SA: Push for wind and solar to blame for high power bills
22/03/2012 - South Australia's power prices are among the highest in the world and Premier Jay Weatherill says providing relief for consumers is a challenge. Tim Dornin, Liza Kappelle
The Liberal opposition has blamed the push for more wind and solar power in SA for the rise in electricity costs.
But Weatherill says it's a legacy of the privatisation of power assets and how the state generates power.
"We have a particular pattern of electricity generation and production here which leads to very high electricity costs," Weatherill told reporters on Wednesday.
"That doesn't mean we don't have to look carefully at how we can relieve the burden on households.
"I do want to do more to help people faced with the pressure of high utilities and that's the challenge for us in trying to find ways to do that."
His comments followed a report from the Energy Users Association of Australia, whose members include BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, BlueScope Steel, Westfield, Coles, Woolworths and Harvey Norman, which showed SA prices were the third highest in the world after Denmark and Germany.
The report found that average household electricity prices had risen by more than 40 per cent since 2007 and would rise by a further 30 per cent by 2013/14.
Australians currently pay about 25 cents per kWh, compared with around 12 cents per kWh in the US, based on 2011 exchange rates.
Opposition Leader Isobel Redmond said that was the result of South Australia's push for more solar and wind power.
"We know that Denmark has more wind power than any other electricity market and Germany has the highest level of solar photovoltaics. The South Australian Labor government has pushed both of these technologies here," Redmond said.
The opposition said the introduction of the federal government's carbon tax in July would also push up power prices.
But a spokesman for South Australia's Minister for Mineral Resources and Energy, Tom Koutsantonis, said renewable energy certificates allowed SA to recover the additional cost of operating wind farms.
Rising power prices were being driven by the need to replace old assets and new investment in network and generation, he said.
SA also has a high percentage of relatively expensive gas-fired electricity generation.
The Energy Supply Association of Australia said electricity price increases were being driven by the upgrading of ageing networks and infrastructure, continued increases in peak demand, a shift to lower-emission technologies and increases in the cost of fuels.