Price hike could hurt

SINGLES IMPACTED: Anglicare's Geoff Ryan says single pensioners suffer from essential services price increases more than others.

SINGLES IMPACTED: Anglicare's Geoff Ryan says single pensioners suffer from essential services price increases more than others.

An electricity and gas fuel price hike from January 1 will impact the thousands of Ballarat residents who are already living at or below the poverty line, a fierce welfare advocate says. 

Anglicare’s manager of parish partnerships Geoff Ryan said even small cost increases for essential services could severely impact impoverished residents. 

“If you’re living at or below the poverty line and can’t afford the basics of life even a small cost increase in essential services will have an impact,” Mr Ryan said.

St Vincent de Paul policy and research manager Gavin Dufty said people in regional areas traditionally had higher power bills for a range of reasons.

“On average, people in regional areas have lower income but also have higher electricity costs due to the higher poles and wires charges they face,” he said.

“Households with gas and electricity, the spread for most people is between about $200 to $300 a year … it could be more.

“For those that are actively shopping around in the energy market the price increase will be less, but we won't know the exact details until post January 1.” 

Electricity price increases for the major retailers range between 6.5 per cent to 11.5 per cent.

Gas increases range from 5.2 per cent  to 9.2 per cent, Mr Dufty said. 

A spokesperson for AGL told Fairfax Media Victoria’s energy market was “very competitive”, and prices could vary significantly depending on circumstances.

AGL predicts electricity prices will increase by an average of $2.59 per week for customers using 3.69 megawatts per hour, while gas could increase by $1.86 per week for 46 gigajoules, including GST.

Mr Ryan said single pensioners suffered the most.

Those living alone bear the sole brunt of a hike increase and often did so silently. 

“What are you going to do – are you not going to pay for food or not pay for electricity?

“Child and Family Services have financial services who can organise no interest loan scheme – and there is a really high rate of those loans being paid back on time,” Mr Ryan said.

He said the impact price hikes had were often weather dependent – with harsh winters and summers often causing extra stress for those doing it tough. 

Essential Services Commission chairman Dr Ron Ben-David said customers must navigate their way through the increasingly complex energy market.

“The electricity and gas that Victorians use hasn’t changed, but customers must now carefully choose from a complex array of offers, contracts and discounts.”

Energy Minister Lily D'Ambrosio has urged Victorians to shop around. 

"Every Victorian, when they get home, should get on the phone, demand a better price from your retailer," Ms D'Ambrosio said.

"If you don't like the answer that you get, shop around."