West Australians are being told they might face an increase in electricity prices of 15 per cent over the next two years, but will be better off in the long run and bills will fall after that when the market is open to competition.

However, Opposition Leader Mike Nahan has pointed out that Premier Mark McGowan said as opposition leader a year ago that a rise of only three per cent imposed by the previous Liberal National government was “mean-spirited penny pinching from a government that simply doesn’t care”.

The price hike will be announced before June 30.

The 15 per cent figure is related to closing the gap between the government-subsidised price consumers pay for electricity and the true costs borne by state-owned retailer Synergy’s, known as cost reflective tariffs.

Synergy would thus be given time to make itself competitive with rivals, before Treasurer Ben Wyatt ended it’s monopoly over the residential electricity market, bringing WA into line with the other states.
“Power bills will have to increase effectively to allow Synergy to compete in a competitive environment,” Mr Wyatt told 6PR radio.

“Competition can have a much better outcome (for) power bills than a state-based concession regime.

“There is a peculiar scenario we have where power bills will need to increase over the next couple of years to get there.”

Dr Nahan said the government was slugging WA electricity consumers with taxes that were unnecessary when it could instead drive cost cutting at Synergy.

“Make no bones about this, the reason they are doing this is they are using Synergy as a taxing mechanism to fund their $5 billion (pre-election) commitments … the elephant in the room,” he told reporters.

The government inherited record state debt – the highest debt-to-revenue ratio in the nation – of more than $30 billion and a record deficit, but Mr McGowan promised before the election that he would not impose new or increased taxes, contradicting Mr Wyatt who would not commit to that.

By Greg Roberts