How concerned are you about rising energy prices?

One of the biggest recurring costs that any company faces is its energy bills. The price of electricity and gas has risen over recent years, leaving businesses with little choice but to find the finance to bridge the gap.

Figures from esaa show that electricity prices have been on the rise for the past two decades, and particularly over the last ten years.

The rate of growth varies from state to state, with the data pointing to an 18.1 per cent increase in New South Wales in 2012-13, closely followed by South Australia with an 18 per cent rise. At the other end of the spectrum is the Northern Territory, where the increase was limited to 8.8 per cent.

There's been plenty of speculation over what has led to power price rises in certain states, although the general consensus is that costs have risen to help maintain the network.

The cost of keeping networks reliable isn't cheap, which is why suppliers are hiking their prices in order to maintain infrastructure. In many cases, the affordability debate has shifted from whether people want to benefit from lower bills and a less reliable network, or are willing to pay more for confidence in their supply.

No matter where in the country your business is based, there's sure to be the challenge of rising energy prices.

Consumers worry about power prices

A recent survey found that many Australians are concerned about being able to pay their energy bills, and as a result are looking for alternative, more competitive deals.

ING Direct discovered that 50 per cent of people are hoping to save on their power bills this year, particularly as they recognise the need to secure a more affordable deal. Almost half (48 per cent) planned to negotiate with their current supplier, while 19 per cent said they would be happy if extra benefits were included in their existing deal.

However, electricity customers aren't afraid to vote with their feet. A total of 64 per cent revealed they would look around for an alternative provider, which increases among low-income households.

Businesses aren't immune from price rises, either, so these results might give you the encouragement you need to carry out an electricity comparison and seek a better deal.

Keeping up with bill payments

Even as prices rise, businesses need to make sure they maintain payments on their bills to avoid falling behind. The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) recently released a report that took a closer look at how suppliers deal with customers who find it difficult to pay their bills.

Chair of the AER Paula Conboy explained that even the most careful of budgeters could find it difficult to make ends meet, which is why these protocols are so important.

"If you are worried about being unable to pay your energy bill on time, call your retailer as soon as possible to discuss your situation. They must offer you assistance," Ms Conboy noted.

"Ask about an extension, a payment arrangement or their hardship program. You should also check if you are receiving any concession you may be eligible for and ask if your retailer can offer you a cheaper deal."

The AER review found most consumers aren't aware of the assistance that is available to them when they find it difficult to pay their bills. While some retailers were shown to be more dedicated to assisting customers than others, there are nevertheless some standards that need to be adhered to when dealing with financial hardship.

Greater effort will be made by the regulator to ensure staff receive the training they need to help deal with enquiries from those who are struggling to pay their bills.

Posted by Richard West