As winter in Australia digs its heels in, electricity prices climb again. But even a 3.3 percent increase for households in regional areas of Queensland is not the major concern; price gouging by Northern Queensland power generators is.

The ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) is investigating state-owned electricity generators that have been using their market power to increase prices. Scott Emerson, the opposition treasury minister, wrote to the competition and consumer commission to note that generators CS Energy and Stanwell have unfairly increased wholesale prices.

North Queenslanders have commented that the ACCC is a "toothless tiger" and will be unable to stop the gouging. The ACCC will submit its draft report to the inquiry by September 27, 2017, and the final report by June 30, 2018.

Power rise forecast

The average yearly increase for SEQ households forecast by AGL and Energy Australia for 2017-2018 is $104 and $130 per year, respectively. In Queensland, the state government runs the power generation companies, whereas NSW and SA have ever-present retail electricity and gas hikes fostered by profit-chasing of wholesale generators.

A researcher at Australian National University, Hugh Saddler, recently found that the price of wholesale electricity in the eastern states correlates strongly with the price of gas.

Due to gas being in shorter supply in recent months and it being a "swing fuel supplier," this has seen NSW, ACT and SA's retail electricity prices from July soar between 15 and 20%. Victorians will feel the pinch by a similar amount next January.

Swing supplier

A swing supplier means a source of energy that can be relied on for energy supply needs when everything else is in short supply.

Many of these power stations are fueled by gas rather than coal, so when gas prices are high the cost of producing electricity is also high. Sawtell Corp is planning on resuming an old gas-fired power station near Ipswich next January, to help with summer demand and guard against future power hikes.

In these states, the rise is promised to be triple that amount – around $330-$390.

This means that low-income earners continue to suffer, with the number of hardship applicants increasing, says a spokesperson for Queensland Council of Social Service (QCOSS).

For those Queenslanders who have a health care card, DVA gold card, pensioner concession, or asylum seeker status, they can claim electricity concessions of $340.85 per year by applying to their electricity retailer.