Behind the scenes there is a big power play going on in Tasmania right now as private power utilities attempt to force the Tasmanian government to go well beyond privatising Aurora’s electricity sales.
If current reforms go through as expected, Tasmania’s small power consumers (meaning all households and very small businesses) will soon be buying their electricity through one of three corporate retailers who win the rights to that retail electricity market. Householders won’t choose, the deck will be shuffled and each household will be simply allocated to one of the three retailers in the first instance. Personally, I think that is a better way than people having to make choices from the very start, but that’s not the most important issue at stake.
What is much more important is that the businesses that are dominating the energy scene in the Australian electricity market are really wanting to grab hold of Hydro Tasmania’s electricity wholesaling. A strong argument is being bandied about at present that no business would want to buy into Aurora’s retail business unless Hydro dominance of the wholesale electricity market is first killed off. It’s a rubbish argument. The corporations that are dominating the energy scene in Australia – most notably Origin, AGL and True Energy – have been lusting over Hydro Tasmania’s electricity wholesaling business which is worth a whole lot more to them.
This article in yesterday’s ‘Conversation’ applies to the whole of Australia, but it could be read in the context of what is happening here in Tasmania.
The privatisation agenda has backfired in NSW and Queensland where Labor governments have been mercilessly tossed out of office for trying to privatise public assets and the incoming conservative governments know that they would suffer the same fate if they go too far down that track.
But the power brokers that are overseeing market reform, particularly the energy utilities who are wanting slices of the cake, are playing a patient game of slow attrition across Australia. They are in for the long haul and know that they will get their way as time goes on. The slide only goes one way. Never back the other way.