Call For An SA Government-Owned Electricity Retailer

PowerAccess Electricity Retailer

A new report calls for South Australian government owned, public interest electricity retailer that could also help put low-income households on the path to acquiring solar panels.

The recommendation is a part of Solar Citizens’ upcoming Repowering South Australia report, written by Community Power Agency Founding Director Nicky Ison.

The so-called ‘PowerAccess’ retailer would be a not-for-profit company, supplying electricity and other energy services including energy efficiency upgrades, solar power systems and battery storage to low-income households across the state.

The electricity supplied by PowerAccess would be from renewable sources where possible.

“It’s clear the current private retail market is ripping off South Australians and it’s hurting the people who can’t afford it the most. A public interest retailer is a sensible idea to lower bills while providing clean power for vulnerable South Australians,” said Solar Citizens’ Dan Spencer.

The recommendation envisions PowerAccess as being the default retailer for public housing households and it would also source clients resulting from disconnections from other electricity retailers. Once established, the retailer could extend its services to all concession households, the number of which currently stands at 180,000.

There would be a range of benefits associated with PowerAccess states Ms. Ison:

  • Low-income customers would be serviced by an organisation actively assisting them to reduce their electricity bills.
  • PowerAccess would have lower overheads than other retailers; e.g. minimal marketing costs.
  • Any surplus revenue would be plowed back into the organisation rather than redistributed to investors.
  • Reduce cost burden to other retailers of servicing these customers, which could in turn benefit other customers.
  • Provide more comfortable lives for low-income households.
  • Ensure a fair transition to clean energy in South Australia.
  • Address the current inadequacies of the energy concession system.

Further details on PowerAccess can be viewed here (PDF).

While acknowledging there is a great deal of work to be done on properly  fleshing out the PowerAccess concept, Solar Citizens is calling on all political parties in SA to commit to seeing it become reality and is making the recommendation a key lobbying issue in the leadup to the next election in South Australia. Solar Citizens is also encouraging the public to show politicians the idea has community support by signing a petition.

QLD Government Electricity Retailer Now On The Backburner?

Another state that had been considering establishing a new publicly-owned electricity retailer was Queensland, but that was used as a threat to bring other retailers into line and force them to sign onto the Palaszczuk Government’s Affordable Energy Pledge.

The deadline for joining the pledge was Friday afternoon. According to the Government, all Queensland electricity retailers operating within the state, except two micro-operators, have heeded the call.

“The retailers’ pledge means Queenslanders can be assured they will receive the full benefit of our public ownership of electricity assets,” said Premier Palaszczuk.

“We have now taken measures to address all three elements of the costs in every Queensland power bill – the cost of generating electricity, the cost of transmitting it to homes and businesses and the margins charged by retailers.”

Premier Palaszczuk “named and shamed” the two retailers that hadn’t signed onto the pledge, and encouraged their customers to make the switch to one of the twenty retailers that had.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

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