Businesses across the region have been shocked by rising power bills, with small retailers told they can expect up to a $5000 increase in annual fees.
Several contributing factors have created the massively increased energy bills, ranging from a lack of competition in regional NSW to inconsistent energy policies from state and federal governments, but local shop owners say the bottom line is “it’s hurting our business”.
New England North West NSW Business Chamber manager Joe Townsend said the power bills of most small retailers, such as the ones lining Tamworth’s Peel Street, would increase by about $5000.
If it keeps up this way, we’re looking at an extra $20,000 a year.
“It might not sound like much, but that’s a fair bit for a small retailer,” Mr Townsend said.
“In relatable terms, that’s one less casual that will get a job this year, a school student that won’t be able to work on weekends because now that business doesn’t have that $5000.
“And that cost can’t be pass on to customers without the risk of losing business. If something was $100 one week, people won’t pay $101 the next just because your electricity bill went up.”
Larger industrial energy consumers have been hit the hardest – Mr Townsend said some local businesses have already seen a $40,000 increase.
Namoi Valley Bricks owner Michael Broekman said despite keeping up to date with all the latest energy-efficient technologies, his latest power bill was up by 20 per cent “in one hit”.
“That’s without any increase to service charges, just electricity charges,” Mr Broekman said.
“If we put the price of our bricks up by 20 per cent, we’d lose all our business.
“If it keeps up this way, we’re looking at an extra $20,000 a year.”
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull met with energy retailers and took “decisive action” to reduce energy prices.
“What we have sought to do is to cut a better deal for Australian families,” Mr Turnbull said.
“We are pleased to have secured agreement from retailers on immediate measures and ongoing changes, to be backed by law, to put families and small business first.”
The range of commitments include contacting all the customers on expired discounts and telling them how much they can save on a better deal and developing simple fact sheets with understandable comparison rates.