Electricity Prices

If you think you're paying more than enough for your home energy, you're in for a shock. Prices have been rising but over the next few years, get set for electricity bills to soar. But while we have to fork out more, energy company bosses are taking huge salary increases and thousands of dollars in performance bonuses.

Expect unrelenting price hikes. Electricity and gas, essential services, will no longer be so affordable. Complaints about bills have doubled in 5 years. Already tens of thousands of families have had their power cut off for non-payment of bills - 1 in 7, struggling pensioners.

"For an electricity bill it was unbelievable, $900 for a quarter, I wasn't doing anything that was excessive, I had a couple of lamps, TV, air conditioning, but I turn it on and off one person alone" says Peter.

Peter Walton got the shock of his life when his electricity bills tripled from the usual $300 to $982 last September quarter.

"Everyone says it's got to be a mistake, everyone except for the electricity people" said Peter.

Peter's been forced to make a drastic changes. "I thought I am going to move in with a friend and split the bills otherwise I was going to pay electricity bills and not be able to have any sort of lifestyle."

Energy company bosses won't feel the pinch - a new report by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal reveals fatter than ever salaries and performance bonuses - up to $740,000 a year.

Stay-at-home mum, Hannah Gair is now doing everything to save power. "Normally I just try to keep the windows open to get the breeze through. It cuts costs."

Soaring power bills are being driven by a surge in consumer and business demand and the cost of government's climate change policies - green targets.

"And there is also a lot of money that needs to be spent on infrastructure, to make sure that Australians have a reliable supply of electricity" says Ben.

"It's around $1 a day for the worst performing fridges of which many of these are … this is about 40 year old a real energy guzzler" says Graham Mawer.

It costs up to $7 a week to run the old beer fridge, compared with around $3 for large current models. Graham Mawer of Next Energy operates Fridge Buyback. He's collected 14,000 old or second fridges around Sydney - owners get a $35 rebate.

"Getting rid of an old, second fridge is about the easiest way to drastically cut power bills, most families can save $200 to $300 a year off their current power bills just by doing that one simple step" says Graham.

"No matter how much you use, you can always pay less for the electricity that you do use, and it's really up to you" says Ben.

Ben Freund says the number of people switching electricity providers has tripled in 12 months. GoSwitch.com.au, a free service, compares prices - choosing the cheapest saves from 5% to 20%.

Not wasting is also guaranteed saver. Fans cost just 1 cent an hour to run compared with air conditioners from 10 cents for an evaporative cooler to 80 cents an hour for a whole-home reverse cycle air conditioner.

Turn off powerpoints, draw curtains, use natural cooling, use fans when you can rather than A/C.

On hot days, your biggest enemy is unprotected glass and ceilings. Once the sun hits the windows, the whole house will heat up fast. So block it with adjustable shades, shutters, deciduous trees and vine covered pergolas. In winter, you can open up and the trees will be bare to admit the sun.

The roof, ideally should be light-coloured, as darker colours absorb the heat. Ceiling insulation keeps the sun out in summer, keeps the house warm in winter.

"Our website has a full section of energy-saving tips and I recommend the consumers print that page and go around their home."

CONTACTS:

www.goswitch.com.au

Compares the energy prices charged by different providers and gives the cheapest options for switching companies.