A second electricity retailer in the Australian State of Victoria has announced its intention to raise electricity prices from January 1 next year. Pulse Energy, which covers Melbourne’s southeast and the Mornington peninsula, said today that it would apply for increases averaging 17.3 per cent.

This follows an October 12 announcement by CitiPower that it would seek to increase electricity prices by an average of 16 per cent from January 1, 2001. CitiPower was the first of Victoria’s five power retailers to apply to the Office of the Regulator General to increase prices after the market is deregulated at the end of the year.

The other three power retailers – Origin, TXU, and AGL – are also expected to apply this month to increase prices.

Pulse chief executive officer Peter Robinson said the rises were needed to cover wholesale price increases of about 60 per cent in the past 18 months. Demand for electricity had been increasing, with air conditioning and personal computers among the causes. But Victoria’s power generation capacity had not increased in the past three years, Mr Robinson said.

Earlier this year Premier Steve Bracks accused the power companies of trying to “soften up” the Victorian public ahead of price hikes next year. Mr Bracks said that until competition was introduced next year, his government would refer all requests for price increases to the Regulator-General.

A Pulse spokesman confirmed that the company had not yet received approval for the rises.