SHOCK TO THE SYSTEM: Gary Wittingslow with the shock bill.
SHOCK TO THE SYSTEM: Gary Wittingslow with the shock bill. Mike Knott BUN260717GRANDMAS1

Power policy sees couple's electricity bill jump $26,000

"THERE are two policies... and we've fallen through the cracks."

At Grandma's Kitchen, manager Gary Wittingslow "caters for lots of customers who pay little".

It's a good business model for a city like Bundaberg, he says, where he has a wide band of loyal customers who visit for meals that are hearty and good value.

So when meals go up from $10 to $11, it's a big deal.

As Mr Wittingslow brews coffees, his customers can peruse a slip of paper on the counter explaining why.

It is his power bill.

On July 1, AGL's peak price per kilowatt hour changed from 28.22c to 57.19c. For Mr Wittingslow and his wife Elizabeth, it doubles their annual power bill, adding $26,000 a year.

"I'm open 10 hours a day, seven days a week. Given over half our usage is peak, it's a huge rise in cost," he said.

"I got my bill and went 'Gee, that's a bit of a ride'."

The Bundy man says the business has been caught between two State Government policies.

For Ergon Energy customers, the new 22A tariffs on small businesses only apply three months a year, December to February.

But on AGL - a switch made by a previous tenant - it is year-round.

Under Queensland's non-reversion policy, the Wittingslows cannot go back to Ergon.

"We've always had $10 meals. Straight away I had to put it up to 11," he said of receiving the bill on July 6.

"That's without the 3.5% wage rise and my suppliers' 12.5% power bill increase.

In Energex service areas of south-east Queensland, the non-reversion policy "makes perfect sense and gives the retailers certainty", Mr Wittingslow said.

"But here, it hamstrings me. Because I use more than 100mWh of power (a year), I don't get a regulated tariff.

"AGL are losing money supplying me power, but the law says they have to."

Mr Wittingslow's complaints to AGL and to the Energy and Water Ombudsman failed to get any action, deeming the pricing "valid and correct".

He is hopeful of getting a flat rate with AGL.

Bundaberg MP Leanne Donaldson said she had received a number of complaints regarding the non-reversion policy, "originally designed to tackle monopolies in the regional electricity market" which is forcing users to remain a customer of Energy providers, and had discussed the issue with the Minister for Energy.

"The legislation containing the non-reversion policy will be reviewed in the second half of this year."

AGL said they needed more time to comment.



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