HUNTER household power bills look set to fall by about $165 from July, or eight per cent, after the Australian Energy Regulator knocked back Ausgrid’s proposals for higher network charges.
But the savings will come at the cost of at least 2500 jobs and would mean a longer wait for electricity to be restored to homes during the next storm or emergency to hit the region, Networks NSW has warned.
About half an average household energy bill is made up of transmission and distribution network costs – the ‘‘poles and wires’’.
The determination, handed down on Thursday morning, reined in the amount Hunter distributor Ausgrid can recover from customers over the next four years to $6.5 billion, or 33 per cent less than the nearly $10 billion Ausgrid had argued for.
Energy minister Anthony Roberts welcomed lower power prices for households but said the government had concerns that the regulator had refused requests to phase in the cuts.
Networks NSW chief executive Vince Graham said at least 2500 jobs would have to be swiftly cut across Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy and Essential Energy, reducing capabilities to respond to emergencies, such as the storms that recently hit the Hunter and Sydney.
‘‘This morning we’re down to several hundred customers who are off as a consequence of last Monday/Tuesday’s storms,’’ Mr Graham said.
‘‘It is perfectly logical that our ability to reconnect customers after such a significant event will be proportional to the number of skilled workers we can deploy after those events.’’
The decision also provided for less money for bushfire hazard reduction, Mr Graham said, but he would not be reducing that spending.
He said an appeal would be considered, and he would be holding the regulator’s ‘‘feet to the fire’’ over the decision.
Australian Energy Regulator chairwoman Paula Conboy said it had considered emergency capabilities and other issues before setting the amount networks could charge customers. It was up the businesses to decide how to spend that money.
‘‘It’s important that consumers pay no more than necessary for a safe and reliable service,’’ she said.
The regulator’s final decision has been keenly awaited, amid the Baird government’s plans to lease the state’s poles and wires.
The government has argued prices won’t rise under private operators because the regulator would continue to set them.