Electricity bills likely to soar

THE price of energy for residents may be jacked up and Tweed Shire Council slugged with higher electricity bills for street lights under a proposal by Country Energy.

A draft report by the electrical distribution network -- which services Tweed households and public lighting -- before the Australian Energy Regulators is calling for a $100 per annum ($1.96 a week) rise to the average household bill.

Australian Energy Regulator (AER) chairman Steve Edwell said Country Energy has to augment its network in high-growth areas.

"The draft decision provides for $15 billion worth of investment across three New South Wales electricity distribution networks over the next five years, which%represents an increase of about 90 per cent from the current level of $8 billion for the past five years," Mr Edwell said.

Prices will be determined in May following the final decision.

"The need for increased investment and higher input costs is consistent with the price increase proposed by the NSW distribution businesses. While consumers in NSW will face higher charges as a result of the increased investment, they will also benefit from a more reliable and secure network," he said.

Country Energy Far North Coast community relations manager Mike Hely said a final decision is yet to be made.

"There really is no answer yet to what percentage increase we are seeking," Mr Hely said.

"Street-lighting prices will probably go up to cover main-tenance and the "

The final report is due to the AER by mid-January.

"Like anything, the price of electricity goes up a small percentage every year," he said.

Mr Hely said the price increase will not be too significant.

"Country Energy will try to be fair to councils, because at the end of the day it comes back to ratepayers, and you have to be fair and reasonable."

A Tweed Shire Council spokeswoman said ratepayers may never have to cop a rate rise due to this.

"Council has a contract with street lighting that is set to expire at the end of this financial year," the spokeswoman said.

"After that we are going to a state contract. Country Energy cannot change the price of street lighting while in this contract."

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