Monday 24th of June 2024

guilty poles and wires...

guilty poles
The thing that really irks Bruce Robertson is not just that the giant power companies are threatening to sue him but that their lawyers are demanding he pay for their costs.
“It was a service I never requested," quips Robertson, who has had to resort to black humour since the letter from Grid Australia arrived out of the blue last week.
In the quintessential act of corporate bullying, the nation's electricity transmission giants are threatening to sue the corporate-analyst-turned-cattle-farmer from the mid-north coast of NSW.
Robertson has been a constant thorn in their side this year, revealing how the industry's 'gold-plating', dodgy forecasts and misleading rhetoric have been the main factors behind the nose-bleed rise in power bills.

And so Grid Australia, the peak body for the transmission giants, is trying to muzzle him with legal threats.
This story is not just about power companies gagging an outspoken critic. It is about governments too. Grid Australia's members are mostly state-owned power companies. They speak for $10 billion in network assets and they don't like Robertson accusing them of gold-plating one little bit.
Here's the catch. Governments are not allowed to sue their citizens (this is a good thing).
Nor are the other two members of Grid: Victoria's SP-Ausnet, which is controlled by a Singaporean multinational, or South Australia's transmission provider, ElectraNet, which is a consortium of powerful financiers. Both are too big to sue.
Under reforms to the defamation laws seven years ago, big companies are no longer permitted to sue (Section 9 Defamation Act, 2005). The intention of these reforms was precisely to stop this sort of intimidation by large vested interests.

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fighting back ....

Hi Gus.

Looks like he beat the bastards ….

The email sent by Grid Australia chairman Peter McIntyre to Bruce Robertson ….

Dear Mr Robertson, I refer to the letter sent to you by Ashurst on 5 November 2012. 

I sincerely apologise if this correspondence caused you or your family concern in regard to pending legal action.  I have instructed Ashurst that Grid Australia has no intention of taking legal action against you in regard to the matters referred to in that letter.  As such, you should not consider yourself subject to any proceedings. Grid Australia is committed to constructive engagement with Government and the community about matters of energy policy.

We stand by the information and the submissions made to the Senate Select Committee.  In light of our obvious differences, I would appreciate the opportunity for Grid Australia to meet with you and discuss the matters raised in your submission to the Senate Enquiry.  I recognise there has been a lot of passion in the debate, but I am hopeful that a more constructive engagement between us will assist in a more informed dialogue on these important issues.

Yours sincerely,

Peter McIntyre

Grid Australia

One Man Vs The System - Power Iindustry Says Sorry

bah, humbug ....

Laura Tingle’s report on former QLD transport minister, Rachel Nolan’s thesis on electricity costs, was quite entertaining, although Nolan’s reported view that taxpayers’ expectations of government are wholly unreasonable & we shouldn’t complain about having to pay our way is simply laughable (‘Trains of thought on power and politics’, AFR, November 16th).

Based on Tingle’s report, Nolan has adopted the very same tired & discredited posture that most public figures caught in the spotlight do these days - play the victim & blame the messenger - by nonsensically suggesting that governments can’t control the marketplace, that the behaviour of the electricity providers is beyond their control & consumers shouldn’t blame the government for that reason. Nolan seems to have forgotten the fact that governments own most of the providers & control the regulatory bodies allegedly set-up to protect the community against their predatory behaviour.

Of course, as everyone knows, except, it appears, Nolan, the public outcry over electricity prices has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that people object to paying the real price for a service, but everything to do with the fact that the current prices have been inflated by dodgy business models, designed to optimise profits & investment returns for governments at the expense of taxpayers.

That Nolan allegedly thinks that the publics’ current outrage over the political inertia that is producing no real reform in the electricity market is a sign that taxpayers don’t have reasonable, realistic or clear expectations of their political leaders is pure, self-serving bunkum. It is precisely the fact that taxpayers do have a very clear understanding of what they expect from government that is fuelling their anger.

If Nolan wants to talk about the antics of ‘rent-seekers’, she need not go past the electricity providers, who have been busy conning this country with a false bill of goods for years, ably assisted by politicians of all persuasions. Along the way, the bureaucrats responsible have doubled the size of their organisations, added numerous zeros to their lucrative & totally unjustified remunerations packages & rorted benefits packaging, including superannuation, whilst passing obscene profits back to their political masters.

That Nolan allegedly spruiks this unbelievable nonsense suggests to me that she must have studied ‘implausible deniability’ at the same business school as Eric Roozendaal who, po-faced, would have the world believe that a significant price reduction isn’t a financial benefit, but just an innocent saving.

Bah humbug Ms Nolan …. do everyone a favour & go-away.

you're zapped...


It seems Julia Gillard's plans to save consumers $250 a year on power bills may already have been sandbagged in New South Wales.

There are more price rises in the offing for many consumers in the state which Federal Labor has identified as crucial to its hopes for re-election next year.

One of NSW's biggest electricity suppliers, Energy Australia, has outlined plans to put prices up by 10.5 per cent over the next three years.

At the weekend, Ms Gillard announced a reform package in which she wants to give more funding to the national energy regulator and set up new consumer groups to keep power prices down.

She is hoping to reach an agreement on the plan at a Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting of state and territory leaders on Friday.

But state and territory leaders are calling for more details before signing up.

In NSW, the chairman of the state's Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART), Peter Boxall, says competition is the best guarantee of lowest possible prices for electricity.

"In our view, effective competition, where retailers strive to offer customers products and services they value, is the best way to ensure that prices are driven towards the efficient cost of supply," he said...

COMPETITION??? What competition!???... The price of wholesale is so high it turns telegraph poles into lazy millionaires... And the retail suppliers hate people who generate electricty so they only offer tentative options and resist installation... Should you have a back to the grid set up, the suppliers are basically stealling the kWs and making the government pay the difference... See, the retailers charge you on average 28 cents per kW but if you sell them some electricity, they only pay you about 8 cents per kW... The government has to fork out the difference...  BUT the connection rental fee is still the same — in favour of the suppliers... plus you have to install new EXPENSIVE smart meters... you're stuffed in both directions...


cheaper than coal in Australia...

Renewables cheaper than coal in Australia — a preview of things to come

I’m morbidly fascinated by the way conventional wisdom lags behind evidence, like the CW that renewable energy is expensive and fossil fuels cheap. In fact, there is a tectonic shift underway. Renewable energy prices are declining as technology improves, economies of scale kick in, financing mechanisms mature, and public policy begins to take some (inadequate) account of the negative externalities of fossil fuels.

Meanwhile, the cost of coal-fired electricity is heading up. It’s getting harder to finance coal plants in the face of competition from clean(er) energy, activist opposition, and the inevitability of some kind of carbon policy. Construction costs are rising. Transportation costs are rising. It’s getting harder to reach the coal that’s left in the ground. Etc.

The two lines — falling RE costs and rising coal costs — are going to cross. It’ll happen everywhere eventually. According to a Bloomberg New Energy Finance analysis, it’s already happened down under: "Renewable energy now cheaper than new fossil fuels in Australia."

this is a STATE'S issue... blame bazza...

Angry electricity customers threaten to fuel a voter backlash against any further move to privatise the state's power industry, amid record levels of NSW householders unable to pay soaring power bills.
A new Fairfax Media-Nielsen poll shows that 75 per cent of people surveyed would oppose selling the state's ''poles and wires'' - the part of the industry regarded by experts as the primary cause of power price increases.
Electricity prices have more than doubled over the past five years according to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal, adding $654 to the annual bill. More than half the bill is driven by the cost of the transmission and distribution networks. This includes the increased cost of upgrading the electricity network's ''poles and wires''.
Increases in power bills are affecting more families, with new data from the Electricity and Water Ombudsman showing 997 households were not able to pay their bills in the December quarter.
This was up more than 25 per cent on the September quarter, when 777 households were not able to pay their bills.
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it's an old-fashioned extortion racket ....

It's all a con Gus.

Successive NSW governments have turned the provision of whaywas once seen as an essential service into another level of GST.

When will NSW taxpayers wake-up to the fact that they are being conned by politicians from all sides when it comes to the issue of electricity & gas pricing?

Whilst the main front organisation responsible for enabling this criminal extortion racket, IPART, blames the high cost of funding the transmission & distribution networks (poles & wires) for the explosion in energy costs over the past 5 years, it has nothing to say about the billions of dollars in dividends reaped by the state government along the way.

And whilst the absolutely toothless & useless EWON wrings its precious little hands about the increasing number of consumers who simply can’t afford electricity or gas, it does absolutely nothing to expose the political racketeers responsible for the gigantic con being perpetrated against the residents of NSW.

As for the possible sale of the electricity network infrastructure, surely only a politician would try & justify the disposal of one taxpayer-owned asset for $3 billion, in order to fund the purchase of new assets.

Maybe we need a few Cypriots on 457 visas to show us how to sort-out our crooked politicians?

waiting for the pissweak abbott...


A “buyer's strike” by two of Australia's biggest electricity retailers is potentially stalling growth in the renewable energy industry just two weeks after the government gave its backing for the sector, a big renewable energy supplier said.
Andrew Richards, executive manager of corporate affairs at Pacific Hydro, said EnergyAustralia and Origin Energy, which control more than half the national electricity market, had halted the signing of long-term power purchase agreements with wind and other renewable energy suppliers, in effect blocking developers from securing loans for new projects.
“For whatever reason, they're just not contracting,” Mr Richards said. “Unless they start contracting, you just simply can't get the finance – particularly non-recourse project finance – to build these projects.”
Last month, the government agreed to leave the renewable energy target largely unchanged after its latest biennial review. Under the policy, large-scale generators must supply 41,000 gigawatt-hours of renewable energy annually by 2020.

Origin Energy's chief executive Grant King last month said renewables would supply closer to 27 per cent of electricity – exceeding the scheme's original target of 20 per cent – by the end of the decade.
Mr Richards said Origin and EnergyAustralia appeared to be adopting a wait-and-see approach before the election in September, betting that the Coalition would weaken the target if it won office.
“They're not really contemplating . . . a longer-term compliance strategy under the [renewable energy target]," he said.
Power purchase aggreements with the big three retailers ‘‘are available but not at prices that are attractive to Infigen’’, said Richard Farrell, investor relations manager at renewable energy generator, Infigen.

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joe hockey tells porkies....


The treasurer, Joe Hockey, used the September quarter inflation figures, released last week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, to have a (most likely not final) slap at the ALP government.

He noted that “inflation was above expectations in the last quarter, at 1.2%”. Rather astonishingly though, in his press conference he did not once mention that annual inflation was growing at a mere 2.2%. Neither did he see fit to mention that underlying inflation was running at 2.3% – in the bottom half of the RBA’s 2% to 3% target band – although both did at least get noted in his media release.

But even his media release was more about slapping the ALP for its “cost of living” increases. I noted the Liberal party’s fairly distorted view of cost of living during the election campaign, and once again Hockey used the seven categories most advantageous to his narrative.

In his press conference, electricity was the big focus. He noted that “the main drivers” of the increase in inflation “were the things that people have to pay for every day. In particular, electricity prices increased significantly in the last quarter, by 4.4%.”

Given electricity is one item which we don’t actually pay for every day, it was a bit of an odd link. We might use electricity every day, but most people pay for it in quarterly amounts. But that aside, he is right about the 4.4% increase.

However, the September quarter is the quarter which traditionally sees the biggest jump each year. In the past 10 years, only in 2008 was the September quarter not the quarter with the biggest increase in prices. And while Hockey was at pains to link it to the carbon price, the 4.4% increase is well in line with the increases observed in the September quarters of 2007 and 2008:


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See story at top...


dry weather, dust and light rain...

More than 20,000 Victorians are still without electricity following a series of power pole fires across Melbourne overnight.

Jemena supplies customers in Melbourne's north and this morning had more than 11,500 households or businesses without supply.

Essendon, Moonee Ponds and Pascoe Vale are among the suburbs affected.

United Energy says more than 12,000 customers in Melbourne's east and south-east are without power, including in Cheltenham, Oakleigh and Doncaster, but says staff are making progress.

"Our crews have been working right across the night and into the morning and they'll continue to do so all day to try to get [power back] as soon as possible," said Stuart Allott from United Energy.

Powercor is also working to re-connect customers in Melbourne's west, including in Sunshine and Werribee Laverton.

The power companies say weeks of dry weather combined with dust and light rain sparked the power pole fires.



you are CONnected to the poles and wires CON...


In the past few years, our electricity prices have doubled. While the media has feasted on the likes of pink batts, Peter Slipper and Craig Thomson, the astonishing story behind these price hikes has been all but ignored. And yet, it may be one of the greatest rorts in Australia’s history.

Since 2009, the electricity networks that own and manage our “poles and wires” have quietly spent $45 billion on the most expensive project this country has ever seen. Allowed to run virtually unchecked, they’ve spent vast sums on infrastructure we don’t need, and have charged it all to us, with an additional fee attached. The spending was approved by a federal regulator, and yet the federal government didn’t even note it until it was well underway.

Let’s be clear: this is the single biggest reason power prices have skyrocketed. According to the federal treasury, 51% of your electricity bill goes towards “network charges”. The carbon tax, despite relentless propaganda to the contrary, is small beer, comprising just 9%. The rest of your bill is carved up between those companies that actually generate your electricity (20%) and the retailers who package it up and sell it to you (20%). The Renewable Energy Target is such a small cost impost, the treasury’s analysis doesn’t even include it; the Australian Energy Market Commission says it makes up around 5%.

Thanks to the networks’ infrastructure binge, we now pay some of the highest prices in the developed world. The impact has been felt most keenly in New South Wales and Queensland, where the networks are government owned and network charges have accounted for two thirds of the price increases.

For a Coalition intent on destroying the carbon tax, the price hikes have been a gift – “proof” that the carbon tax is as ruinous as they predicted. Chris Dunstan, from the Institute for Sustainable Futures, thinks that what the networks have done over the past five years may actually be the secret to Tony Abbott’s success. “If electricity prices hadn’t doubled,” he says, “the carbon tax would not have been anything like the issue it was.”

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We've been on song for a while... See article at top...


we consume less electricity...



From Ross Gittins (SMH)


We know the two great certainties in life are death and taxes, but many thought there was a third: the inexorable rise in consumption of electricity. As the population grew and each of us got a little more prosperous each year, we'd use more power. The mighty electricity industry was built on that certainty.

Except that electricity consumption has been falling for the past four years. To say this has taken the industry by surprise is an understatement. For well over a century – even during the Great Depression – the quantity of electricity used in Australia each year was greater than the year before.

It took the industry and its regulators two or three years to accept the trend was more than just a hiccup on the ever-upward path, which delay probably added to the decline.

There are few aspects of the economy – global or national – where change is more significant, more diverse or more interesting than energy supply and demand – where energy covers coal, gas (conventional and unconventional), petroleum, wind, solar and other renewables. Expect to hear more from me on the topic.


But there are few questions more interesting than exactly why the unthinkable, a fall in electricity consumption, has come about. Short answer: a surprisingly large combination of reasons, although Tony Abbott's crusading against the carbon tax must get some of the credit.

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Thanks Ross, for this last bit of what I believe to be a well targeted sarcasm about Tony... Tony Abbott scare about the Carbon Pricing was quite minimal in reducing our consumption... It's only the rich people who as they had to pay the full brunt of the cost without the discount offered to people under a certain income threshold, who complained bitterly about having to pay about $500 a year for carbon pricing.
But as you say, the increase in cost was mostly due to gold plated poles and wires (see toon at top). Thus faced by a reduction of consumption due to factors as mentioned in your article, and increase of infrastructure cost and a fast recovery of these costs (in the past government would amortise this over 10 to 20 years — poles and wire company bank on 2 to 5 years recovery), the price of electricity has more or less doubled in four years...
We also know that Tony has no clue on what the future means in a global warming world since he does not believe in it...


See also:

In the past few years, our electricity prices have doubled. While the media has feasted on the likes of pink batts, Peter Slipper and Craig Thomson, the astonishing story behind these price hikes has been all but ignored. And yet, it may be one of the greatest rorts in Australia’s history.

Since 2009, the electricity networks that own and manage our “poles and wires” have quietly spent $45 billion on the most expensive project this country has ever seen. Allowed to run virtually unchecked, they’ve spent vast sums on infrastructure we don’t need, and have charged it all to us, with an additional fee attached. The spending was approved by a federal regulator, and yet the federal government didn’t even note it until it was well underway.

coincidence? bullshit!...

The timing of the carbon tax was “unfortunate” because it coincided with soaring electricity network costs that have underpinned increases to household bills, the head of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has told a forum in Brisbane.

The ACCC is next month due to hand to government its final report on the electricity market. The body’s chairman, Rod Sims, said on Monday he was unable to reveal specific details but gave some hints about the direction the inquiry had taken.

Unlike the interim report, which was released last year and which charted factors that had caused bills to increase over time, the next phase would outline a “tricky” path to ultimately bringing those prices down, Sims said.


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If you believe in "coincidences" in this electricity thingy, you are a mug. You will be mugged tomorrow by a couple of dead rats.

No, the wires and poles extravaganza was timely decided to correspond exactly with the "price on carbon" also called by our turdy-turd "the carbon tax". No coincidence to this, just a few friendly people running the pole and wire industry who may have thought how can we help our mates the Libs and muck up Julia Gillard? Answer: make people pay through the nose for replacement of wires and poles which within ten years will become obsolete because individuals will be able to collect and store their own electricity from the sun... I now this because as soon as Gillard was gone, the work on "replacing old poles" in my street stopped. Not by government decree, but by industry declaring "the job has been done". Boom.

too much sun... or too much bullshit?

Andrew Dillon of the network industry peak body, Energy Networks Australia (ENA), told 7.30 the way customers are charged for electricity has to change, or expensive upgrades to poles and wires will be needed to keep solar customers on the grid.

"The engineering reality is once we get too much solar in a certain space it does start to cause technical issues," he said.

"If there is too much energy coming back up the system in the middle of the day, it can cause frequency voltage disturbances in the system, which can lead to transformers tripping off to protect themselves from being damaged and that will cause localised blackouts.

"There are pockets of the grid already where we have significant penetration and we are starting to see technical issues."

However, he acknowledges that excess solar power has yet to cause any blackouts, or damage electricity infrastructure.

Economist says solar power threatens distributors' business model

The director of the Victorian Energy Policy Centre, Bruce Mountain, said when too many people rely on solar it threatens the very business model of the companies that own Australia's poles and wires.

"When the customers use the network less to buy centrally produced electricity, they ship less product," he said.

"When they ship less product, their underlying business is undermined, they need to charge more to the customers left and that leads to what has been called a death spiral.

"We are seeing rapid reductions in consumption at the point of use per household."

But Mr Dillon denies the distributors are acting out of self-interest.

"I absolutely reject that claim," he said.

"We, as networks, have an interest in is running a safe network, running a reliable network, enabling the transition to a low carbon future and doing all that while keeping costs down as much as possible."

Solar installers say the networks are holding back business

Around Australia the poles and wires companies can decide which solar systems can connect to the grid.

Small systems can connect automatically, but in some areas, those wanting a larger system can find themselves caught up in red tape.

The vice-president of the Australian Solar Council, Glen Morris, said these limitations were holding back solar installation businesses and preventing the take-up of new battery storage technology.

"If you've already got a five kilowatt system, your house is full as far as the network is concerned," Mr Morris said.

"You go to add a battery, that's another five kilowatts and so they say no you're already full … so you can't add storage to your solar system."

Mr Morris also said the networks had the capacity to solve the problem of any excess solar flows into the grid, and infrastructure upgrades were not necessary.

"They already have the capability to turn off your solar invertor whenever they feel like it," he said.

"If they choose to connect that functionality, it's there in the inverter. The customer already has it."

ENA has acknowledged there is frustration with rooftop system size limits in the solar industry. 

"What we are seeing is solar installers and others slightly frustrated at different requirements for different networks and sometimes they are unclear on the reasons for that," Mr Dillon said.

"Limitations are in place across the country to make sure the network stays safe and we don't have sudden rushes of people connecting to the grid that causes outage issues."

But Mr Mountain is unconvinced, calling the limitations "somewhat spurious".

"The published, documented, critically reviewed analyses are few and far between, so it is very easy for engineers to make these arguments and those in policy circles only have so much tolerance for the detail," he said.


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