The state’s peak business organisation, the NSW Business Chamber, says today’s ACCC report highlights the serious impact high energy prices are having on businesses and the need for urgent and coordinated action to start reining these costs in.

“Both large and small businesses across all parts of NSW are now being affected by rising energy prices through reduced competitiveness, less scope for investment and expansion, and lower profits,” said NSW Business Chamber Chief Executive Stephen Cartwright.

“Many small businesses find retail offers and energy bills too complex to meaningfully assess and manage, so the ACCC’s focus on simplifying retail market behaviour will help improve the ability of consumers to navigate the energy market and seek out lower bills,” Mr Cartwright said.

“In addition, many of our members report a lack of genuine retail competition, especially in regional NSW, and this is backed up by the ACCC’s assertion that there is insufficient competition within the generation and retail sector which has raised prices.

“While rising wholesale prices have been behind the most recent price hikes, the ACCC found that overinvestment in the electricity networks had been the key driver of electricity price rises between 2007-08 and 2015-16. “The NSW Government must acknowledge its past role as the owner of networks that made unnecessary investments, and in good faith work with the ACCC to find a path to mitigate the effect of past overinvestment.

“While encouraging greater consumer engagement is necessary, energy costs are simply too high, therefore politicians need to reach consensus on a national policy which will encourage new and competitive generation in the electricity sector and ensure adequate and affordable gas supply.

“Right now we need to see some more practical steps to help business respond to increases in energy costs – for example, helping businesses navigate the hundreds of complex offers to find the best possible deal has to be an immediate priority.

“In addition, programs to provide smaller businesses with hands-on help to reduce bills through more energy efficient lighting, machinery and operating practices need to be delivered.

“Until we see governments’ “on the ground” action, businesses will continue to worry about how they are going to pay their bills, pay their workers and have any confidence in their future viability,” Mr Cartwright said.