Energy jobs switched off

HUNDREDS of local Essential Energy workers are enduring a difficult holiday period as they anxiously await news on whether they will have jobs next year.
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Essential Energy claims 1500 jobs across regional NSW are under threat from the Australian Energy Regulator’s move to cap the revenue collected from customers.

The energy distributor is seeking to recover $5561 million between 2015-19, but the AER in its recently released draft determination wants to limit that to $3678 million.

“As a result, based on estimated energy use, we expect Essential Energy’s average residential customer’s annual bill to fall by $346 in 2015-16,” the AER report stated.

While that might be welcome relieffor people struggling to pay their power bills, a local Essential Energy employee said it would have disastrousconsequences.

The worker, who did not wish to be named, said customers could not expect the same level of service if Essential Energy had to slash its capital and operating expenditure.

“The purse strings will have to be tightened, including overtime, so when a powerline falls down, do we go out to fix it or leave it until the next morning?” he said.

“Given the price customers pay for power at the moment through the retailer, they should expect the power to be on.”

The man said Essential Energy had hundreds of employees across the New England and North West who faced uncertain futures.

“There are some people who will be able to sleep at night knowing they have a future there,” he said.

“But for others on the frontline, which the AER will definitely be impacting on, it’s difficult.”

Essential Energy chief operating officer Gary Humphreys said the provider had already shed 680 workers through “natural attrition” and voluntary redundancies since 2012.

“The AER’s draft determination implies a reduction of around 40 per cent of Essential Energy’s total workforce, or 1503 jobs, with concern for the 290 apprentices currently in training,” he said.

“Such cuts are not practical, possible or legal. The next few months will be challenging for all our employees as we work through the realities of the AER’s determination.”

Essential Energy will respond to the report in late January.

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