Gillard Seeks State Help to Curtail Rising Electricity Prices

Australia, which introduced a price on carbon emissions last month, is seeking help from state governments to improve the efficiency of electricity markets after power bills almost doubled since 2008.

“Carbon price excluded, the average electricity bill went up by at least 48 percent in the last four years,” Prime Minister Julia Gillard said in Sydney today, according to the e-mailed text of her speech. “I am determined to get a plan in place to prevent unnecessary price rises in future.”

Gillard’s Labor government, trailing in opinion polls before elections due next year, is counting on payouts to help overcome public opposition to the carbon price, which the opposition is blaming for surging power bills. The government says the so-called carbon tax will see electricity bills rise by an average of A$3.30 ($3.49) a week per household and says states have a duty to help keep costs down.

The growth in peak power demand and the “catch-up from years of infrastructure underinvestment” have contributed to the increase in electricity bills, Gillard said.

“The market for supplying energy services in Australia needs to be more efficient,” said Gillard, who wants the states to provide solutions at a meeting scheduled for the end of the year.

Australia began charging more than 300 of its largest polluters a fixed price of A$23 a metric ton for their greenhouse gas emissions on July 1 and will move to a market-based system in 2015. Opposition leader Tony Abbott is vowing to repeal the levy if he wins office, calling it a “wrecking ball” for the Australian economy.

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