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Rising electricity prices: causes and solutions. CEDA Energy Options Project Sydney, 14 November 2012. Bruce Mountain Director. Australian electricity prices in global context. Outline. What is the nature of the problem?. Where is the Problem ?. Solutions. Where is the problem?.

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Bruce Mountain Director

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Rising electricity prices: causes and solutions

CEDA Energy Options Project

Sydney, 14 November 2012

Bruce Mountain



What is the nature of the problem?

Where is the

Problem ?


where is the problem
Where is the problem?
  • Wholesale electricity market ?
  • Small scale renewables subsidies ?
  • Carbon ?
  • Retail competition ?
  • Capacity utilisation ?
  • Networks ?

Regulated assets of distribution service providers

Expansion of the RAB


Higher allowed returns on regulated assets by AER than ACCC or state regulators

why has this occurred
Why has this occurred ?

Possible explanations: Rising peak demand; ageing assets; historic underinvestment; customer density; planning standards ?

Some other possible explanations:

  • Bigger asset base = higher profits.
  • “Turbo-charged” asset base expansion incentive for government-owned service providers (because returns = profits + income tax + debt fees).
  • Underlying assumption that government-owned monopolies should be treated as if they are privately owned(but regulators turn a blind eye to state governments’ receipt of income tax and debt fee income)

With lucrative returns on offer, why should we expect that governments that own NSPs and collect their profits will put the long term interest of consumers first?

  • Privatisation
    • Resolves conflict of interest
    • Privately-owned firms more interested in maximising rate of return and so more receptive to regulatory incentives that reward reductions in opex and capex.
  • Changes to design and conduct of regulation
    • In absence of privatisation, state governments, not national/federal agencies should be responsible for trading-off the pleasure of the profits against the consequential pain at the ballot box.
    • Need to fundamentally re-think the use of five year price controls for government-owned service providers.
  • Consumer empowerment
    • Healthy markets rely on consumer-focused enterprises. Monopolies are no different.
    • Consumer empowerment is hard: Its always tempting to rely only on the advice of insiders.
    • But some encouraging evidence in North America. We should build on that.