

All three companies cited the cost and availability of coal and gas supply, and the volatility of the market.

Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis has asked the Essential Services Commission of South Australia’s (ESCOSA) acting chair Lynne Williams to consider the increases and determine “whether recent electricity prices rises by major retailers in South Australia are justifiable”.

He says ESCOSA’s Act provides “significant information-gathering powers to the regulator that can assist in establishing the factual basis for the recent electricity price increases”.

“These price increases… add significantly to cost of living pressures on affected customers [and] also affects South Australian businesses looking to keep costs down and stay competitive,” he said in a statement.

“In light of the community concern over the price increases it is important that customers are presented with independent advice on whether or not the reasons given for them are justified… ESCOSA is perfectly positioned to provide that advice and inform consumers’ decisions about whether or not they stay with their energy retailer.”

Koutsantonis has previously not ruled out extending cost of living concessions or rebates, but he has not indicated he will do so in next month’s State Budget.

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