A new report from the independent Australian Energy Regulator (AER) has demonstrated once again how privatising electricity assets results in consumers paying more while facing a decline in service quality.

The AER annual report on the performance of the retail energy market 2013-14 shows South Australia, which privatised its electricity assets in the late 1990s, is home to the most expensive electricity in the country, with the average bill for households coming in at $2388. By comparison NSW and Queensland, which still have public control of assets, have average household power bills of $2000.

Furthermore, the AER report shows South Australian energy retailers receiving the highest proportion of complaints, a figure which has been trending upward since privatisation. Proportionally, more residential electricity customers were also disconnected for non-payment in South Australia (1.37 per cent). With the owner of SA Power Networks now foreign, it means the higher prices paid by South Australians are heading overseas, instead of staying in government coffers as is the case in NSW and Queensland. 

ETU national secretary Allen Hicks said the new report was revealing. “This latest AER report underlines, yet again, what a dud deal electricity privatisation is for consumers,” he said. 

“If you want to raise power bills, drive up complaints, and increase disconnections of people’s electricity then there is one sure-fire way to achieve it: privatise electricity assets. This report should serve as a very timely wake-up call to voters in NSW and Queensland who are currently getting the hard-sell on electricity privatisation from Premiers Mike Baird and Campbell Newman. I would urge them to have a quick scan over the results in South Australia and consider whether that’s the path they want to follow.”

Mr Hicks said keeping electricity assets in public hands delivered myriad benefits.

“Electricity is a essential service that should be under the control of the people for the people,” he said. 

“By retaining public ownership consumers are guaranteed a level of control over prices, a level of control over service and safety standards, and a strong revenue stream for government. Handing all those advantages away for a one-off pay day is short sighted and irresponsible, and will lead to nothing but pain for consumers down the track.”