OUR SAY: Power down, but not prices: answers on electricity needed

CRITICS of the Baird’ government’s decision to sell off the “poles and wires” of the NSW electricity network will be quick to seize on Saturday’s power failure across Orange as a sign of things to come if the privatisation goes ahead but service levels are only part of the picture.

As some commercial customers have noted, blackouts seem to have become more frequent in recent times, although at more than two hours and over 9000 customers, Saturday’s event was certainly one of the longest and most widespread.

The fair question to ask Essential Energy management is what caused the system failure in the William Street sub station and could it be attributed to poor maintenance, a lack of investment in an aging network or was it an entirely unforeseeable problem?

The answer needs to be detailed open and verifiable.

When Mayor John Davis calls the power supplier today he could do worse than run the explanation past Cr Ron Gander, council’s resident (albeit retired) electricity worker. Cr Davis should also consult with member for Orange Andrew Gee, who has opposed the sale. 

Between them the three should be able to tell the public, and particularly those in business who faced commercial losses, whether this latest failure is an indication that the network is not up scratch.

On the broader question of whether the distribution network should be sold, a great deal has been written by commentators and critics of the sale which indicates that guaranteed returns on investment to electricity suppliers have encouraged the so-called “gold plating” of the electricity network.

Furthermore, the dividends paid by state owned power companies to the government have also been an enormous disincentive for governments to rein in prices to consumers.

Supply interruptions in Orange make it hard to believe the network here is anything like “gold plated” but regardless of the state of infrastructure here or the abolition of the carbon tax, it is hard to imagine power prices coming down significantly unless the business structure of the electricity industry is totally overhauled.


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