Communities could be in the dark following WA power hike

Street lights could be switched off across Western Australia as Local Government protests about a massive increase in electricity charges.

WA Local Government Association (WALGA) President Mayor Troy Pickard said the sector was in uproar at a 29.8 per cent increase in the electricity tariff for street lighting included in the recent State Budget.

Troy Pickard said Local Governments were well advanced in setting operating budgets, and an increase of almost 30 per cent on such a significant line of expenditure cannot be readily absorbed.

He said Local Governments may decide that their only option is to request from the electricity utilities that street lighting be switched off or scaled back in their areas.

"Switching off street lights is a last resort as there are good reasons in regard to community safety and amenity that street lighting is provided by Local Governments," he said. "However there is also the reality that this increase was totally unexpected and places a massive strain on Local Government finances."

By way of example, the unanticipated increased cost for Western Australia's largest Local Government the City of Stirling has been estimated to be $1.1 million or about $13 per household.

Troy Pickard said a precedent in allowing Local Governments to cut or reduce street lighting was the dispensation afforded to Main Roads WA following the Varanus Island gas emergency.

"Main Roads was permitted to only operate alternate lights along the freeway and major arterial roads in order to reduce their power consumption," he said. "Given the suddenness of this increase and that it comes so late in the budgeting process for Local Governments, there needs to be some contingency on the part of the electricity utilities."

He said the extent of the crisis facing Local Government was exacerbated by a lack of drive by the electricity utilities to accommodate the Local Government sector's desire for more efficient lighting systems.

"It has taken about a decade to get the utilities to seriously support Local Government in moving to more efficient street lighting and there is still much to be done," he said. "Certainly this 30 per cent increase would still have been unexpected by the sector but its comparative impact on overall expenditure would have been less if more efficient systems were already in place."