Sep 12, 2017

Nationalisation back on the agenda in politicians’ power panic

As politicians panic about the energy crisis they themselves have created, some old ideas are suddenly fashionable again.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

AGL boss Andy Vesey

Finding sensible coverage of energy policy is hard. It's a politically fraught issue, it's immensely complex, and it's also a subject on which everyone has a view because we all have an interest in whether the lights stay on.

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26 thoughts on “Nationalisation back on the agenda in politicians’ power panic

  1. Lord Muck

    Assignment for Malcolm and Josh: use Vesey and ideological in a sentence.

  2. klewso

    Vesey v “The Truth Fairy” tag-team of Turnbull and Frydenberg with this “conflicting” account of what’s been going on?
    I can understand why Turnbull and Frydenberg would play fast and loose with the truth, they can’t help it. They’re both politicians and lawyers – while Malpractice is also a banker and “journalist”.
    Look what how they twisted the facts – more than the storm did those electricity towers – that they subsequently blamed renewables for the SA blackout – when the delivery infrastructure was flattened. Then Joshin’ Frydenberg went to SA for a stunt aimed at embarrasing Weatherill – and got miffed when Weatherill “gate-crashed” his own turf?
    …. And of course Turnbull needs a distraction from his own “distractions”.
    But I can’t understand why Vesey would?

  3. John Newton

    I hear the smug stupid and FF compromised Freydenberg making vapid claims and using schoolboy nicknames – ‘No Coal Joel’ – on radio and my head hurts and I stab the off button. Not one of them makes any sense. Canavan, Freydenberg, Joyce, and more deplorably, the Emperor with no clothes, twisting and turning and lying and scheming to save at least his dungers…Turnbull. Can anyone think of a more insane period of Australian political history?

    1. Dog's Breakfast

      John, I cannot remember such an insane period in our political history. This is as bad as it gets, and still the naysayers want to tell us that up is down, left is right, and crooked is straight. This is as bad as it has ever been, and not because the problems are insurmountable, but the politics is.

      1. leon knight

        And yet by the latest polls many many voters still have faith in Turnbull…..luvaduck, how much worse does it have to get before voters can see the slime oozing from every pore.

      2. Itsarort

        Hmm, John McEwen springs to mind…

    2. Marjorie Carless

      Absolutely agree and the insanity is growing.

  4. Dog's Breakfast

    “but they’ll be a pretty useful way of curbing price signals and thus encouraging higher usage”
    I don’t understand this BK. The current system already entirely hides any pricing signals. With high costs for connection and low costs for high use, the current pricing mechanism encourages those who use the most to keep doing so, regardless of the wholesale market which can reach up to $14,000 per Mw/Hr (I think that’s the measure)

    Lower connection costs and higher charges at the top end of users would send a price signal, and the current system doesn’t allow for that. The Energy companies went to the Pricing Commission with the argument that low users were ‘sponging’ on the system, when in fact they are the ones being screwed.

    Personally, I think nationalising the energy markets would actually allow the problems to be fixed directly rather than my some arcane market mechanism. But at least Vesey is speaking sense to the government while allowing them face saving headlines.

  5. michael delaney

    Same panic that they got themselves into over the car manufacturers by
    Stupid rhetoric.

  6. Tabot Retemt

    A national bank might be good too.

  7. Inscrutable

    Apparently, subsiding an old coal fired power station to stay open beyond it’s life is good policy, but, subsidising renewables isn’t. This contradiction is another one of the things that the media should be writing about….

  8. CML

    Bernard…I am sick to death of you blaming the Labor party, in equal proportions to this toxic lot in government, for the state of our electricity problems.
    Labor put a price on carbon many years ago, and began the move to renewables at that time…the rAbbott abolished everything that was good about those programs, and Truffles continued in the same vein. We all know why…couldn’t run a raffle, let alone his own party. And the country?…who cares about the plebs? The idiocy of people who still say Truffles is PPM is gobsmacking…to say the least!
    No wonder everyone is going back to Labor’s original plan and installing solar panels…now with their own battery storage!!

    1. leon knight

      And blind Freddie can see that is where the sensible answer lies – subsidise household battery systems, bring back fair feed in tariffs, and distributed power mangement systems. All required technologies are available right now.

      1. klewso

        I’ve long been of the same opinion – how much does it cost to build a couple of new power stations (built on the public purse, to be privatised when done?) : compared to subsidising solar panels on more (all?) rooves and batteries (with economies of scale)?
        Of course the Coal Lords and their dependents might have make do with less – but then we’ve been going without for long enough? Pollution, land degradation, hostage to their profit margins, climate change….?

        1. klewso

          …. Those roof panels feeding the grid.

      2. Marjorie Carless

        Absolutely agree and the insanity is growing. I believe Turnbull has solar panels and batteries on his house, so plus the fact that he wouldn’t have a problem paying his energy bills what does he really know about the state of the nation’s energy market for the majority of households? He is too busy trying to be a “strong” leader to really make any decisions!

  9. Hunt Ian

    Bernard, there is a long gap between a price cap on electricity prices and Soviet rationing. You forget that the NEM is a faux market with ridiculously high caps already on what prices can be charged by wholesalers. As I understand it, the NEM regulator foolishly refrained from directing companies to supply in the past but has learnt its lesson and is now prepared to direct that generators be on, unless they cannot be through engineering faults. The price signals in the faux NEM have always been faux :signals”. What is clearly need is something like the SA governments policy of introducing a state owned provider to step in to bring wholesale prices down, when private providers are prepared to sit back and watch prices rise. Privatisation of electricity is an unusually stupid part of the neo-liberal ideology that has dominated governments Labor and Coalition, at least until recently, when Labor has done things like proposing the sequestering of gas for domestic use and has introduced government owned supply. The whole privatisation of electricity generation, transmission and marketing should be reversed with re-nationalisation of the electricity system, with private providers paid not for the profits they will miss out on, which were always outrageously gross, but a refund of the price they paid with a discount based on how much they have overcharged for electricity supply benchmarked against international comparators.

    This will not be Soviet planning but social democratic policy, which often results in better and more efficient services than private providers can supply. Look at France’s SNCF, for example. Soviet planning was a weird top down instrument that ran wild when it became corrupt, while SNCF shows no sign of this More of less than less stupid neo-liberal ideology, please.

    1. JMNO

      Public-run electricity providers planned far into the future to replace old power plants and experimented with new sources of power so that consumers would get the best power sources incorporated into new power plants, etc and with plenty of time for their introduction.

      There was no built-in scamming of prices to increase the profits of the provider either. We shouldn’t have to shop around for energy deals. We should be charged what it costs to produce electricity and keep the systems going in the future orreplace them, with discounts for the less well-off and possibly higher prices for higher users.

    2. Dog's Breakfast

      Exactly Ian. The perverse incentives in the faux market, for energy companies to produce less than what is required so they can ramp up the turbines at top spot price is transparently stupid, and exactly the opposite of market forces. The soviet style top down planning makes this stuff look bad in comparison.

      And nobody is suggesting Soviet style planning, but the electricity market, along with other essential industries, would best serve the population if they were in government hands. I like the idea of how to price the nationalisation as well. Private operators were supposed to bear some risk, but the way it has occurred there hasn’t been the slightest risk associated with returns that even high risk industries dream about.

  10. Peter Wileman

    All new housing should be required to have a photovoltaic cell array including in the building cost. This wouldn’t solve the problem of Australia not having leadership in government of either stripe, but it would contribute to the grid, and lower the cost of ever increasing power bills. However, this can’t happen until we have some form of leadership that can rise above the self serving, peurile shower that are currently running ‘the big house’ in Canberra. Thank god I’m an athiest, but god help us.

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