South Australian small businesses struggle to absorb higher power costs as bills rise by $650

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South Australian business owners say they are being forced to rethink how they run their services, with the most recent round of power price hikes already taking a significant toll.

Over the past year, butcher Steve Howell said he has seen a significant jump in the cost of running his small business.

“With electricity, gas and lots of other things — the rising cost of just life — it is difficult,” Mr Howell said.

“I’m finding that I have to work longer hours if that’s possible but I do it, because it needs to be done.”

Earlier this year, the Australian Energy Regulator announced that from July 1, electricity prices would increase between 20 and 25 per cent for residential customers in South Australia, New South Wales and south-east Queensland.

It also said small businesses would face rises of up to 29 per cent, depending on their region.

Mr Howell said he was concerned the latest surge in electricity costs would make it difficult to keep prices low for customers.

“Every time we do get one of these hikes I need to re-evaluate the costs of everything,” Mr Howell said.

“The people that produce the products that I buy in store, they’ve got electricity hikes as well, so it just filters down and so unfortunately the consumer has to pay.

“It’s just layered, it affects us and it hurts a lot of us and we’re losing small business.”

Salon owner Maria Paglia said on top of hefty electricity bills, the soaring cost of living has meant many people are increasingly cutting back on luxuries, including hair appointments.

“We have noticed a big change,” Ms Paglia said.

“It’s a bit of a struggle as clients are stretching out their services which is making it harder as they’re not coming in as regularly.

“Everything is going up day by day and it is making it very hard and we’re trying not to pass it on [to customers] but we’re pretty much going to have to, otherwise we won’t be able to stay afloat.”

SA households paying up to $250 more, report finds

A report by the Essential Services Commission of South Australia found in the 12 months to the end of June, power bills had increased by up to 16.5 per cent, equating to nearly $650, for small businesses across the state.

It also showed the average South Australian household is paying up to $250 more.

South Australian Council of Social Service CEO Ross Womersley said the escalating prices are particularly concerning for households on low incomes.

“We know that many families are making decisions not to put food on the table quite as often as they might or indeed to feed their kids but not necessarily to feed themselves in an effort to save money so that they can afford to keep paying their energy bills,” Mr Womersley said.

In the June state budget, the South Australian government announced additional electricity bill relief measures which included rebates of up to $500 for eligible households on concession payments.

Mr Womersley said while the introduction of the rebates was a step in the right direction, major energy retailers responded “almost immediately” by increasing their prices.

“So the advantage, the protection, that that payment was likely to provide just has been eroded in seconds literally,” he said.

“The really terrifying thing is that even with those costs increasing and with that energy relief payment, what happens when we get into the next cycle once that money has run out?

“It raises big issues about what our governments can be doing to ensure that particularly low income households get the benefits of solar and insulation so that their energy demand isn’t continuing to escalate.”

(Original ABC Article)