Kyogle Bakery owner Max Kassebaum unhappy about the sharp increase in his electricity bill from Country Energy.
Kyogle Bakery owner Max Kassebaum unhappy about the sharp increase in his electricity bill from Country Energy. Jay Cronan

Electricity prices cripple bakery

KYOGLE Bakery owner Max Kassebaum said he was acting for all Northern Rivers residents when this week he challenged Country Energy to ‘please explain’ why his electricity bill has increased from $2,800 a month to $5,500 a month in the past three years.

“It’s not just me. Everybody is hurting when the bill comes,” he said.

On Tuesday, the baker sat down with Country Energy community manager Mike Hely to express his concerns.

Of Mr Kassebaum’s $5,566 monthly bill to July 31, $2329 comprised of ‘network tariff’ fees.

“I understand that the extra tariff fees on my bill are due to increasing infrastructure costs, but there should have been a slower introduction,” Mr Kassebaum said.

Country Energy community relations manager Mike Hely said he was sympathetic to Mr Kaassebaum’s plight but was powerless to prevent the price hike.

“Energy regulators made a final determination on network electricity prices in June, approving an average 19.5 per cent increase,” he said. “This is the component of Mr Kassebaum’s account that has caused his bill to rise.

“The determination recognises that Country Energy needs to invest significantly in the network to meet growing population demands, renew ageing assets, meet safety requirements and deliver better reliability.”

My Kassebaum accused the energy firm of letting its infrastructure fall into a state of disrepair over a long period.

The bakery, which employs 28 staff and distributes goods to outlying communities in Tabulam, Drake, Bonalbo and Urbenville, has been struggling to remain competitive with some of the larger bakeries in Brisbane.

“I’ve got rid of the ‘energy-sucking’ fridges but we still have a high power bill,” he said.

“What am I supposed to do, sell cookies for $2 each?”

Mr Kassebaum said in the three years he had owned the business, the price of his bread had increased by only about 15 cents, which was way less than the percentage increase in the price of electricity.

Country Energy saids it would invest almost $4 billion over the next five years from the total increase in network charges to ensure it delivers efficient energy services across regional NSW.

It would replace and upgrade key network equipment, as well as catering for the many country and coastal centres experiencing high population growth.

In approving the price hikes, the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal admitted the increases were “significant.”

“We recognise that these price impacts are large and will impact on customers, particularly low-income households,” acting chairman and chief executive of IPART, James Cox, wrote in a report in December of last year.

The latest prike hikes follow large electricity price increases in July, 2009.



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