An honest opinion – Why Electricity Prices are Rising

It started, if one cannot express an honest opinion to one another – than we have no freedom. So why was a recent writer not particularly pleased when we said: “The ‘why’ needs a follow up and maybe a sharper focus on the Institute of Public Affairs motivations”? By this was meant they are an institution that makes a claim as the ‘The Voice of Freedom – Freedom and Optimism” – yet they seem so negative to progress and innovation. So we feel it is fair to say what motivates needs a sharper focus.

What was it all about? It started with the comment: “Good article on the ‘what’ – Elegant, eloquent, easy to read. The ‘why’ needs a follow-up and maybe a sharper focus on the Institute of Public Affairs motivations? That regulators tend to anticipate growth and expenditure from information supplied by the networks. Then there is the ‘how’. How did this happen, or at least more detail on the how! For instance: Is falling demand from energy efficiency, or the commercial sector in decline and/or manufacturing slowdowns/showdowns. Will it happen anyway because to be more effective you need to be more efficient? “ The article being commented on was “Why Electricity Prices are Rising, 27 June 2014” – posted by Turlough Guerin. In the preamble he said “When I worked in the telecommunications sector someone told me that you don’t need a PhD to understand how pricing works – but it sure helps. Perhaps the same holds for electricity. However there is no doubt that power prices are rising across Australia. This is clear not only from federal government statistics, but you need look no further than your power bill with the average household now paying close to $1000 each year.”

But, CO2Land org finds a major issue with the use of past data in determining the facts. – For instance the variable are changing in their focus, the model of the business are changing or at least being forced to change. More importantly the changes are being driven by the need to more efficient. All brought about the world wanting us to be measured on comparative advantage of our products. It you do not believe us: Why is carbon a focus elsewhere in the world? Why is it that penalties are being sought against those that do not seriously consider carbon in the world markets? This is not an argument on the setting of the price, it is about the need to be aware that future predictions from past data is dangerous, and you must consider the circumstances are changing.

In the article above, it was good, but only because it was the first installment in what should be a series of facts being presented. For instance we could write about why Victoria sold it assets and that at that time Victoria had an excessive redundant infrastructure available, and this gave rise to ‘a good buy’ to those that buy the asset with a cash cow potential. Bring that forward to today, and those that own the Victorian Assets have a conundrum; the private owners need to find more money to improve the services in a tight market. Now if we move to NSW, today, we see a very different problem; they are trying to sell a run down network that might not be viable to buy. Queensland has another set of problems and the long runs between population centres and the concentration of the southeast corner make dissimilar circumstances that make it difficult to say a common variable affects the business.

All that said what are the variables? We propose a new model the give weight to:

  • What is the costs to maintain the existing the Poles and Wires (Transmission and Distribution networks)
  • What is the costs of stink of politics – Science v’s Fiction argument
  • The reality of a carbon market and its global significance to our local markets
  • The existing infrastructure – new and aging generation coefficients
  • The existing infrastructure – transmission and distribution future needs
  • The infrastructure – gas system – this is a very complex issue as it is sensitive not just to the environment as it is to world politics. In effect we have very little control of what is happening in that industry. Why because the deals done elsewhere are linking the gas price to movements on peak oil price predictions.
  • The potential of the suite of alternative energy sources. This means the current infrastructure is very likely redundant. The really sensitive fact is that the models of distribution will change because of it.
  • The Electricity Demand. Be it new or additional generation, the transmission and distribution constraints, the regulator findings or simply consumer behaviour (despite climate change); the biggest problem is the supply demand balancing equation. The supply demand balancing equation is persistent is being 20% of the time is setting 80% of the costs. It then follows that of that 20 % of time the larger costs are 80% likely to occur 5% of the time. With this sort of issue it become apparent consumer behaviour set the theme. We should also put out there to you business slowdowns affect consumer behaviour.

That last comment leads us to the question: Is electricity a commodity or a service? It is not a new question, and political ideology will elicit different answers. Our point is no mater what you think the provision of electricity does determine if we are third world or not. In the pure sense price is simply the cost of providing? Ironically, when you crunch the numbers of our Treasury recommendations our ‘budget emergency’ does seem to settle on 17% increases in everything as good. Justifying the need is far more complex.

So while we liked the quoted story, it is only the first part of a big story. If you are looking for a really good read of how it all happened in Australia, read: Booth Robert R (2000) Warring Tribes: the story of power development in Australia, West Perth WA: Bardak Group. Robert is no longer with us, but bet you he would have plenty to say – had he been here.

 

 

 

 

The wax lyrical, but fact – bad behaviours in the Energy Industry

The Checkout in its wax lyrical style ran a story on Energy contracts including exit fees.  Had we not seen it we may have felt we were alone in our concern for the behaviours in the industry. Obviously, this media version was directed for the public appetite, but the story is based on fact! Consumer laws are very weak and the National Electricity Laws strongly favour the Energy Companies.

The Checkout story was run on the ABC (Australian) on 26 June 2014, 8PM. It is also interesting that it did not highlight a single company practicing or should we say taking advantage of ‘trust me’ then doing the screw you turn on you the user – it highlighted a common practice among many retailers in the industry. We appreciate residential customers have some protections, but that in NSW is set to change or should we say leave many people further exposed to the behaviours. Whilst the market will be fully deregulate, it would seem the Laws and rules of the industry will not be amended soon.

Those with legal training, or savvy enough will avoid the pitfalls and probity issues of the simple thing and essential commodity – energy needs. However, in a conversation with the other side (a energy retailer) recently they admitted that they too found it difficult to follow the rules. Why, consider this: You want to change the wording on your contract – a simple word change on a clause. You have a dispute and that word is found to ‘not flow’ with the rest of the contract. Therefore the wording of the National Electricity Law is to be relied on. It overrides what is written in your contract. Ok that is the scary part. The practical is that mum and dad’s are told ‘we care, we will look after you, you will save, that’s good is it not ‘– you say yes, and Call Centre then declares you are now under contract. So simple – but, you don’t save. That issue is covered off so well in The Checkout Story.

Business customers have a little more exposure in that depending on their size, according to the market, as opposed to Corporations Law, they will need to be careful of the Energy Service Agreement (ESA), the Contract, they have presented to them. For instance, most have terms and conditions in the standard form that will penalize for exceeding consumption caps. The penalty can result in the price offered being withdrawn and you being placed on a default tariff that can be hundreds of percent higher than what you negotiated. Another trap is that you need to be mindful that the network charges are not negotiated in most standard form agreements. You might say, the rules say a network tariff review must be conducted – but beware it is not binding on the retailer that they be negotiated unless stipulated on the contract.

That last paragraph also highlights what you need to know. Your consumption caps are not binding on the network company. The ESA is a contract for supply from the retailer – it protects the retailers from its risk in the market. The transport and distribution networks will rely on what is the constraints of the system and set limits as it sees affects its asset. An example: Your retailer ESA says 20% variation allowed. Your network company – generally a default and deemed contract according to law, say we will impose a demand tariff on you when you exceed 160MWh per annum load. It may be good it may be bad depending on your circumstance. But, what is does not do is connect your circumstance to your ESA. You should also be aware the majority of business is distribution connected and prices set for the transport are determined by an approved formula. If you are large enough to be classified for a transmission connection you can have sway in contracting and negotiating what you take from the system. For the very large customer you also need a team of lawyers to complete the deal.

Now, all above is about import power, what if you want to export power – small scale generation – well what was called a power purchase arrangement (PPA) is now a Energy Supply Agreement (ESA) as described by the Australian Energy Regulator (AER). Before we go any further did you notice the near same term and the same acronym meaning something similar but very different in what it does. To use the words of our good friends Solar Professionals: “Can I start by saying that the creation of an ESA template is both very expensive and lengthy in duration. Multiple legal aspects have to be considered when drafting these contracts, from property law, banking institution requirements, GST impacts, numerous funding and system requirements not the mention standard consumer law principals and all the requirements from the AER.” We include this to let you know what is needed is complex and has a very detailed need.

So what started off as a wax lyrical presentation, now shaped the focus on what (watt) can really hurt you – electricity! We guess once the carbon tax is gone, another way to tax will follow! Lets us be a little devil – they might impose a transport tax on delivering you energy? Well it makes sense – they make the electrons cheaper but now the transport cost is fairer?

On that matter of the Carbon Price our politicians are saying they will force the ‘energy companies to pass on the savings’. Did you know the majority of your Carbon Price is blended into your network charges? It is not transparent. The energy retailers cannot unbundle what the network companies levy you. Maybe the politicians need an education too! Yeah, that has appeal – Politicians ESA 101. Or more correctly they might prefer: The tax is dead, long live the tax!

 

Penalties for Solar – with and without

A chook farmer said I love my chooks, I tried to be responsible and I get kicked in the head. It is making us sick and the business will suffer. The sin – the family business wanted to install Solar Arrays 99kW of – trying to make it better all round.

The Background:

The chook farm (Poultry) is in the Barnaby Joyce/Kevin Anderson territory and the owners were trying to put to rest concerns over the industries practices. That is they wanted to build a better environment for their chooks. The attraction of going for Solar PV – because it made good sense and the flexibility of the installation would give the chooks the opportunity to live more of their existence in more comfortable digs. These solar panels allowed a bit of innovation in the design of the system and they could use the panels to shade the chooks. The extensions to the sheds would provide safe free space in a commercial environment.

You know what – he had a bad idea. The energy retailer said no way you cannot change your import profile. The energy retailers export part of the group – they would be the buyer of the export energy said – sorry cannot help you. The other end of the scale, being the solar supplier business said we couldn’t guarantee the small-scale renewable certificate price in the contract either. It follows that is an estimate only and the SRES is under review. Interestingly, at this point the discussion gets down to, is the government policy or the governments position that influences the price. After all it is the government policy that sets the price – and they have a position the market is influenced by the policy! We suspect they have not thought that through themselves either.

Here we had a bank-approved investment of greater than $300,000 to create a better place for the chooks and the environment hanging by a thread. The energy retail company that sold itself as having a customer charter to help you and the environment broke the thread.

Solar out, done, dusted – the chook farmer still had to run a business. Should we say business as usual – old sheds, no runs, no nirvana, just the same situation dollars are king.

They still need electricity – the most crucial need is the tunnel ventilation systems – half an hour without – 7000 chooks with heat exhaustion – gone.

After the energy retailer making it clear they are not interested, the cavalry comes from another retailer, they send out notices 1000CR, and the old retailer says we have no objections (initial resistance then they notify they have no objections to the new retailer) and the changeover happens – the difference in price is also outstanding and the chook farmer can now buy new equipment and build new facilities with the savings in the energy price – yes, they got a price so good – the difference could be put into improvements and make it better for the much loved chooks. It all looked like a ‘win win’ situation or should we say ‘cluck cluck’ – even a t-shirt is printed and proudly worn saying ‘cluck cluck’.

All goes well for a couple of months – then the letter. The old retailer demands $10,182.92. Those charges being listed as “adjustment Early Termination Fee – $9,257.20 and the remainder regulated fees and other government charges. They said the farmer broke their contract and fees are payable.

Extremely bazaar behavior is that the old retailer ignored requests for transparency of the charges and to explain how is was reasonable in the demand – in fact they have also ignored that the new retailer offered to give back the customer without penalty from them – you can assume the old retailer only wants the money. This is the same retailer who refused to entertain the new system without penalties according to their terms of contract. The term is generally called consumption caps or similar.

Maybe the old retailer sees it all as a lucky dip – a chance to double dip. As Co2Land Org posted in the story on selling short, 23 June 2014, they do not want the customer to consume as they have already resold the capacity and the penalty is ‘money for jam’ so to speak. Where it came to the Solar PV, maybe it was a long selling issue and they are exposed to having too much liability in the market and government inconsistency of their position or policy is causing some angst at the commercial level. However, it still seems very plausible they intend to double dip no matter what.

Now our chook farmer has a delicate situation – kill the purpose of innovation – blame the world – and give in. No they are not giving in – they really care – they love chooks – it is about giving the chooks a good life for ours too they say. But, does anyone else care! We bet a lot of farmers feel exactly the same!

Listed now are some of the problems they have to put up with in trying to communicate with the old retailer:

  • Sometimes they spell my name correctly, sometimes not and it may seem a small communication matter, but it is a communication issue.
  • They use common terms to mean other things. Even lawyers get confused with what is meant. We have gone from “No further action” to “discuss payment” being the same thing.
  • They have ignored our request to show the charges are reasonable.
  • Without our knowledge we were ‘deemed to be on contract called an Energy Service Agreement (ESA) which is what we are penalized for.
  • We will now very likely have notes on our credit reference that is adverse or at least noted.
  • Our new retailer wrote saying the old retailer lifted objections to the transfer.
  • The old retailer gamed by remaining silent to them intending to penalise while the changeover happened, and the dust to settle.
  • They remained silent on their plan, and they issued no written notice or objection.
  • It took so long to anyone to listen – then we get a sort of answer. Finally, an apology – I (singular) was on leave but the hanging out will continue sort of thing.
  • If you ring them twice in the space of 10 minutes you will get different answers to our questions.
  • They are fast to answer the phone, but very slow or hinder progress on complaints.

We have checked out the options and went to the government website ‘energy made easy’, and it suggests you lay your complaint with the Energy and Water Ombudsman NSW (EWON).

Our want:

Go away old retailer, what has come back is bewildering and we believe wrong.

 

Selling short in the energy market – symptom or disease

Have you ever suspected your Energy Company of gaming the rules? Consider this: A energy retailer in NSW has argued they can remain silent on an energy supply transfer and then penalise the customer with adjusted early termination fees. Small business is particularly vulnerable to this activity. Have you been affected? Speak up now.

We write this after a story recently ran that was commissioned by the St Vincent De Paul, 28 May 2014, ‘Energy Retailer not Adequately Disclosing Additional Fees’. It would seem some success has been the outcome. You may find similar matters very common for small business and the protection is less clear. It also follows that small business can be classified under the electricity rules as large when under company rule they are small business. The tactics of taking advantage of a customer is part of our story.

Consider the retailers argument: Section 6.10 AEMO rules prevent them objecting to Transfers in NSW. A wonderful twist that Tony the Weasel would be proud of for sure. What this retailer then did was objected to a ‘to the market to transfer DCL’ (Form called a CR1000) and then withdrew the objection. They then remained silent on their intention to levy the charge. In one instance we know of near $10,000 is the adjusted fee charged.

We find it difficult to think other than they are gaming the rules and defining as it suites them. They are embarking on ‘it may be immoral, but is not illegal’ game at the expense of a trust in what we say not what we do.

If you want more evidence consider that the Energy and Water Ombudsman NSW (EWON) web site is showing up to 85% increase on complaints with energy retailers in 2013, benchmarked over 2012 figures. Just imagine what 2014 must have in store for the Ombudsman.

If we go back to the reference instance – it was claimed they broke a deemed supply agreement and fees are payable. The retailer then ignored requests for transparency of the charges and to explain how is was reasonable to claim so much money. The retailer even ignored that the new retailer offered to give back the customer without penalty to any party. It became obvious the old retailer only want the money and not the customer.

What is wrong with that – big business only says show me the money! We are all nothing but an asset.

Our frustration is such that when we looked for an explanation it seems most feasible that the retailer is actually short in the market for black energy. This term is where it is not renewable or green sources. In effect a panic that they are overexposed to the renewable market because of the current government sending out signals ‘old king coal’ will reign for some time. It follows that the amount of contracted energy into the future and the books determine the risk of that business. It would seem the retailer does not want you to consume black energy, nor do they want you to export renewable energy – you might notice if had considered putting in Solar Array, either covertly or overtly you might be discouraged.

If you accept this short sell idea you could consider the behaviour of finding reason to add fees to your exit is akin to double dipping. They want you to pay for what they do not have, or they have already sold it elsewhere. Possibly this matter should go before the AER, they are quoted as saying they have an eye on these sort of things.

If you check out the AER site and the government site www.energymadeeasy.gov.au you will notice they recommend you lay a complaint with the Energy and Water Ombudsman NSW (EWON). If you do so you should definitely know your wants for any outcome.

One want we recommend you consider is consistent and effective communication is your right.

 

Want less intrusive government and good policy – US influencers

Bloomberg reports the US republicans can warm to a carbon tax. Why? Because it is a solution that does not require subsidies to work and it allows the market forces to set the economic response. The hook – all the money is used to offset income tax.

Now back home, despite previously advocating a Carbon Tax as late as 2009, the conservative Australian Government is set about to dismantle the carbon price (also referred to as the carbon tax) and preferring to introduce other taxes/charges/fees that will be greater than the impost of the Carbon Tax. Considerable opposition to the plan is gathering pace, and it is based on the uncertainty of the alternative measures.

So how do the Americans intend to sell the Carbon Tax and what is the appeal that is persuasive for the Republicans? For a start in the main economists agrees a tax is the way to put downward pressure on emissions. The Republicans don’t like quantitative emissions controls, caps on emissions, or subsidies. However, they do like market forces to organise an economic response. The selling point is that emission can be cut where the market finds it is easier and cheaper to do so.

Now we hear the argument: ‘Some’ Republicans oppose the notion that Climate Change even exits! Well to use the President of the Australian Solar Council words spoken on 5 June 2014, when politicians resist they will come around to change their thinking easy enough. You could interpret that as – I oppose to recognise because change present problems that require actions. You could also say in ‘yes minister’ style: One will be courageous when it becomes unavoidable. You could say if you reduce the risk, and it is to reduce the likely hood of a voter backlash it is a good thing.

To follow on with the tax argument, we quote: “Instead of listing all the fine things a carbon tax could buy — some tax cuts here, a bit of budget-deficit reduction there, and plenty left over for additional spending on infrastructure and other good things — advocates of such a tax should simply offer to give back all the revenue in the form of tax cuts elsewhere.

It’s a worthwhile trade because a tax is by far the best way to reduce carbon emissions, which again is the whole point of this exercise. Consider a modest tax of $16 a ton of carbon dioxide, rising at 4 percent a year above inflation. It would reduce power-sector emissions by more than the EPA proposals for the energy sector would, and curb emissions across the rest of the economy as well.

A $16 a ton tax would also add about 16 cents to the price of a gallon of gasoline and raise household energy costs by 5 percent to 20 percent, depending on the source. Such costs — to “families and businesses,” of course, because what politician in his right mind wants to impose a new tax on families and businesses? — are most often cited by opponents of the tax.

The answer is twofold. Yes, families and businesses would be paying a new tax. But no, families and businesses would not be paying more tax. The new carbon tax would raise about $1 trillion over 10 years and almost $3 trillion over 20 — a handy sum. That would be enough to send every U.S. resident a check for about $300 in the first year (with bigger checks to follow) or $1,200 for a family of four. It would be more than enough to cut the corporate tax rate to 28 percent from 35 percent, for instance, or take a bite out of payroll taxes, or some of both.

This would inevitably lead to an argument over which taxes to cut. At which point, admittedly, the debate could bog down all over again. But at least it would be framed by a shared assumption: that a carbon tax is good policy. It gets liberals a more effective climate policy, and Republicans a less intrusive government.

To contact the senior editor responsible for Bloomberg View’s editorials: David Shipley at davidshipley@bloomberg.net.”

Now back in Australia, eh what was the problem? I guess we have an issue with setting our priorities – we prefer to impress bar flies!

energy efficiency barriers – problem 1,2,3

They are at the end of political and economic capital and old Generation assets have a problem – they are competing with innovation that promotes efficiency. The problem is not new, just reborn ideals that have new tools available. Recently the ACT Energy Minister said it very well (as reported this week in the RENeweconomy ) as the real issue is not that wind, solar and other technologies are added to the grid. It’s that old and inefficient generators are refusing to leave. Therefore new renewables are not the problem.

Looking at the problems of our energy system as a whole CO2Land org sees, just like our bills read – three pricing areas that can be improved. Or should we say need to be addressed.

Problem 1 – the price of energy is set by a market mechanism that in Australia is opportunistic. Old inefficient generators can remain viable by gaming based on availability and triggers to elevate prices. So long as they remain the ‘baseload’ capability and sufficient ‘events’ occur in the market they will remain viable. With or without a renewable target review, the Old King Coal will remain. But we will pay more – not less. Why? Like an old car it needs maintenance and those costs must be passed through. Of course the fuel cost factors in too.

Problem 2 – the Grid system is a capital hungry beast. Both transmission and distribution networks (poles and wires) are encouraged to overinvest. Overinvestment is encouraged in the name of reliability and capability. How can this be necessary? Our regulatory system set the network charges and penalties. When the prices are set for the charges (network tariffs) the weighted cost of capital and the need for maintenance and cash injections need to be reliably for at least 5 years is part of the formulae. Estimated is approximately 10% more is payed than need be – with or without a carbon price – OK!

So what should we do? Agree to keep up prices or encourage a write down of the asset – In 1996 or thereabouts the answer was do no maintenance other than priority works. The system had sufficient redundancy that it could take it. In this way privatisation can look promising. Then some time later the capital injections will be required again and up go costs – it does sound very much like todays 2014 talk too does it not!

Problem 3 – the issue of managing costs to consumers. This is the vexed issue – the supply side believes costs should go up, demand side costs should go down. Therefore you could say energy efficiency means demand decreases and prices will go down. But, think this Problem 2 shows the networks are overinvested and cost will be recovered even if not actually expended – they can be anticipated! Then think Problem 3, the market anticipates events 5% of the time and this accounts for 20% of the costs. A nice little earner lost if you change that!

We know some of you will be saying but a capacity market will fix that, just change the rules will be your cry. The reality those with the courage to change things will have 5 years to bring about the change and then need to predict 2 years in advance. They will need to establish how to impose penalties on the gamers. And, we know the gamers are very good at lobbying for no change. They might even say climate change bah humbug!

But, you know all three problems have another issue: Each problem area participant can be asked what does efficiency mean to you – The answers are very likely to differ and that is an issue for policy makers too. Think this – Federal government will side with security of supply, state with balance of supply and local and consumers with the cost of supply. Makes for interesting responses does it not!

Have a chuckle – without coal we are third world!

We had a chuckle when we were told carbon is killing jobs. If it were not for the coal industry we would be a third world country was said. Then chided in a fellow that looked Greek but claimed he is Irish; I was born and bred in the Albury district, and when I was a boy we were told the Myrtleford area in Victoria would die without the Tobacco industry. Tobacco farms were everywhere it was the lifeblood of the community. Well, Myrtleford has survived and it one of the true natural beautiful places in the world and extremely well sought after and prosperous – and no Tobacco – all gone. Mark my words, we can live without coal too – Australia I mean!

All this kicked off over the words ‘natural resource’ and even if it was harmful it was a natural product and this should be sufficient when combined with the economic benefits of the use of. Therefore it was reasonable to consider the claims to the extent that the economy would suffer without Coal Mines. It was concluded that problems would exist, but it was overblown in the effect. The overblown claims had one purpose – to appeal to public perceptions and gaunter support for its importance – and the industry’s survival. The difficulty for the industry is they want us to completely ignore market realities. For instance the falling off of demand, price, and global imposts on carbon pricing. So much influence has those factors got that a local view has no relevance anyway!

So we must say, for local views to be true they would need to defy what is the evidence for existing National and Global infrastructure and markets. Take for instance this story:

Coal not bedrock of Hunter Valley economy, jobs, By Sophie Vorrath on 13 June 2014: “ A new study has found a huge gap between public perception of the coal industry’s importance to the NSW economy and jobs, and the reality of its contribution to the state’s coffers and its people.

The report, Seeing through the dust: Coal in the Hunter Valley economy, launched by the Australia Institute on Friday, finds that Hunter Valley residents believe the local coal industry employs four times more people than it does, and that coal royalties contribute 10 times more income to the NSW Budget than is the case.

It’s a discrepancy, says the report’s author, Roderick Campbell, that illustrates how successful the industry has been in inflating its importance.”

The story goes on to say:

“The coal industry’s public statements invariably emphasise its apparent economic importance. But when the industry is placed in context we see that coal is not the bedrock of the Hunter economy,” and

“The reality is that 95 per cent of Hunter workers do not work in the coal industry and only 2 per cent of NSW government revenue comes from coal royalties.”

As Co2Land org has already mentioned. It is an issue Australia wide. Actually, it may be better described as a global issue of national importance. When you look strategically, it is seen as a war! The tools used are the spread of ‘misconception’, or distortion of truth.

In the article above and reported elsewhere is that the United States (US) has introduced new Environment Protection Agency (EPA) regulations that outline and describe misconception as a war on American jobs, economic growth, and GDP. The point of these regulations is a focus on CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants.

In the media US economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman recently wrote, “coal mining accounts for only one-sixteenth of 1 percent of overall US employment; shutting down the whole industry would eliminate fewer jobs than America lost in an average week during the Great Recession of 2007-9.” The columnist goes on to say “the so-called war on coal – or on coal workers – this happened a generation ago, waged not by liberal environmentalists but by the coal industry itself,” when it turned to machinery to produce more coal, using far less miners. And coal workers lost”. We need to note here that in Australia our Liberal Party is not liberal, it is better described as Tea Party like. It is confusing, but!

Despite all the grand rhetoric, the bigger issue facing the coal industry is cost, and its cost position as the global shift to low-carbon technologies begins to render the fossil fuel uncompetitive. As an aside all are now called ‘natural fuels’ and it might seem ‘clean’ is gone from the Australian policy.

Back to the Hunter Valley, the Seeing through the dust report is quoted “the a subsidiary of Brazilian mining giant, Vale, sacked 500 workers from the Glennies Creek underground and Camberwell open cut mines near Singleton, blaming poor global coal prices for its decision”.

We can only comment with: The spin is spinning, but in the end it will get down to cost – but we don’t need to pay the earth!

 

Inappropriate electricity tariffs – it will cost you!

Inappropriate electricity tariffs have the potential to cost excessive amounts of money for the unwary. In NSW for instance, the National Electricity Law (NSW) has gaps in it you can drive a truck through. Consider this: Energy Retailers might know you are paying too much for your network charges, and they take no action. The Energy Retailer can request a review of your charges, but apart from a newly introduced mandatory review period, may not provide this service. One retailer even provided proof in saying the do not have the systems in place to be proactive on behalf of the Customer. In other words it may be immoral, but it is not illegal to withhold the service. CO2Land org has written evidence that one NSW small business has claims of having been on an inappropriate network tariff and it costing them as much as 72% more than needed to pay – how much? Almost a quarter of a million dollars ($250,000)!

Another issue is that a deemed contract can exist whether you are aware or not, and it may be a simple communication error that costs you dearly. As a residential customer it may cost you up to $220 because you entered into a new Energy Service Agreement (ESA) and were not aware you were already contracted to another retailer. The charge is a break contract fee. It will not be transparent and a St Vincent De Paul commissioned report suggests it is also unreasonable.

A similar break fee event, that CO2Land org is aware of, involves a Commercial and Industrial (C&I) customer with an annual energy spends of approximately $50,000 pa. This small business was invoiced in excess of $10,000 (including government fees and charges) for breaking a deemed contract. In that invoice no attempt was made to show how the number was arrived at other than the words ‘to cover costs’ and a list of the government charges. The source of these two examples here is Wintelboff – www.wintelboff.com .

Possibly you should contact your favourite energy advisory and have them look at your bills?

Co2Land org is also aware that through the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) and in conjunction with Carbon Training International (CTi) ‘Energy Management Basics Training for Business’ is available. The ‘plug’ is because they also offer to review your billing as part of the class exercise, and provide up to 15 hours of technical advice as part of the course.

We are also aware the NSW Business Chamber is offering discounts to its members of up to 19% if they use Energetics to participate in the Business Chamber’s ‘Better Energy Manager Program’.

Which of these groups is better? It really gets down to cost. The benefits are obvious if you are paying too much.

If we go back to the National Electricity Law (NSW) and the way it is framed – sounds like a Roger Rabbit episode! A quick read will make it clear the consumer advocacy part is weak. A large business must engage through a complex process for its matter to be heard. [As an aside a business can be classified as large if it has energy consumption greater than 160MWh pa. However, it may not be large under taxation and corporate laws]. If you need to go to court over your energy bills, the dispute resolution it will be classified along corporate laws. You could be excused for being confused! A course of dispute resolution is to go to the Energy and Water Ombudsman NSW (EWON). What you should know is EWON is not a government-sponsored body – it is industry member sponsored. The body can also make the choice to be involved in disputes? They will make legally binding judgements, but they decide whether to be involved and you must have your wants clearly made and they must be for more than moral issues. They also have guidelines in the use of the body. Currently, you need to have an annual turnover of less than $2million, employ less that 20 people and be a family run business. Some variation to these guidelines are possible, but you might need to contact them if you have questions www.ewon.com.au .

If you did not know there is ‘spin’ that all this be fixed when the assets are sold? As it happens the poles and wires – the network companies in NSW are state government businesses. If the process is flawed you could expect a reasonable person asking why is it not fixed? The answer may be it is an inconvenient truth right now, we are trying to sell the companies!

 

Policy – Position – Agenda – where does it sit?

The President of the Solar Council made the point: The political position of denying does not matter in the end. From that we can conclude that ultimately the posturing will change as the influences around them change and the policy models too will change.

If you have rang a Call Centre recently it is very likely you might have been confronted with ‘its policy of ‘. No longer do they say is ‘the position of ‘. Why is this?

Policy – the business dictionary like to say it is the declared objectives to achieve and preserve – the free dictionary likes to say a plan or course of action intended to influence and determine. Most others say something very similarly, so we can conclude the meaning is a rule or contract when used as a noun. We can say the synonyms can also include a Rule, Strategy, Plan, Procedure, and Dogma, Program. All of which is a Guiding Principle.

Our point. You have every right to question if it is an appropriate course of action. Why because it indicates the decision is primarily based on material interest.

Position – Think the right or appropriate space. Where your point of view could also be described a thesis or the laying down of a proposition.

It also can be characterised by the unsolicited offer to an existing customer with wording such as ‘you do not need to do a thing’. Then some time later you are penalised because you did not object. Do you want an energy use example?

Well think this: Step by step the instructions are tweaking you into being positioned. However, is this an acceptable principle? Maybe, so long as the policy is accountable.

Then there is the issue of what is the purpose of the policy. In the name of justice is often cited. It then must be broken down into for whom? If it is for the workplace, than it is vague. If it is for welfare, it is wide reaching. Here lies a problem, it can be vague and wide reaching and have no other purpose other than to be resisted and discarded. In effect the agenda you did not know about.

Back to the Call Centre: Do they have an agenda? We can assume they want you to accept what they do is the correct position. You will than accept that their view is correct, and they can say we have wide reaching evidence of the acceptance of our policy – you can conclude the agenda was for acceptance of the positioning.

Do you have a position on the renewable energy policy? Talking at – yes there was some disagreement, the Chairperson of the Australian Institute of Energy, on 5 June 2014, it was clear the definition of what was effective as the tools for success was not obvious. What we are saying is that ‘any action’ taken must be clearly a benefit over the established position. For instance: Solar is technologically superior as a generator. Energy Efficiency reduces the need to generate. They both affect the transport needs of the energy. They both can be local fixes in constrained areas of the network, and conversely they can affect negatively in areas of a distribution system that has not any capacity issue. It gets even more perverse when you consider the transmission network – moving from one distribution area to the next. The battle then becomes who can best serve in the supply demand balancing equation! Answer, it can be both. However, we are then talking about energy security. In this aspect the reference is to the balance between sustainability and reliability and cost efficient power. When we do we are speaking in terms of the national security.

For another discussion we might talk about energy conservation verses energy efficiency. Hint – the definitions must be addressed before you can proceed.

 

Work Smarter – retail v’s wholesale rules

The various ways innovation can be killed off achieves only one goal, to prevent us from doing things smarter. In 1994 the Department of Finance issued a statement aimed to clarify working smarter. In 2014 the Australian Government again said: We need to work smarter. What does smarter mean? You could take the view it is a balancing term where working smarter is a term that illustrates the rigor and complexity of the English language. Smarter used this way works equally well in arts, literacy, and performance tasks. However, what if it were used as a verb as an irritating means to stop something innovative?

The US gives us a good example of this where the legal challenge to a regulator that issued a rule for good and smart behaviour needed to be defended because it balanced the demand supply equation and that disrupted business as usual. This example was blogged by Joel Eisen: D.C. Circuit Vacates FERC Smart Grid “Demand Response” Rule.

Joel B. Eisen is Professor of Law and Austin Owen Research Fellow at University of Richmond School of Law. His scholarly work is available here.

Last Friday (May 23), in Electric Power Supply Association v. FERC, a D.C. Circuit panel split 2-1 and vacated Order 745, a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) rule designed to promote “demand response” (DR). DR is a rapidly growing and valuable means of reducing electricity demand, thereby benefiting consumers and the environment. It is also an important part of the Smart Grid, in which smart meters and devices that communicate with one another and energy service providers can further promote these goals. Indeed, former FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff has called DR the Smart Grid’s “killer app.”

The case tested a question of near first impression about the Smart Grid: which level of government regulates it? For now, the D.C. Circuit has held squarely for the states, concluding that DR regulation is a matter of exclusive state jurisdiction. If the decision stands, it will have many adverse implications for federal regulation to advance the Smart Grid and use the wholesale electricity markets to achieve energy reductions and environmental goals.”

What was the argument for the smarter innovation? 1. Directly affects wholesale rates by reducing prices and improving overall market functioning. 2. It has the effect of enabling demand-side resources, as well as supply-side resources, and improves the economic operation of electricity markets. 3. The regulator believed there would be limited Demand Response participation in the markets without encouragement.

The disruption to the smarter solution was achieved by dissention. It was not an issue of being straightforward and sensible, it was that it was competing with the established market and compensated those other than the supply side of the market. The smarter practice affected (can do) the wholesale market in a positive way, but it was “a part of the retail market. It involves retail customers, their decision whether to purchase at retail, and the levels of retail electricity consumption.” The regulator was empowered to regulate practices affecting the wholesale market, not the retail market.

So dear innovators, we have a situation: Working smarter has drawbacks, it can inflict pain, it can wound and be irritating to watch the dissenters argue you have no right expecting a retail outcome where it might affect the wholesale heaven of the established. It does tend to put the perspective on the ‘valley of death’ referred to in commercialization preamble!