As the dust settles in Western Australia after an historic state election, many are left wondering – what now? The cost of living was once again a hot topic this election, with power prices taking centre stage. So what does Labor’s victory in WA mean for your electricity bill?
Electricity retail competition in WA
The Labor party in Western Australia has in the past advocated that consumers should have the ability to choose their electricity retailer. In 2015, The Liberal-Nationals, with bi-partisan support from Mark McGowan’s Labor, accepted recommendations to introduce full retail contestability to the electricity market. This would mean that residential and small business customers in the South West area of WA could choose their electricity retailer, rather than being forced to remain with Synergy. Currently, only gas suppliers can compete for customers in parts of WA, but prices remain regulated by the state.
“The benefits of competition between energy retailers are already evident in gas services where Alinta and Kleenheat compete vigorously for household and small business customers with attractive price offers.” former Energy Minister Mike Nahan said.
Introducing full retail contestability will take some time in order to prepare the legislation and mechanisms required to facilitate fair competition. It’s expected that electricity retail competition will be fully implemented by July 2018, though the new Labor government has emphasised this as a priority task.
However, there are no plans to deregulate electricity prices in Western Australia in the foreseeable future, with the information paper stating “Some form of retail price regulation is necessary to protect customers while effective competition is developing. At the same time retail price regulation should not present barriers to entry to the market for new retailers.”
Most parties were surprisingly quiet on renewable energy policy this election. While WA Labor has declined to follow other states in setting its own renewable energy target, the new government has already promised $30 million to support the establishment of a solar farm in Collie.
The WA Labor government has yet to detail its renewable policy, though the party repeatedly emphasise its support for the renewable uptake. In a bid to boost solar uptake in Victoria, the government recently announced it will double the buyback rate on solar power.
Western Power remains in public hands
The Labor party staunchly opposed Colin Barnett’s proposal to sell Western Power – the distribution network spanning most of the state outside the South West. While the Liberals, Nationals and ACCC advocated that privatising could reduce power bills as much as 51%, Labor warned the sale would lead to higher prices as well as lower maintenance and service standards since electricity distribution is not a competitive industry. With McGowan’s convincing victory in the election, Western Power will remain in public hands.