Electricity retailers are being unfairly blamed for soaring bills when government green schemes and infrastructure costs are to blame, a Senate inquiry has been told.
Energy Retailers Association of Australia executive, Cameron O'Reilly, today argued the case for deregulation of the industry.
''It is not the retail or wholesale electricity tariff prices that have caused recent price rises but network charges and green schemes,'' he told a hearing in Sydney.
''It is retailers, not consumers, who bear the risk in volatile wholesale markets.''
But South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon said the real victims were consumers.
''When their (retailers) CEOs get massive multi-million dollar a year pay increases it's a bit rich for them to be lecturing us that they shouldn't be blamed for consumer concerns about power prices,'' he said.
Senator Xenophon agreed regulations impacted on the price of electricity in the Australian market.
''The current rules for the national electricity market are not just broken, but skewed against consumers,'' he said.
But unlike Mr O'Reilly, Senator Xenophon said a federal takeover would help sort out the problems.
''It's not my role to give Julia Gillard or Tony Abbott advice but if they want to pick an election winner they should be looking at federal control over electricity rules in this country so that consumers can get some price relief,'' he said.
The independent senator wants regulations, such as those governing the rollout of smart metres, to be subjected to much stronger consumer interest tests to safeguard financially vulnerable customers.
''The fundamental interest must be that of small and medium businesses around the country that are paying through the nose for electricity,'' he said.
The Senate Select Committee on Electricity Prices is holding its first public hearing in Sydney on Tuesday before heading to Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and Canberra.