POWER PLAY: Why deregulated market won't work
THE tyranny of distance and scale of infrastructure is preventing Gladstone's electricity market from being deregulated says the Palaszczuk government.
While some towns and cities on Australia's east coast have a choice of up to five or more electricity providers, Gladstone residents rely solely on Ergon energy, as a deregulated market isn't economically viable for competitors, according to Energy Minister Dr Anthony Lynham.
Despite the lack of competition in the Gladstone electricity market, Dr Lynham said another supplier was welcome to open at any time, but it has proven to be uneconomical.
This is due to an annual subsidy of $498 million from the Palaszczuk government, to ensure Gladstone's electricity prices and those across regional Queensland are competitive with the already deregulated southeast Queensland markets.
Another bonus for Gladstone residents, with its wonderful year-round climate, is the take-up rate of rooftop solar installations, helping to keep bills down while also feeding excess electricity back into the grid.
"As Australia's most decentralised state, the costs associated with transmitting and supplying electricity to regional Queensland has been to date a disincentive to commercial retailers," Dr Lynham said.
"The independent Queensland Competition Authority examines prices in the deregulated southeast corner each year and sets an equivalent price for regional Queensland."
To keep electricity prices competitive, Dr Lynham said successive state governments had continued to subsidise regional Queensland.
"On average across the state this equates to around an 18 per cent subsidy on every power bill," he said.
The challenges brought on by Covid-19, Dr Lynham said, had seen additional measures introduced to keep electricity affordable.
"During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government is also providing Queensland households $200 off their utility bills, building on the $50 asset dividend we have already announced," he said.
Member for Gladstone Glenn Butcher said the people of Gladstone get a far better deal from their publicly-owned electricity assets than people in southern states.
"Queensland has the lowest average electricity prices on the eastern seaboard - because unlike New South Wales, we didn't sell off our electricity assets," he said.
"Our generation assets provide power in the Torres Strait, out west at Roma, to Coolangatta in the south - including in Gladstone."
Power generated across the state is doing more than just supplying Gladstone and regional Queensland, Mr Butcher said.
"Queensland is keeping the lights on in Sydney, with our exports of power across the interconnector to the south," he said.
"The dividends from our publicly-owned assets - including what they earn selling power to NSW - are channelled back into putting downward pressure on Gladstone's electricity prices."