Held to ransom by the energy gougers

This week we saw the NSW Treasurer and Energy Minister Matt Kean resorting to begging private energy companies to maintain their facilities or sell them back to the state after they were privatised in 2014. And as Matt Kean grovels, millions of people that live in NSW were left freezing in their homes on Wednesday night and wondering if the lights will stay turned on.

17 June 2022

ALAN HAYES

 

PEOPLE now face the prospect of a double digit increase in the cost of their energy bills because of the NSW State Government’s failed privatization of power generation. So, has privatization worked for the consumer? The answer unambiguously would be no. Because we're now in a situation where the NSW Treasurer is entering into secret negotiations to buy back the very power stations that their government sold not that long ago.

 

Energy prices are a disaster when it comes to the cost of living – it’s a disaster when it comes to potential power outages and the Minister is begging people to turn off their lights, their heating, their television, in order to preserve electricity in the state. It shouldn't work that way.

 

Although conserving energy is a habit that all people should embrace, being told to turn off heating in the middle of winter is unacceptable.

 

Even Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has weighed in, warning power companies that they have a responsibility to their customers amid the nation’s energy crisis. A crisis that will also add to the deleterious impact on the ability for businesses to get ahead.

 

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said “My message to the energy companies is that they have a responsibility to their customers, whether they be households or businesses, to do the right thing.”

 

“We need to end the sort of nonsense that we’ve seen over the last decade, where we had 22 different energy policies announced, but none of them landed.

 

So, apart from developing a gravel rash on his stomach, what is Minister Kean doing to solve the problem?

 

“A number of the generators that we rely on to produce our electricity haven’t come online in the way we expect them to,” he said.

 

Yet while Minister Kean is telling people to turn off the lights, and look for that box of candles or that antique kerosene lamp, Sydney will be ablaze as the Vivid Light Show continues. Cold comfort to people huddling under blankets who have to accept reduced power use while the State Government continues with its light show – no power cuts there!

 

And while Sydney brightly shines each night it seems that there is little concern that the energy market has failed and that the system is completely buggered.

 

And amid the chaos NSW Energy Minister Matt Kean will now be able to force coal companies to supply power generators with fuel under emergency powers given due to the east coast energy crisis.

 

For those of you who are old enough to remember, NSW has suffered a severe energy crisis before under a Liberal Government. In the early seventies, when Sir Robert Askin was Premier, and whose government had a reputation for the ‘best government and police force that money could buy’, NSW was plunged into regular darkness and electricity supply was reduced and even cut off all together during the day.

 

Even eighteen months ago it was a bumpy ride for the energy market and last Monday night history again repeated itself - suburbs in Sydney’s Northern Beaches and north of the city were affected by power outages, including parts of Beacon Hill, Frenchs Forest, Narraweena, Cromer and Dee Why.

 

Yesterday, the Australian Energy Market Operator, which on Wednesday took the unprecedented step of suspending the market to stave off the threat of blackouts, said conditions had improved across the east coast states.

 

But it stressed challenges remained and said it was too early to say when the market would return to normal. There are still widespread potential energy shortfall warnings for today.

 

So, here we are once again – full circle and a government who has made errors in relation to the sale of government assets in the electricity market, and it is hurting the people of New South Wales. And while the crisis continues, households face the prospect of power prices continuing to rise over the next two years. Why? Because we have a government “scrambling while the horse has bolted”.

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