Perth: Rich suburbs use twice as much energy as poor ones

From Perth Now

New figures reveal the stark gap in the amount of electricity consumed by the state’s haves and have-nots.

In Dalkeith, where the median weekly household income is $2795, the daily electricity consumption in households averages 28.5kW in winter.

But in Balga, where the average household income is $934, consumption is only 12.56kW a day.

The figures, compiled from data by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and Western Power, also show that households in less affluent suburbs used less power in July 2011 compared with their usage for the same month in previous years.

Families have switched off appliances as electricity prices have soared 60 per cent over the past four years.

For example, in Bentley, where the average income is just $734, households reduced their winter power use by more than 10 per cent over three years.

The opposite has happened in a few of the more wealthy neighbourhoods. In Nedlands, where the average weekly household income is $2342, electricity use has risen about 5 per cent over the same period.

WA Council of Social Services spokesman Chris Twomey said consumers in less-affluent suburbs were often hit with a double whammy not only could they not afford to keep themselves warm, but they also lived in colder housing.

Energy-inefficient homes for example, those with poor insulation require more electricity to heat.

“Another concern is the way the current power system works. The people in the poorer suburbs are effectively subsidising the higher energy use of the richer areas,” Mr Twomey said.

“Power consumption in those richer areas is predominantly at peak times. And it’s the peak load which is the most expensive power. Not only are they using more power, they are using more expensive power.”

Shadow treasurer Ben Wyatt said it was shameful that in a rich state some people could not afford to use electricity.

“There are families shivering due to their fear of the costs associated with heating their homes,” he said.

Energy Minister Peter Collier acknowledged the subsidising structure meant less-wealthy households were in effect subsidising richer households.

But he said the data also showed that higher prices did not deter some people from using more electricity.

“Some households are not only able to absorb the price increases, but are also increasing their levels of consumption,” he said.

Top 5 electricity users (July)
1 Dalkeith, avg weekly household income $2795, avg daily consumption 28.50591
1 Nedlands, avg $2342, use 28.50591
2 City Beach, avg $2575, use 25.32873
3 Claremont, avg $1674, use 22.26884
4 Peppermint Grove, avg $2682, use 22.0086
4 Cottesloe, avg $2494, use 22.0086
5 Coogee, avg $1793, use 21.07261

Bottom 5 electricity users
1 Balga, avg household income $934, avg daily consumption 12.56021 (13.9 per cent decrease since 2009)
2 Lockridge, avg $948, use 14.2289
3 Bentley, avg $734, use 14.05089
4 Coolbellup, avg $982, use 15.12557
4 Hamilton Hill, avg $977, use 15.12557
5 Koondoola, avg $947, use 15.6323
5 Girrawheen, avg $988, use 15.6323

* Figures from Western Power and Australian Bureau of Statistics.