It’s never too late to wake up

In the third and final in this series – The Advertiser calls for an inquiry into the greatest economic fraud of all time.

enron-scandal

It was only ever about the money.

Time for an inquiry into power prices
The Advertiser
12 July 2013

CONSUMERS’ expectations are quite simple, really – when they flick the switch the lights should come on, and they shouldn’t have to pay excessive amounts for the electricity.

After all, Australia is blessed with abundant sources of energy and we all regard power supplied to households as a basic necessity in an advanced industrialised country.

For generations, that’s the way it has been.

Yes, there were occasional blackouts and the quarterly electricity bills were an irritation but essentially the system worked.

However, right now, the system is not working and consumers are getting cranky – very cranky.

The lights do still come on but consumers feel like they’re being ripped off as electricity prices soar.

Increasing numbers of households are struggling to pay their bills, with a record 28,857 moved on to instalment plans – 5000 more than a year ago.

That pent-up community anger burst into the public arena this week when former ETSA general manager Bruce Dinham wrote an opinion column for The Advertiser.

A flood of readers fired in comments to advertiser.com.au while television and talkback radio followed up the story.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd gets that message, but apart from declaring prices too high, it is unclear what he intends to do about it.

Mr Dinham’s comments hark back to a simpler era when the State Government owned the coal, the electricity generators and the distribution network, estimated how much power was needed and charged a reasonable fee for supplying the service.

He wrote of a bloated bureaucracy with an array of government agencies building empires and private companies that now operate different parts of the supply chain: generation, bulk transmission, suburban distribution and retail – each adding in a slice of profit, which the end consumer must pay.

The operators – labelled “parasites” by Mr Dinham – were dismissive of the claims, saying the electricity system today is far more complex than it was even a decade ago.

It is true the system is now so complicated, even professional people in the industry are sometimes baffled by how it works.

Take a pricing report for June – at one time the spot price peaked at $11,048/MWh, at others generators didn’t only provide electricity for free, they actually paid companies down the supply chain hundreds of dollars to take the power.

Serious change began in 1999, when the State Government led by Liberal premier John Olsen broke up and privatised the system and leased ETSA to Hong Kong interests to pay off state debt.

Since then, layers of complexity have been added – the Federal Government set compulsory renewable energy targets, households installed banks of solar panels backed by generous feed-in tariffs so power flows both ways, wind farms were built in rapid succession and peak demand levels spiked with so many households buying power-hungry flat screen TVs and large airconditioners.

SA no longer sits in isolation and is firmly part of a national grid influenced by every-thing from how hard the wind is blowing at Snowtown at 4am to how cold the beer needs to be to slake the thirst of Queenslanders on a sunny afternoon.

Add to that the uncertainty, then the reality, and then more uncertainty, about carbon tax/emissions trading – even though the tax only added $68 to annual bills, which reached $1799 in 2012-13 compared to $1058 in 1999-2000 according to SA Power Networks data for a typical 5MWh home.

It’s clear there is no way to unscramble the egg we cracked open in 1999.

Thomas Playford may have nationalised the then private system in 1946 but it’s highly unlikely any modern politician will tread that path.

However, it is time for clear and simple explanations about what has happened … and what can be done.

The government should hold a public inquiry to determine whether we are being overcharged and, if so, to propose solutions that deliver affordable and reliable power to all.

The people need straightforward answers about whether they are being ripped off and if that is the case, how that can be fixed.
The Advertiser

STT says the inquiry suggested is more than called for and can’t come soon enough – but don’t expect those profiting from it or their apologists to come quietly. There’s far too much money to made – this is – after all – State sponsored theft.

This all happened without us knowing the first thing about it – except when South Aussies got their power bills last September – that’s when the big whack on retail prices was first noticed – and the unprecedented number on the family power bill became a barbeque stopper.  Queenslanders got a taste of things to come last month.

frog-cold-water

I’m good!

We’re a little like the frog swimming in the pan of cold water sitting on the stove – we’ve been swimming around not noticing the mortal economic peril swirling around us.  Unless we hop out of the pot soon – our future – and that of our families and businesses – will soon resemble something from a fancy French restaurant.

Frogs-Legs_s4x3_lg

A moment’s inattention can lead to real problems later.

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.

Comments

  1. Merlin Brando says:

    Industrial Wind Turbines = IWT= International Wealth Transfer.

    Q: What is the difference between the Mafia, the SA Government and Union Super Funds?

    A: There is none.

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