Energy supply fears

November 24, 2017

Stores in echuca display signs during a power outage. Photo by Luke Hemer.

Benalla business Mirfak Pty Ltd faced paying a 100per cent increased electricity bill, which a local MP says is a direct result of the state government’s failure to secure baseload power supplies.

And it could be worse, as Benalla businesses and households could face power blackouts during the summer because of a predicted shortfall in energy.

State Member for Euroa Steph Ryan said Mirfak’s situation was one of many in the region, and has happened because the government failed to realise the gravity of the situation, and the amount of people it would affect.

The warning comes after it was found diesel generators were being installed across Victoria because of the predicted shortfall.

Ms Ryan said Victoria lost 22 per cent of its energy supplies as a result of the closure of Hazelwood in March.

‘‘Before Hazelwood closed, Victoria’s Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio told Parliament that power prices would increase by no more than four per cent and there would be no shortfall in energy supplies,’’ Ms Ryan said.

‘‘Local businesses have reported massive bill increases since Hazelwood closed and we now face the crazy situation where Victoria is installing diesel generators to get us through summer because we don’t have enough baseload energy.’’

Mirfak owner Mark Murphy said if he had not been switched on, he would have had to pay double for the same amount of power.

‘‘Our contract expired in August this year and we’re going to have to pay 100 per cent more,’’ Mr Murphy said.

‘‘We signed a new contract with an 11 per cent increase for peak power, however, off-peak charges have still increased by 55per cent.’’

Mr Murphy said increasing electricity prices would stifle business growth with most small businesses unable to recoup costs or pass them on.

Ms Ryan said not only were diesel generators a worse outcome for the environment, but they also required ‘‘half a million litres of diesel each day’’ to operate.

Fruits N Fare owners Rick and Di Aumann have installed solar panels to help combat the increase in energy costs and shop around every six months just to get a better deal.

‘‘My biggest fear is who is going to cover any losses in the event of a blackout?’’ Mrs Aumann said.

‘‘Aside from what we would lose from having to close during the blackout, we would lose thousands in lost produce.’’

A response was received from Jaclyn Symes after deadline for this article, and will be published on the Ensign’s website.

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