By Luke Voogt
Geelong businesses are struggling to cope with rising power costs according the city’s chamber of commerce.
“The lack of confidence around energy and energy pricing is causing a lot of angst around the business community,” said the chamber’s chief executive officer Bernadette Uzelac.
“A lot of our members have (raised that concern) from the point of view of their day-to-day operations.”
Ms Uzelac said many local businesses were already operating on tight profit margins due to “global competitive pressures”.
“Any change in the cost of doing business is going to have severe consequences to businesses (and their ability) to survive … and employ people.”
Ms Uzelac called for a national energy policy after industry advisor Tennant Reed last week warned that rising prices could cost Geelong 2500 manufacturing jobs.
“I would hate to think that was the case but I think, potentially, it could be,” she said.
“I don’t think we want to underestimate this.”
The price rises affected a number of local small to medium business as well as hospitals, Ms Uzelac said.
She warned that rising power prices impacting large, energy-intensive businesses could have flow-on effects for local suppliers.
“When bigger businesses have to cut costs to accommodate energy price rises there’s obviously going to be impacts on their supply chain,” she said.
Ms Uzelac called on the Federal Government to impose export controls on gas and introduce more renewable energy sources.
“It’s something that needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency,” she said.
“Business needs certainty of supply. We’re at a critical stage where for some businesses it might be too late.”
But she declined to comment on the State Government’s memorandum on gas.
The State Government has banned onshore gas exploration until 2020 while the opposition has planned to lift the ban if elected in 2018.
The Geelong Manufacturing Council had lobbied both governments and held workshops on energy saving options, said chief executive officer David Peart.
“While it’s positive to see a level of uptake of energy saving measures by local industry, no one likes to see costs increase as it does go to the business bottom line.”