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Bill formalises rules change

A BILL opening the door for gas market deregulation and enshrining in law Western Power’s charging policies for power upgrades in regional Western Australia has been passed by the lower house of State Parliament.

The Energy Legislation Amendment Bill clears the way for full retail contestability in the gas market and formalises Western Power’s ability to charge a regional user that wants a power upgrade for the cost of upgrades to that user’s neighbours, whether they are planning to have an upgrade or not.

However, when those neighbours take on upgrades, the original user will receive a rebate from the utility.

Chamber of Commerce and Industry director industry policy Bill Sashegyi said it was important that the bill passed because of what it did for the gas industry.

However, he said he could understand the concerns of some regional users.

National Party energy spokesman Monty House said he did not have a problem with the bill because the mechanism allowing regional power users to gain the rebate was retained.

However, he admitted there was growing discontent with Western Power’s service to regional power users.

One example is a regional business that sought a quote on having its power upgraded. It was told it would cost $4,000. A year and half later the business decided it would proceed and was told the upgrade would cost $8,000.

Mr Sashegyi said stories such as this emphasised the need for an economic regulator.

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