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South Australians struggling with power costs

10th Jan 2012

An increasing number of South Australian households are having their power disconnected, new figures show.

According to data by the Essential Services Commission of South Australia (ESCOSA), the number of homes having their electricity disconnected more than doubled in the last financial year, with an inability to pay bills as a possible cause.

The report - titled Energy Disconnections and Reconnections Statistics Update - September 2011 Quarter and released as part of the commission's December newsletter update - claimed that the difference between residential energy customers that are facing financial difficulties from those that are financially viable yet unwilling to pay their energy bills was not clear.

"There is an ongoing need for energy retailers to keep their credit management policies under review and to consider introducing greater flexibility in payment arrangements for consumers experiencing genuine financial hardship," the report stated.

Charity group Uniting Care Wesley believes more needs to be done to address the issue, suggesting that an energy affordability taskforce be established by the state government. 

"That [would] bring together some of the key players in this field like the Essential Services Commission and the Ombudsman but also those agencies that are working on the ground with those people who are being affected by disconnections," chief executive of the group's Adelaide branch, Simon Schrapel, told ABC News (January 5).

In an accompanying report to the newsletter, the ESCOSA also released its draft price determination for the state's feed-in tariff.

The commission noted that prior to the announcement of the federal government's carbon tax scheme, it considered both a carbon and a no carbon scenario in formulating their decision.

According to the draft proposal, three stages of the feed-in tariff increase would be introduced - with a rate of 7.1 cents per kilowatt hour applicable between January 27 and June 30 this year.

The new financial year could see a rate of 9.8 cents per kilowatt hour available to households feeding unused energy generated by solar panels back onto the grid, while July 1 2013 could see the rate jump to 11.2 cents.

"The Commission intends to release a final decision on January 27 2012, and the determination of the solar FiT [feed-in tariff] premium will apply from that date," the report stated.

News of increasing feed-in tariffs - as well as the decreasing cost of installing a solar panel system - may be the incentive South Australian households have being waiting for to introduce clean energy to their homes.

Posted by Mike Peacock - Solar correspondent

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