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COVID, renewable energy combine to spark hopes for power bill relief

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Coronavirus restrictions across the economy have reduced the nation’s energy demands, which have flowed through to wholesale prices. Meanwhile, the growth in renewable energy generation – which makes up more than 20 per cent of the nation’s power and is expected to grow sharply in the coming years – has reduced daytime spot prices, putting more pressure on coal-fired generators.

“We have seen record high renewable output and record low coal output since the start of the National Electricity Market in 1998. Coal, gas and hydro have been setting significantly lower prices than a year ago. Low fuel prices led to more capacity offered into the market at low prices,” Ms Savage said.

“Wholesale gas and electricity costs make up about a third of an average residential energy
bill, so falling wholesale costs should mean good news for consumers.”

Mr Taylor encouraged consumers to shop around and put retailers on notice to pass on wholesale price drops.

“The government has been clear: lower wholesale prices must be translated into lower residential prices for Australian families and small businesses,” Mr Taylor said.

“It is pleasing to see some energy retailers have responded to the lower wholesale prices by offering new deals to their customers. Energy companies must put energy consumers first especially as many struggle with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Plummeting global demand for gas has flowed through to the domestic market. Mr Taylor said lower prices would help maintain Australia’s competitive advantage.

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“Affordable gas has never been more important… This is why the Australian Government believes a gas-fired recovery will drive jobs and economic growth,” he said.

Tens of thousands of consumers are struggling with energy bills. The Australian Energy Regulator said last month that 94,000 customers had been accepted for payment plans up to the end of March, excluding Victoria, which has different reporting arrangements, and more than 1000 customers were seeking assistance each week.

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