Cheaper power a step closer

CONSUMERS pushing for better electricity competition say lower prices are on the horizon, but it's still unclear whether moving away from Ergon Energy will save North West residents on their bills.

Queenslanders backing the One Big Switch petition won support from the state government this week.

The 9,000 signatories requested the government through the movement to commit to a timeframe for delivering increased competition for electricity retailers in regional areas of Queensland, which are currently only serviced by Ergon Energy.

Acting Minister for Energy Andrew Cripps said the government was already investigating how to improve retail competition outside of South East Queensland through the Interdepartmental Committee's (IDC) report on electricity sector reform.

Energy and Water Ombudsman North Queensland Regional Manager Kelly Hodgman said bringing competition to the North West would take time.

"There is a subsidy that is provided to us to keep the price here the same as the price in the south east corner and there is various costs involved with getting electricity up here," she said. "I think in the past that's why it hasn't taken off. It costs them (electricity retailers) a lot of money to market in this area."

However, making the switch to another provider might not always be the answer to cheaper electricity bills.

Mrs Hodgman warned that often discounted contracts could amount to more than consumers were paying under their standard electricity contracts with Ergon Energy. "They have to make sure when they sign a new contract they read it very carefully," she said.

"People can have a option to go on your standard retail contracts but can also choose different ones with options to pay early or by direct debit for a discount.

"Some people change providers to get these discounts but it still costs them more than the basic retail contract."

Diamantina Power Station Project Director Stephen Ohl said in the future, DPS would be able to provide some electrical capacity to other potential customers in the Mount Isa region.

Mr Ohl said the power station's future full capacity was not exclusive to their current clients Ergon Energy or Glencore Xstrata.