Calls mount for greater watchdog bite in power sector


“There has been blatant behaviour by these generators,” Mr Merrick said. “We would love for a regulator or a politician to come in and say ‘you’ve crossed the line one too many times’.”

Andrew Richards, chief executive of the Energy Users Association of Australia, said the recommendations by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to curb any firm’s market share to 20 per cent were “10 years too late.”

“There’s a pincer movement underway for energy users and we’ve exhausted every escape hatch,” Mr Richards said, referring to soaring gas and electricity prices.

AGL has strongly denied it unreasonably flexed its market dominance – it supplied 29 per cent of the coal-fired power in 2018 – to drive up prices.

The Australian Energy Council – which represents big generators – echoed the rejection.

“The changes in the NSW wholesale prices had been thoroughly reviewed by the [AER] and that work had not pointed to any abuse of market power,” Sarah McNamara, the council’s head, said.

Energy expert Paul McArdle agreed AGL and other companies had worked within the rules. However, to avoid the jump in wholesale prices since 2017, it required either a change of the rules or the market’s structure, he said.

Bruce Mountain, one of the authors of  the VEPC report, said “we should see a much greater level of transparency and public accountability in the oversight of the industry”.

“If the current regulatory framework is not able to deliver this, it should be changed and between then and now, some form of public inquiry instigated,” associate professor Mountain said.

The AER hopes changes to its investigation powers, now working their way through the COAG Energy Council, will be legislated soon.


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