The big winner from NSW Labor’s midnight firesale of its electricity retail assets is one of the most aggressive anti-ETS lobbyists, which claimed it would be forced out of business by even the threat of the Rudd government’s CPRS.
Chinese-owned TRUenergy has paid just $2 billion for the EnergyAustralia retail business, the trading rights for the coal-fired Mount Piper and Wallerawang stations and three development sites.
TRUenergy already owns the Yallourn coal-fired power station in Victoria, and was an hysterical critic of the Federal Government’s CPRS, despite being scheduled to receive nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars in handouts from taxpayers over five years under the polluter-friendly Rudd-Wong package.
In July 2008, TRUenergy boss Richard McIndoe said the government’s emissions trading scheme would “effectively bankrupt” generators and force them to close by the end of 2008 — several years before the CPRS even started. Strangely, TRUenergy continued operating beyond 2008.
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But McIndoe actually ramped up the hysteria in 2009, insisting the generators would be sent broke and the lights switched off, warning of economic dislocation “for generations”.
It was arrant nonsense from a prime rentseeker, demonstrated by the substantial gap between what McIndoe was saying in public and what his company was telling investors. As Crikey showed a year ago, the CPRS had been a complete non-issue in the company’s presentations to investors. Giles Parkinson showed how TRUenergy’s Chinese parent company was remarkably upbeat about the Australian market and the CPRS.
Oddly enough, it was the advice to investors that proved accurate. TRUenergy’s earnings more than doubled last year, at the very time it was saying the mere threat of the CPRS would destroy the company.
Ultimately of course it is by its actions, rather than its words, that TRUenergy should be judged. Now, even as federal Labor, the independents, the Greens, business and NGOs get down to the nitty-gritty of developing a carbon price to be legislated late next year and start on July 1, 2012, McIndoe’s company has snapped up coal-fired power stations and declare they’ll give TRUenergy “a strong and diverse, vertically-integrated business within the National Electricity Market, which provides an excellent platform for further growth”.
Quite a change in rhetoric from the froth-mouthed threat to turn off the lights last year. And one to remember when, inevitably, McIndoe starts ranting again about the impact of a carbon price.
Of course, don’t forget that the push to dump the CPRS came from NSW Labor, not merely via Karl Bitar and Mark Arbib, but via the NSW government blaming the CPRS for electricity price rises in that state. And despite having succeeded in killing off the CPRS, NSW Labor still couldn’t get a decent price. Whatever it takes — to be as incompetent as possible.