It’s no surprise that the Queensland government has just reported a $1.2 billion dividend from state owned distributors Energex and Ergon. Add to that the interest these corporations now pay on behalf of the state on the newly acquired $2 billion of shifted debt (about $60 million a year), and you have to wonder why there isn’t a Royal Commission in the winds.
The simple fact is the government needs money from wherever it can get it, and electricity distribution has been padded and prodded into a perfect cash machine.
Retailers are reporting record disconnections of people simply unable to support the new daily access charges and the still high energy charges that appear every quarter.
Now, as with telephony, bills are now being offered monthly, all – they say – to assist with bill shock. This will no doubt add to retailer’s expenses in your quarterly or new monthly bill, which again will end up as an unavoidable network charge. So the death spiral continues.
The longer we continue to accept these “stealth taxes” the more likely they are going to be included in the income calculations provided in the prospectuses for privatisation of state owned assets.
As each unfair and seemingly illegal cost increase is justified by “cross-subsidisation” arguments by political incumbents, the public are blind to the re-labeling or camouflaging of these costs as legitimate to distributing electricity.
The next will be a charge to subsidise the poorest 20 per cent of customers from rising charges, only to be borne by business, large users and, in defiance of the rules, solar PV owners.
And do not be surprised if these assets owned by what is now a corporation somehow revert to being an essential state utility, only for as long as it takes to make network access charges compulsory, even if you don’t use those assets.
There seems absolutely no interest by either party to address the ever increasing bulking up of utility costs in order to achieve yearly income, or in the case of the southern states, a large cash injection from the sale of these quasi taxation agencies.
It doesn’t take a genius to see how charges are being disguised and relabeled year on year to hide their real purpose; to increase revenues and dividends to either state governments or new indentured overlords. Whoever thought a monopoly could or should be commercialised and indeed privatised should have their head read!
Rob Compbell is managing director of Vulcan Energy and a member of the Clean Energy Council