Upper House Labor leader Adam Searle has blasted Blue Mountains energy distributor Endeavour Energy for overcharging customers by up to $227 million in the past three years.
”Residents of the Blue Mountains are footing the bill for the Liberal National government’s madness for selling off valuable public assets,” he said.
“These big energy companies are already making a fortune from our local households and businesses. Now we see the privatised Endeavour Energy is overcharging local customers on top of already sky-high prices.”
Mr Searle, the Opposition Minister on Industry, Resources and Energy and Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council, said privatised NSW energy distributors – Endeavour, Ausgrid and Essential – have overcharged consumers more than $1 billion in the past three years, according to advice provided to him by the energy regulator. The companies – including Endeavour Energy which runs the distribution network for Blue Mountains, western Sydney and the Illawarra, and Ausgrid – will return overpayments to consumers in coming years.
Labor has blamed the higher charges on the government’s “haste to sell off the poles and wires”.
“On the Liberals’ watch the big electricity companies like Ausgrid and Endeavour have overcharged households and businesses hundreds of millions of dollars,” Mr Searle said.
“The Premier and her Energy Minister have been asleep at the wheel while this was happening, leaving it to Labor to reveal what is going on.”
Mr Searle had sought clarification on evidence given to the Legislative Council Select Committee on Electricity Supply, Demand and Prices in the NSW inquiry into electricity prices last year. Australian Energy Regulator confirmed Endeavour had “recovered more revenue … than was permitted”.
NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley said “electricity privatisation was sold to the public as the way to build a better state but all I can see ahead is more tolls and higher energy bills.”
Network prices account for almost half the cost of residential power bills. Increases in network prices have been the major cause of higher bills over the past decade.
A spokesman for Endeavour Energy told Fairfax Media the company had had “constructive conversations with customer representatives about how to resolve out 2014-19 revenue determination to ensure pricing affordability and stability for our customers”.
The spokesman said that if approved by the Australian Energy Regulator, $227 million would be returned to customers between 2019 and 2024.
Energy Minister Don Harwin said the government had been working hard to lower network costs blaming the Labor party’s “gold-plating of the network that had power bills trend upwards for years”.
“For the average NSW residential customer the network component of their power bills has gone down 25 per cent [from 2013-2017].”
But Mr Searle said the government was in an ongoing legal dispute with the regulators “thereby delaying any settlement that would have seen the money returned to customers”, Mr Searle said.
“The Berejiklian government must ensure customers’ money is returned to them,” he added.