The state of South Australia's electricity prices

South Australia's electricity industry is currently in the spotlight with the release of the Annual Performance Report (APR) from the Essential Services Commission of South Australia (ESCOSA).

ESCOSA is an independent economic regulator which came into effect in September 2002, with the purpose of protecting the long term interests of South Australia consumers in terms of prices, quality, and reliability of essential services.

Essential services are defined as being electricity, gas, water and sewerage, maritime and rail - with the potential for others to be added from time to time.

ESCOSA's report said that it is clear that customers are experiencing financial stress over electricity prices, and that energy retailers have not been responding to customer inquiries and complaints in a timely and appropriate way.

As well as this, Dr Kerin also noted concern over the growing number of customer complaints towards retailers.

"Based on the figures that we have for the six months to December 2012, retail complaints per 100 customers are likely to rise from 2.7 per cent to 4.5 per cent in 2012/13," he said.

"While some of that increase may be attributable to issues such as regulated price increases, the majority relate to issues of billing and marketing. These are the core business of retailers and areas where we would have expected to see major improvements in service delivery over time."

However Dr Kerin did say that figures from the report show that most retailers are actually resolving customer complaints to consumers' satisfaction without the need for the customer to seek independent complain resolution from the Energy and Water Ombudsman - something which indicates a positive move forward.

Dr Kerin also commented that in February this year, the responsibility for regulating the retailer-customer relationship and associated rights, obligations and protection measures was passed over to the Australian Energy Regulator (AER). That means the AER is set to monitor and report on future consumer interests.

In recent months, consumers have been struggling more and more with high electricity prices as electricity networks have required costly upgrades to their poles and wires.

Queensland is another example of this, as it's slated for more electricity price rises that were attributed by the Queensland Competition Authority (QCA) to expensive network transmission upgrades that come along with ageing infrastructure and high levels of demand.

Posted by Charlie Moore