Australia’s New South Wales inquiry calls for power privatisation

11 September 2007 – The New South Wales Premier, Morris Iemma, has indicated he is prepared to consider a part privatisation of the electricity industry, after an inquiry examining future energy needs strongly urged power retailers be sold.

A report released by the head of the inquiry, Professor Anthony Owen, says the state needs to prepare for the construction of a new base-load generator now in order to meet future power demands.

Professor Owen says energy efficiency measures and renewables will help but what is needed is either a coal- or gas-fired power plant.

He says the State Government could be facing an A$15bn ($12.354bn) bill without private investment. He is recommending the privatisation of energy retailers and selling or leasing power generators.

Mr Iemma says the leasing option is an attractive one and the state might consider retaining assets such as Energy Australia but selling their retail licences. He says the Government will now analyse the report and develop a formal response.

The executive director of the Sydney Chamber of Commerce, Patricia Forsythe, says the report has sent a clear signal to the State Government.

“Business certainly welcomes the Owen inquiry but if the Government stops short and only privatises at the retail level, it is at least a way forward,”Ashe said.