Greens establish Senate Inquiry into Queensland electricty price rorting

The Australian Greens have today succeeding in establishing a Senate Inquiry into whether electricity companies, including Energex, have provided misleading data to the Australian Energy Regulator in setting their prices.

“With a whistle blower coming out in Queensland with claims that Energex manipulated data to hike up Queenslanders’ electricity bills, and with similar examples across other states, we need to get to the bottom of why our energy system isn’t serving households or the environment,” Senator Christine Milne, Leader of the Australian Greens, said.

“Poles and wires make up half the cost of electricity bills and have been by far the biggest cause of rising power bills over the past five years.

“This inquiry will uncover whether this infrastructure was really needed or whether the system is being used by electricity companies as a money spinner.

“The Greens want to drive reform in our electricity market so that Australians can control their own power bills through solar energy and we can enable the smart and local clean energy systems of the future.

“It is now clear that centralised, big business monopolies are a thing of the past,” Senator Milne said.

Greens Queensland Senator, Larissa Waters, said: “With Campbell Newman trying desperately to sell off public infrastructure, the Greens will be looking to find out whether Energex has been given the go ahead to fatten up the pig before the slaughter of privatisation.

“Our Sunshine State is leading the way in creating a localised clean energy future with more than 400 000 homes having solar, that’s one in five homes.

“More and more Queenslanders are controlling their own bills through solar and the Greens want to help expand the spread of solar to protect Queenslanders from Energex and Premier Newman’s privatisation plans,” Senator Waters said.

Inquiry terms of reference:

Leader of the Australian Greens (Senator Milne): To move—

That the following matter be referred to the Environment and Communications References Committee for inquiry and report by the first sitting day in March 2015:

(a) the manner in which electricity network companies have presented information to the Australian Energy Regulator (AER), and whether they have misled the AER in relation to:

(i) their weighted average costs of capital,

(ii) the necessity for the infrastructure proposed,

(iii) their regulated asset valuations, and

(iv) actual interest rates claimed against actual borrowing costs;

(b) How electricity companies including State Government owned electricity companies such as Energex have calculated the weighted average cost of capital and how this measure has changed over time;

(c) Where anomalies are identified in relation to price structuring or allegations of price rorting by electricity companies including State Government owned electricity companies such as Energex are raised, that these matters are investigated by a national independent body created by the Federal Government with the required powers and reach to investigate and prosecute where necessary;

(d) to ascertain whether state-owned network companies have prioritised their focus on future privatisation proceeds above the interests of energy users;

(e) whether the arrangements for the regulation of the cost of capital are delivering allowed rates of return above the actual cost of capital;

(f) whether the AER has actively pursued lowest-cost outcomes for energy consumers;

(g) whether network monopolies should have the right to recover historic overspending that has delivered unwanted and unused infrastructure;

(h) how the regulatory structure and system could be improved;

(i) whether the arrangements for the connection and pricing of network services is discriminating against households and businesses that are involved in their own electricity production;

(j) whether the current system provides adequate oversight of electricity network companies; and

(k) any other related matter.