Increase in pensioners' electricity bills may come in July

A PENSIONER advocacy group says the already shocking numbers of low-income earners having their power disconnected when they fail to pay their bills will skyrocket come July, especially in regional Queensland.

Australian Pensioners' and Superannuants' League Queensland secretary Raymond Ferguson said he believed regional Queensland could be hit the hardest, fearing the worst for pensioners and concession card holders in Rockhampton, Mackay and Cairns.

But he also said he heard a lot from south-east Queensland electricity consumers who got caught up in contracts with private providers and did not understand what they were signing until it was too late.

The Queensland Competition Authority has released data showing 1071 pensioner and concession card holders had electricity disconnected in the December quarter because they could not pay their bills.

That is a 36% increase on the three previous months when 787 were left in the dark for failing to pay and a 12% increase on the 2011 December quarter.

The LNP government froze Tariff 11 for a year to help Queenslanders with cost of living expenses but the QCA has blamed the move for a forecast 21.4% price hike in July for SEQ.

Mr Ferguson said Queensland was the second highest state in Australia for these disconnections but the figure come July would be "astronomical".

He said there had not been an increase in the electricity concession rebate since the 2011 State Budget the Bligh Government handed down.

Mr Ferguson said if the 21.4% increase occurred in July, it would mean a 60% increase in electricity "in the past three years alone".

"It won't only be pensioners but other people on fixed incomes will struggle, especially families," he said."It's going to have an horrific effect."

Energy Minister Mark McArdle said his government was "aware that current electricity concessions are not properly targeted".

He said they had raised the issue of better targeting concessions with key stakeholders and was now reviewing them.

"Only 25% of the annual average household bill relates to cost of producing energy," he said.

"The balance is due to the cost of poles and wires and avoidable public policy including green schemes, the Carbon Tax and the Solar Bonus Scheme.

"We will continue to do everything we can to put downward pressure on electricity prices for Queensland households."

Federal Families and Community Services Minister Jenny Macklin said Queensland power bills would only get worse if Tony Abbott was elected prime minister.

She said the state's 678,400 pensioners would lose the clean energy supplement - $350 extra a year for single pensioners and $530 extra a year for pensioner couples - if the LNP wins the September election.

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