Poles and Wires Apart – NSW style

Being it is an election issue – What do you think about privatisation of the electricity assets? A fair question we said, but the wrong one! We feel the ‘real’ question is will the price of supply go down either way? Then it becomes obvious if you use the word ‘redundancy’. In the Queensland election the word was replaced with an emotive ‘gold plated’. In the coming NSW Election there is no mention of either term. The political sides prefer to attack and defend on diverting money streams that would flow onto ‘infrastructure’ projects.

Our point here is that ‘poles and wires’ are infrastructure and there is a level of build required to a) Meet demand. B) Provide reliable pathways. The c) route is actually the political risk to an incumbent that makes the decision to support or reject a build decision and that might not have any basis of a) or b). So c) can be why redundancy is so important when they build.

It is time for a new incumbent politician to be elected. Both sides understand the previous administration built into the system excessive redundancy. This equates to – those assets offered for sale or lease will be attractive as very little needs to be done for another 5 years before meeting demand and system reliability becomes an issue (a and b).

If the current state government is re-elected they can honour their pledge that in 2019 no price rises will occur because of the assets passing into private hands. The potential buyer will find the ‘redundancy factor’ attractive in guaranteeing a profit.

If a new government is voted in they will ‘protect you’ from price rises and continue a revenue stream for the infrastructure needs of the state. They will simply have a different emphasis on what infrastructure to spend. For example less will be spent on Roads and Rail and more on other social needs. The new will be able to do this by avoiding spending as redundancy is built into the system.

How much redundancy is built into the NSW System? The question is not so easy to answer. Because Transgrid the transmission network had something like $15b to spend a couple of years back and the Distribution network companies spend considerable amounts on their needs. The ugly ducky in terms of the need to spend is still looking to be Essential Energy by virtue of the area and geographical spread of its territory. Essential is essentially regional NSW.

What neither party is telling you are what Essential Energy will do to address a new business model to meet the challenges in the next three years.

The question is really, will history repeat itself and will the need to further build after the redundancy period morphs into a massive rebuild program. Building program cost money and in any user pays system you will pay for the need to supply. You will pay either as a taxpayer or a direct cost. The politicization factor will decide what the koala will bear. Koala in this sense is the voter.

To back this up we read with interest the writings of Keith Orchison, 9 March 2015, ‘Who’s telling porkies about NSW’s poles and wires?’ You will find the story in the Business Spectator. He says, “Where the wheels fall off the propaganda cart, is when you look forward and also when you bear in mind what Mike Baird wants to flog. The Premier plans to sell half of Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy, the two largest earners, all of TransGrid, the high voltage business, and none of Essential Energy, which delivers power to 95 per cent of the state and has been declared untouchable by Baird’s National partners.

Broadly speaking, any loss of revenue will be about half the total networks income for the government. Then the question is how much income is that likely going to be?”

“You can then halve these numbers for ‘lost revenue’ because Baird proposes to hang on to half the distribution duo that delivers most of the moolah.

One way of looking at this is that there is about a $3bn to $4bn hole in the ‘anti’ brigade’s bucket on this issue over the remainder of this decade.

These campaigners have not been too fussed about accuracy in other respects, either.

For example, the $1m worth of advertising currently running on NSW television screens is supported by an assertion that power prices in Victoria have risen 60 to 70 per cent since electricity privatisation, but this ignores the fact that network charges in that state have fallen during this period.

Work done for the NSW Treasury by Ernst & Young shows that Victoria’s network charges fell 18 per cent in inflation-adjusted terms between 1996 and 2013. Over the same period, they rose 122 per cent in NSW.

Now the voters of New South Wales can’t be expected to go out and research all this stuff for themselves, so what is the role of the Electoral Commission in vetting the integrity of the campaign?”

We say no more – it has been said! Now you vote – clear as mud is it not!

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The year of the Global Social License – 2015 Carbon Economy

The ‘social license’ is behind the shift to a carbon economy and the shift from the petro-chemical industries. The discussion moved from the automotive industry and how consumers willingly take up the new products that promote better environmental outcomes. It was further discussed that a similar change is influencing the other industries. The shift in the valuer attitudes is remarkable in that whatever economic theory you are predisposed to, or learnt in school, you will in all likelihood find value by participating in the carbon economy.

History has a way of repeating itself, and Adam Smith as the ‘father of capitalism’ described the ‘guiding hand’, which can be interpreted as a ‘social license’ that is part of 2015 regulatory thinking. Even those that follow Karl Marx writings will find a ‘social license’ forms a valuable and insightful regard to the specific mechanisms of an economic system.

We find that Marx and Smith diverged drastically in their political ideologies (not unlike the Labor and Liberal parties in Australia). However, their economic theories were similar in that both hold the labour theory of value as a core belief. Each believed that the number of labour hours put into an object created the value and thus the worth of the object. This is where the carbon economy differs in that the value is clearly in the hands of the valuer and not the politic as our government would like. It could explain why the traditional control mechanisms are not working, there is a disquiet in the community, and effectively communicating the political message ‘of value’ is seemingly on an uncomfortable setting.

The Austrian school of economics espoused its theory of subjectivity. From this theory, it follows that a product possesses value only if there exists a valuer. They say the object must be useful to a consumer in some way; if it is not, it is not valuable. The consumer’s feelings or subjective analysis give the object its value. Because of the laws of supply and demand, if the subject warrants a high value it will be commensurable with a high value.

The carbon economy can already show subjectivity of the price sets its value without regard to your politics. We say this as the carbon economy is already seen that the more desirable or valuable object on our connection to the trinity of human existence, with heaven and earth. The trinity concept is as much eastern as it is western in its connection. How high a price we are prepared to pay is to be proven. But, there is a universal willingness to try and it indicates this is the most logical reason for its value.

The carbon economy also indicates that the labour theory of value is incorrect because even though hours of labour might have gone into building an object, if no one wishes to purchase it, it has no worth and cannot be made commensurable with anything else. That not us saying that it is the indications of commercial reality that includes the need for sustainable outcomes to be demonstrated through the money practices of today and it strongly appears the social license is driving this trend.

For the success of the carbon economy lessons, from history you cannot ignore Marx and Smith. They still influence our current economy and we will still be affected by their ideas. Albeit these times do indicate a leaning to Smith is more fashionable. That said, Marx had brilliant insights into the workings of an economy and thought extensively about the mathematical side of economics. Political theory aside, Marx’s writings are valuable and insightful in regard to the specific mechanisms of an economic system. Smith is not called the “father of modern economics” for naught. The idea of the laws of supply and demand and the invisible hand can be found in high school and college economics teachings around the globe. Aside from the mistaken labor theory of value, Smith’s economic and moral theories are respected and employed in modern free trade economic systems today.

There is much debate about whether or not the so-called “moral Adam Smith” is compatible with the “economic Adam Smith.” Some believe there is a discrepancy between his discussion of morality and virtue and his thoughts on capitalism fueled by self-interest; Others brush off this claim as mere misunderstanding and say Smith’s “virtue” consisted of at least three major elements: prudence, justice, and benevolence. Prudence – a characteristic of self-interested conduct and economic pursuits. Justice (described as a ‘negative virtue’) – conduct in accord with public laws meant to restrain excessive self-interest. Benevolence (the highest form of virtue) – featured through private relationships.

Where carbon economics will not agree with Smith is that one may choose to relish only their commercial virtues; the person may become successful in business, but not be a completely moral being and have a place in our society. Carbon Economics would say they have no social license.

Adam Smith began writing on the importance of a free-trade economic system while he lived in mercantilist England. Smith had the foresight to realize that the mercantilist system was flawed. Mercantilism stressed the need for “large reserves of bullion” to reap economic benefits. Smith disagreed with mercantilist theories and expounded on the importance of free trade. The Wealth of Nations sought to discuss just that, the wealth of the nation as a whole. Rather than focusing on how much land the rich had or what the king acquired, Smith discussed how each individual person could successfully reap his or her own economic benefits and thus add to the nation’s wealth. He cited that in a free trade economy, a person has the ability to earn money and should then use it to purchase other goods (or capital to create their own business) which will then lead to growth in the economy. Smith believed that by earning and spending money, the economy would be stimulated and thus grow.

Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations during the late 1700s, during which a mercantilist society still existed. He realized the need for a better and more efficient economy that would benefit each citizen and the entire nation at the same time. What you may not know is that Smith merely envisioned the free society, he did not actually live it.

Marx wrote in the late 1800s, when the industrial revolution was in full swing. He personally saw and studied the filthy and dehumanizing conditions in which British factory workers labored. That experience led him to think capitalism was the source of every ill in society. He was only exposed to the exploitation of workers who labored long hours for meager wages while rich factory owners’ reaped benefits. In addition to his geographical and historical background, there are two key reasons as to why Marx indicted capitalism for all the problems in the world, these also exemplify his error: He believed that the class in which a person is born is the one in which he or she will remain. He blames capitalism for entrapping human beings

The beauty of a capitalist system is that it is free—we can own property, start a business, and live our lives as we so desire, provided we are not harming anyone.

There is the issue: providing we are not harming anyone. This where the social license is best measured. It is the measure of the carbon economy. What we can hope is that we will live to see the carbon economy proven – those actions are not harming anyone!

clueless, naive and dangerous in its understanding of its responsibility – what is the legacy?

The NSW and Queensland Government have a plan. If they sell off the assets they will be no longer responsible if things go wrong. This does leave a fundamental problem in terms of legacy – A number of problems actually.

Starting with: Will corporate simply view governments as irrelevant in the near future. They already do think that, and as an example when the Queensland Transport Department set traps to catch UBER drivers employed by Google and Goldman Sacks. The corporate told the drivers to continue business as usual and ignore the Department. Google even then disabled the Government ‘s capability to track the drivers. How could they do that – they are quoted nationally as saying the conglomerate has deeper pockets than the government.

Both NSW and Queensland seem to have suitors for the Energy Networks Companies they have on offer. Even the relevant Ministers’ seem confused as to what and how much is for sale.   What the public know is that it is very likely two Asian based corporations will be in the front seat for the assets purchase. Both with deep pockets, and both with a high probability on controlling the total business in both states.

Can we have confidence wise decisions will be made? Maybe time will tell. But in NSW at least a very worrying case indicates the Government is more interesting in avoiding responsibility for its choices.

If you follow this story you may feel as apprehensive as we do: Wind farm at Gullen Range a ‘mess’ as matter heads back to court , January 26, 2015. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/wind-farm-at-gullen-range-a-mess-as-matter-heads-back-to-court-20150126-12ygnn.html

“”The scene is set for a right royal mess with no one happy. It follows the protestors, the complainants, the Developers, are all challenging the Minister over who is responsible for a litany of ‘mistakes’. s clueless, naive and dangerous in its understanding of national security. Suggesting the department is clueless, naive and dangerous in its understanding of its responsibility. To quote directly from the story: the Department – and therefore Ms Goward – had taken three different positions on the wind farm, which would be difficult to defend.

Firstly, the Department recommended conditional approval of the turbine changes to the PAC. In turn, this body refused the DA but along the way, the Department had recommended that just nine turbines be moved.

“So if it all goes to court, which position will she defend?” Mr Brooks asked.

“The whole thing is a colossal mess.”

Complicating matters is the Department’s oversight role earlier in the development. The company appointed an independent environmental monitor to oversee turbine placement and report to government planners. However, the Landscape Guardians alleged he had a conflict of interest as director of a consultancy firm that worked on the wind farm.

A Department spokesman told the Goulburn Post that this person was employed by a consultant and not by the government.

“[He] was not involved with the design, construction or operation of the project, having worked as a consultant preparing the environmental assessment for the application.

“Appointing [him] as the project’s environmental representative is in line with the project’s approval conditions and the Department’s procedures at the time.

“The Department has since improved requirements further to require wind farm consultants have an even greater level of independence.”

Adding to an “invidious” position, the Department allowed turbine construction to continue for a year after residents alerted it to their “incorrect” placement, Mr Brooks said.

“My [legal] advice is that the Minister will be obliged to defend the [Land and Environment Court] action seriously because her authority is at stake,” he told the Post.

“I hope the court throws it out, but that would throw up the situation where the PAC has rejected it, and we still have a wind farm of 69 turbines that are not in their approved locations. What happens next?”

A Department spokesman said the appeal was not about the merits of the modification, such as whether any turbines should be moved, but the process the PAC followed to make its decision.

“If the appeal is successful, then the modification application will need to be re-determined: at this stage the merits will be considered again,” he said.

“It would be highly unusual for a court to require new evidence from any party regarding an appeal of this nature,” he said.

Late last year, Mr Brooks lodged a complaint with the NSW Ombudsman about the Department’s handling of the project.

The Ombudsman was currently investigating, he said.

He’s not stopping there. Mr Brooks is also writing a submission for a Senate select committee’s inquiry into governance and the economic impact of wind turbines. He is not only highlighting the Gullen Range wind farm and the Department’s “incompetence” but the fact the developer collected renewable energy certificates, despite alleged “noncompliance” with state and federal regulations, as required.””

Co2Land org therefore must conclude a captains call will be required – then confuse you even more. But in all seriousness – you will note someone will have to pay. Guess who! Hint – you because no one else will be responsible.

The facts they say: About the poles and wires selloff.

The facts they say: About the poles and wires selloff. Revenue is a weird thing and it is all about your plan. That is short term gain verses long term revenue. What can get missed on that point is what is changing around you can be a bigger factor than the emotion around the change. That factor is technology and the transition strategy to survive – to survive you need to transform how you do your business or get pushed aside. The other issue is not only the technology challenging you it is the skill required to understanding how to take the opportunity to exploit the rise of the technology. These comments are as important for Energy Network companies as they are for banks, the financial services industry, sales, commodities traders, agribusiness and manufacturing. Dare we also say, political response, too.

One group we know of, http://www.solarcitizens.org.au has been active in seeking “to change the game”. They are referring to the practices and the behaviour of companies that run electricity networks. They are targeting those that control how we get our electricity and are encouraging concerned parties to participate, by way of a submission into the Australian Senate Inquiry, and submissions closed 18 December 2014.

The Senate is looking to spotlight whether it is fair that power prices have surged across the board in Australia. Whether it is because of the unnecessary upgrades to the electricity network, known as ‘gold-plating’ of the grid. What is being investigated, and you can see the full terms of reference for the Senate Inquiry here:

  • Whether energy companies have misrepresented information to the energy regulator for their benefit
  • Allegations of price rorting by companies
  • Whether current network arrangements discriminate against homes and businesses who generate their own power, and
  • The possibility of establishing an independent body to investigate and prosecute poor behaviour.

Those that say the plan to sell off the poles and wires claim privatization leads to higher prices, reliability of supply declines, maintenance is avoided with disastrous consequences, and what could the most persuasive of all: Once it is sold that revenue source is gone!

Then we read ABC News 21 December 2014 the story headed New Tas energy plan will drive down power prices: Government.

“A new energy plan for Tasmania will result in lower power prices, the state’s Energy Minister says.

The Government is inviting Tasmanians to have their say on its new draft energy strategy.” Public submissions are open until mid-February.

This is said to be an opportunity to attract new business to Tasmania and for better ways to utilise the state’s existing energy assets.

They also moot the possibility of a second Bass Strait to the mainland interconnector and expanding their hydro generation output by 10 per cent.

They also quote the Energy Minister Matthew Groom:

“This is about a mindset shift, this is about recognising that the energy businesses are primarily there to deliver energy advantage to Tasmanians, and central to that will be the lowest possible power prices that are genuinely sustainable……………..We saw power prices increase by more than 65 per cent over seven years……..That’s unacceptable and under this new strategic direction, it cannot happen again.”

The strategy includes more work on encouraging competition, with the Government still open to selling Aurora Energy’s customer book.

We should say the truly progressive part is the commitment to investigate the potential of using forest residue for biofuel.

CO2Land org has empathy with the cause. That said we should realize the poles and wires (Electricity Networks), historically are a 130 plus years old system. Some did not have the network system for some times after that, and some still do not have access. It also follows that regulators and those consulting to the companies were constantly expecting continuous load growth on the network. The evidence is that is not now happening and predictions are it is now a very different market. In our opinion anything that can be gamed is a market and will be treated as a commodity by the players. The selloff of the networks is evidence also that the predominately state owned utility companies want to divest themselves of ‘services’ and the new owners will have the reign to treat all as a commodity. If you do not believe us – think of the new rules coming into play referring to ‘Cost reflective’ for network charges.

Are the rules setters correct? One argument that has gone for some time – at least since 1996 that we are aware of, is the fairness of cross subsidies within the networks charges being to transfer cost burdens from the sparse population region to the concentrated population region (country and city users). If you think of what the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) is saying and the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) is saying it now it is enough it must change. Where it gets ugly is when you ask is the issue a question of to whom is the favour for – Business as usual and the rent seekers, or those that are bold and go forth with the transition to change.

Again, that all leads to the need to develop new business models and that need will be regardless for the reasons we started in para 1 of this discussion – the factor of technology.

A very likely model is that energy networks will adapt and change, and part of our believe of this is there will still be a need for some form of infrastructure to deliver the power. It will not matter is it is micro grid or long runs of poles and wires. The infrastructure will have new build, maintenance and upgrade needs. And, who pays? You do no matter what is the model.

The leap of faith to a low-carbon future – Engineers Australia

The platitudes no longer cut it, the cries that the scientists are wrong is being proved wrong. Since the carbon pricing signals were removed from our (Australia’s) trade all the numbers are going backwards. Our energy intensive industries are increasing emissions (Hugh Saddler wrote, 2 December 2014) “the recent emissions trend ‐ since the last CEDEX® report with data to June 2014 – is an increase in total emissions of 2.2 million tonnes CO2‐e, with a large increase in electricity generation emissions and a smaller increase in petroleum emissions. Then on 3 December 2014 the national newspapers reported from the accounts data released that day – we are officially in an income recession. It follows our manufacturers are in decline, our commodities crisis is real and our trading partners have been stockpiling to ride out the storm – the financial storm that affects jobs, the economy and the deniers ability to hype hysterical nonsense about contributing to environmental fraud.

Outside of science, is anyone of note is taking this whole business of a low carbon future seriously? Yes, the banks are, and so are our engineers. The engineers’ story is:

Engineers Australia commits to designing the quantum leap to a low-carbon future. Willow Allento on 27 November 2014 published,

The interview write up and policy highlights are here: http://www.thefifthestate.com.au/innovation/engineering/engineers-australia-commits-to-a-low-carbon-future/70016

“Around 100,000 of Australia’s brightest innovators and designers and operational experts committing to a climate change policy and sustainability policy that is binding within the professional code of ethics, that’s a game-changer. Interviewing Dr Cruikshanks-Boyd this morning and reading the policies again and again [pithy, pointed and absolutely game-changing] I keep thinking – “This is the quantum leap we needed to escape the turmoil of the policy lens and have concrete action that really changes everything substantially.”

Can engineers save the planet? I reckon it’s tremendous they’ve set themselves loose on the opportunity to do so!

Engineers Australia has put sustainability and climate change mitigation at the core of the profession, with the formal adoption of two new policies and a series of events on opportunities.”

We read the policies were also peer-reviewed by 25 external bodies. So it is not insular it is outward looking to establish the practice and engage. They are actually committed to put sustainability up front engage with clients to promote the business case. We further quote:

“As engineers we have a role to play not just in innovating, but in selling the business case.

Regarding the property sector, he said engineers must make clear to clients there is a market for sustainable buildings, and use lifecycle cost analysis to demonstrate the cost-effectiveness of taking a more sustainable approach and gaining “market edge”.

While the policies were passed unanimously, there was robust debate, he said, particularly around the climate change policy, with a significant minority of members opposing the climate change policy on principle initially. He said given the organisation has about 100,000 members, all of whom were consulted on numerous drafts, a percentage of sceptics was to be expected.

On an organisational level, the policies mean Engineers Australia is throwing its combined weight and expertise behind efforts to transition to a low-carbon energy future, reduce fossil fuel dependence, design within a lifecycle costing framework, look for industrial ecology opportunities in managing waste, and prioritise renewable resources wherever possible.

There are a lot of engineers associated with the fossil fuel industries, and I thought we would strike problems with them during the debate [on the climate change policy]. But the more balanced members in that industry recognise it must be dealt with, so we resolved that through the simple addition of a statement that there would need to be a transition from fossil fuels,” Dr Cruikshanks-Boyd said.

At this point CO2Land org notes a fundamental point for getting anything done, as it is possible to get polices of government changed through professional lobbying and advocacy, the real impact happens at the individual level. We also learnt, and we admit we too are learning, sustainability has been one of the four pillars of the Engineers Australia organisation binding code of ethics since 2010; to continue the quotes:

“While Dr Cruikshanks-Boyd is disappointed in the current “entrenched situation” regarding government policies on climate change and sustainability, he said Engineers Australia would ensure the new policies and the views they represent were well known to government.

He also said that the profession was in a position to leverage enormous positive change regardless of government policy through placing its focus on achieving sustainable outcomes in all they do. Just as there are negative tipping points that lead to collapse, there are positive tipping points that lead to exponential progress”.

A fundamental point of our mortality is also made in that professions live longer than politicians. We assume what was meant is that politicians are most concerned for themselves and professionals for their legacy. Without too much more waffle below now is more direct quoting from the article:

Some of the key statements in the Climate Change policy include:

Building upon a long history of Engineers Australia policy development, and as the largest technically informed professional body in Australia, Engineers Australia advocates that Engineers must act proactively to address climate change as an ecological, social and economic risk.

Engineers Australia is committed to natural resources policy reform to adopt full life-cycle analysis, including the pricing of resource use externalities, to ensure responsible resource allocation decisions.

Engineers Australia will work to facilitate statutory, regulatory and policy reform such as progressive Renewable Energy Targets, incentives to promote renewable and sustainable energy technologies, energy efficiency standards, transport emission limits, and incentives/disincentives to reduce dependence on fossil fuel sources. It is recognised this is part of a transitional process.

Engineers have an ethical responsibility for, and play a key role in, limiting atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations, through transformative change and innovation in engineering education, and practice.

Reduction of the emission of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere associated with engineering activities should be accorded urgent priority in engineering endeavours.”

Some of the core statements in the sustainability policy include:

Our Code of Ethics requires us to develop engineering solutions that repair and regenerate both natural and social capital, while maintaining economic health.

Engineers Australia acknowledges that to achieve sustainability outcomes requires transformative change in business practices, lifestyles, and in the way resource allocation decisions are made.

Fundamental to this change is the recognition that a healthy economy is underpinned by a healthy environment and respect for all life on earth.

Engineers Australia and its members commit to ensuring all relevant stakeholders are consulted, and that open and regular reporting of progress towards delivering sustainability outcomes forms a fundamental component of engineering practice.

This Sustainability Policy is supported by an Implementation Plan, which articulates specific changes to engineering practice that arise from adoption of this Policy.

Specific sustainability considerations to be applied to engineering practice (policy and projects) include (not in priority order):

  1. The use of resources should not exceed the limits of regeneration.
  2. The use of non-renewable resources should create enduring asset value (everlasting and/or fully recyclable), and be limited to applications where substitution with renewable resources is not practical.
  3. Engineering design, including product design, should be whole system based, with consideration of all impacts from product inception to reuse/repurposing.
  4. Product and project design should consider longevity, component re-use, repair and recyclability.

Eliminating waste should be a primary design consideration. Unavoidable waste from any one process should be examined for recycling potential as input to another productive process.

The rate of release of any substances to the environment should do no net harm, and be limited to the capacity of the environment to absorb or assimilate the substances, and maintain continuity of ecosystem services. In all instances, such releases should be lifecycle-costed and attributed.

Proactive and integrated solutions are preferable to reactive, linear, “end of pipe” solutions, such that there is a net sustainability benefit.

In circumstances where scientific information is inconclusive, or incomplete, the precautionary principle and risk management practices should be applied to ensure irreversible negative consequences are avoided and not passed as a liability to future generations.”

Co2land , as you would expect is pleased to see Engineers Australia is throwing its combined weight and expertise behind efforts to transition to a low-carbon energy future. Our only point that could improve that position were they say ‘reduce fossil fuel dependence, design within a lifecycle costing framework, look for industrial ecology opportunities in managing waste, and prioritise renewable resources wherever possible’, we would prefer the words ‘eliminate fossil fuel dependence’. Sometimes the simple wording is more meaningful!

Fairly unfair – Energy Network price setting

Gold plated networks practice stopped, and cost reflective price setting will be the market policy. Yes, prices will rise. However prices will be controlled in a fair way it is said. It is an interesting game and thinking about it you realise it is ‘business as usual’ with an appropriate spin for self fulfilling prophesies. Actually it could be prophecies as it depends on if you are using the term as a verb or noun. For instance whether you are forewarning of significant price increases with callous regard to the customer, or anticipating being able to inspire the process of one or more messages that have to be communicated on behalf of the ‘good’.

Previously Co2land org wrote that the question that is most difficult is are you pro-business or pro-market. We have found a new term for the customer as a position description ‘pro-sumer’, and the position is the customer must be the one that willingly pays. We won’t bore you with theories of elastic and inelastic demand as this is a supply side argument. However, we might suggest you develop an instinct that identifies what can be summed as – ‘The rustling of the leaves tells a story, warns of a danger, and a lot of … is going on’. Beware you might not like what you see and the problems are in the detail. So what is the story behind it all?

The story is the players displaying how they justify the costs of reliability of supply. It is not about balancing the supply and demand for more efficient and reliable source of supply. A little more explanation please we hear you say. The business and the market of the energy supply is a supply side focus. That is why the energy companies are called, in the rules, the supplier, and where the customer might curtail or offer low volume generation into the supply is called the provider. Where the customer consumes they are called the user, or more recently termed the ‘pro-sumer’ where they make smart choices. All very simple is it not!

It remains at issue is your network charges will rise regardless.

The questions are how much and why is the political term ‘gold plated’ being used to substitute for what was called redundancy in the past – In this case we explain: “Redundancy is the duplication of critical components or functions of a system with the intention of increasing reliability of the system, usually in …” Source en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Redundancy_(engineering).

The remainder of the story uses other sources as follows: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/actewagl-says-power-supply-in-canberra-at-risk-20141127-11uyv7.html

, and

http://www.goulburnpost.com.au/story/2726997/australian-energy-regulator-clamps-down-on-network-charges/?cs=12

, and

http://reneweconomy.com.au/2014/regulator-slaps-down-networks-on-more-attempted-gold-plating-22048. Also AEMC paves way for changes in network pricing for solar, air-con.

The network view:

ActewAGL: Chief executive officer Michael Costello says the draft decision from the Australian Energy Regulator does not make sense, and could lead to catastrophic failure.

“We not objecting to a reduction in price, …What we are objecting to is the degree of the reduction, and the fact it threatens reliability, stability and, if it does go far enough, the safety of the network.”

Energy Networks Association head John Bradley said the “unsustainable” spending cuts could compromise reliability, safety and efficiency outcomes for customers. “If implemented, these funding cuts put at risk key consumer outcomes relating to safety, maintenance and outage response times,…Consumers end up paying more under this kind of ‘roller-coaster’ regulation where underspending is followed by higher cost catch-up spending and political intervention.”

The Regulatory View:

Australian Energy Regulator (AER) chair Paula Conboy says under new rules the regulator’s focus is squarely on outcomes for energy consumers, for a safe and reliable network. “So we have to ask ourselves, why should customers be required to pay more?….. Our draft decisions propose lower allowed revenues for transferring electricity and gas, which, if implemented, should result in lower energy bills for end users in the ACT and NSW,… These reductions would be followed by small increases in each of the three subsequent years [in line with the yearly Consumer Price Index]…. Network charges on bills have inflated with extravagant spending – or gold-plating on poles and wires – in recent years and now account for 50 per cent of an energy bill issued to NSW users.”

RenewEconomy asked Conboy if the network revenue application were simply a case of them prosecuting “business as usual” rather than the transformation – the “prosumer revolution” – identified by new AER chief executive Michelle Groves, the chief executive of the AER.

Groves said last month:  “The electricity industry certainly is changing. In fact it is not much of a stretch to say that the next couple of decades will witness something of a revolution in the way small customers interact with the electricity industry. In the future there will be more scope for even the smallest energy users to become active participants in the energy market.”

Conboy said we would have to ask the networks if they were focused on business as usual.

In a separate announcement, the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) said new pricing rules will begin on December 1.

“By having prices that reflect the costs of different patterns of consumption, we are giving consumers clearer choices as we develop a more efficient, incentive-based network regulation framework,” AEMC Chairman John Pierce said .

The Users View: Large, SME, Domestic Advocates.

Gabrielle Kuiper, senior policy officer at the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, said the AER’s draft decisions were welcome news to the increasing number of NSW families struggling to stay on top of soaring energy costs. Dr Kuiper also said there was room for improvement in regards to the allowed rate of return – the forecast of the cost of funds a network business requires to attract investment in the network.

Oliver Derum, another senior policy officer at the advocacy centre, said energy prices could drop even further if the NSW government before the proposed lease of the networks writes down previous over-investment by the networks. “That could cut bills further by hundreds of dollars a year. We would urge the NSW government to consider this option as part of the sale process,” he said.

The Parkinson Report says (Giles Parkinson that is), “The draft rulings are part of a big game between the networks and the regulators over how much they can spend on upgrades, charge for maintenance, and for the cost of capital. The networks have a history of asking too much, and while the AER has sought to cut them down in the past, they have often been over-ruled, or forced to compromise on appeal.

(The AER decides how big the revenue pie will be for the networks. In an associated decision, the Australian Energy Market Operator has confirmed new rules that will require networks to introduce “cost reflective” tariffs, which will likely mean higher fixed and/or demand charges, which could affect households with solar arrays)… Hence the focus on this new round, particularly in light of the incursion of solar and battery storage into the grid, and the emergence of a new decentralised energy model. The AER, in its draft decisions, said that its estimate should result in a lowering of electricity costs, rather than a rise if the networks were allowed to have their way”.

Co2Land org review:

It all looks too much like they want your energy supply to be viewed as a commodity attached to a financial service. You see a commodity price can be manipulated as a means of control. If you lose control the networks cannot keep the growth numbers where they want them – ‘business as usual’.

Look further at the network lobby group, the Energy Networks Association, which has never conceded gold plating in the past, wants solar incentives reduced, higher fixed charges to consumers, and argued that it would be too expensive to quit the grid, said the AER ruling threatened the reliability of the network – an old favourite of those arguing against carbon prices, renewable energy, or any much change at all.

Reneweconomy says solar households face inevitable changes to the way their bills are packaged after the Australian Energy Market Commission delivered new rules which will require networks to impose “cost reflective” pricing on networks.

According to the AEMC, the changes will not only cater better to different patterns of consumption, they will benefit all consumers in the longer term as lower peak demand reduces the need for spending on infrastructure, and they will likely result in changes in tariffs to encourage households to avoid switching everything on at peak times, or at least pay for the privilege, and also for solar households. It could, for instance, encourage more homes to install west-facing panels rather than north-facing panels, but the final tariffs will be up to the networks to decide.

Reneweconomy goes on the say: In effect, while the Australian Energy Regulator decides how big a revenue pie the networks can eat – and based on today’s decision it is a lot smaller than last time – the AEMC is proving rules that decide how the networks can slice and dice that pie.

The new rules also affect households with air conditioning units, as the main targets of new tariffs aimed at recovering network revenue.

The arguments all centre on fears of the networks are losing market share, and are keen to get as much “network pricing” out of the pro-sumer as they can. The pricing set and recovered from different consumers, says the AEMC, with the key factor to determine how much consumers pay being their individual usage pattern or load profile.

The bit we love sic most “This rule change will not actually set new network prices – that is a role for the networks themselves and the AER. It does create a new requirement that reveals the cost of people’s energy choices,” AEMC’s Pierce said. Other AEMC quotes “Under these changes, we estimate around 70-80 per cent of consumers would have lower network charges in the medium term…Research undertaken since the draft rules were released for public consultation in August shows network prices are likely to be lower in the long run with cost-reflective prices,…

Research shows average residential charges could reduce by $28 to $145 per year. Households which use power at a steady rate through the day will receive the biggest benefits…Based on Victorian trials, we also found a small business could save up to $2,118 or 34% of its total annual electricity network charges by using less electricity at peak times for just 20 hours per year when networks are congested,…

Once the new rule commences on 1 December 2014 network businesses need to start consulting on their new tariffs and submit draft proposals to the AER in late 2015 for new prices that will start no later than 2017.”

Head spinning – it should be!

Our final word: We suggest it is because the term gold plated is different to redundancy in that the former highlights the risk of stranded assets.

ChAFTA – ‘real’ big deal – but!

On balance is a fair term when describing trade. However, when you say Free Trade there has been some disquiet across a number of industries. Clearly there are some clear winners and some areas of concern apparent from the China Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) signed, 17 November 2014, between the two countries. As with all good stories comes a more interesting one. How to make it work will come in time. It is time that is most important. If you think culturally, something becomes obvious – Western world thinks 5 years is a good plan, Eastern World sees no sense in less than 10 years and prefers 100 years. So is it about plans or planning?

If you did not already know – NZ released a press announcement on 7 April 2008 that it signed a Free Trade Agreement with China. For reference go to chinafta.govt.nz – as far as we can tell the last press release was 12 April 2013 on progress on that sight – maybe someone else knows why?

One topic on the official NZ site is the comment: Are you ready for China, and that forms the discussion from this point.

Starting with two words that seem popular – collaboration and cooperative. We find a world of difference yet seemingly very similar words. It is how they operate that matters. One is a verb and the other an intransient verb – inner or outer if you prefer.

To collaborate suggests to work with others and is an intransitive at an intellectual level whereas the Australian version of ChAFTA is missing encouragement of cooperatives to take advantage. Why is this important? Because it is yet to be fully explained what is the level of risk. Risk of the franchise is the more important thing to work through when considering the deal.

The talk from the positives claim it will build on the indications from China that it values a further deepening of our trading relationship. For instance, the setting up of a ‘settlement hub’ in Sydney, based on Chinese Renminbi exchange. This hub is designed to make doing business with and in China easier. While restrictions to trade and tariffs ranging from dairy products, wine, processed foods and pharmaceuticals, to processed metals, plastics, medical devices, cosmetics are lifted. A very strong point is also being made that a new mechanism for resolving non-tariff barriers to trade which have caused so many issues with the implementation of previous FTAs is part of the positive. That said, not all are happy and it is not necessary the raw material suppliers it is also those that realize there is a lack of the detail and effectiveness of this mechanism and all is yet to be tested.

Another concern is anti-dumping may be not be possible as the ChAFTA only uses the wording ” full access for Australian producers to trade remedies available under the WTO, including anti-dumping and countervailing measures.” Which like Australian Intellectual Property is often seen as an unnecessary barrier by Chinese firms. That said it is claimed China is moving towards more rigorous protection of IP as a natural progression. Some experienced people in this area may be saying – waiting – waiting – time will tell!

The positive also argue that while the service industry will no doubt benefit the Chinese market is good news for manufacturers as they will often be able to incorporate Australian manufactured products in their offerings.

Architects, for example can partner with local Australian suppliers to offer broader solutions to Chinese needs. Healthcare providers can similarly partner to tackle the China market. Other restrictions being relaxed on services will clear the way for Australian equipment and technology suppliers. The later point is claimed as a win for innovative technology and product suppliers.

One area of both opportunity and concern is the easing of restrictions on the use of imported Chinese labour. That labour source can undermine workers’ conditions and the competitiveness of firms operating under Australian law, so who wins? Comparative advantage is what the economists would argue would determine the winner.

While the positive argue it is all good. They also acknowledge there is no doubt China benefits greatly from this agreement and with that will come greater competition and threat to Australian business. It then means the Australian government must be more active in follow up on industry concerns as the details of the agreement are revealed and issues emerge. The difficulty in this is it is actually counter to the current government’s intention ‘of open for business’. It is even more difficult if you consider the need to collaborate outside of the cooperative of Australian Values.

So from all this comes the ‘real’ issue of not knowing about the mechanism proposed for addressing non-tariff barriers. Kindly provided is the following summaries to assist highlight what might be of concern. Not in any particular order:

  • Customs-related issues: – import tariffs, onerous customs procedures, including customs valuations, other import taxes and charges, rules of origin/certificates of origin, market access quotas
  • Technical issues – standards and certification: conformance testing and certification requirements
  • Other internal regulations issues – internal taxes, restrictive import licensing agreements, visa requirements and work permits, ownership and investment restrictions, banking and foreign exchange issues, governance and competition-related issues, differing processes for obtaining government approvals, transparency and fairness in tendering procedures for government contract and in the – award of tenders, ineffective enforcement of intellectual property rights
  • Social or market-related issues: staff recruitment, local business culture.

It is suspected that these barriers in China are extensive and complex.

In addition, it needs to be appreciated that arguably Australia’s largest barrier to trade, particularly in the services sector, is the very low level of mandarin speaking skills and understanding of Chinese Confucius-based business culture by Australians. Add to that the comparatively low level of ‘in country’ trade development support offered by the Australian Government and the need for Australians to invest considerable time and resources necessary to build up relationships before any deals can be concluded are also important factors.

We also seem to forget the high level of competition which Australians will face not only from European countries that have been far more active in Chinese markets in recent years, but also the very strong presence of mandarin speaking Taiwanese business interests who will be actively chasing service market opportunities.

Despite the current level of political rhetoric being generated about opening up ‘services-based’ markets in China, the reality is likely to be quite different. Only time will tell!

So was it so clever to have financial services hold the key to trade that is controlled by exchange. What is different for building trade over services is the key advantages of building trade around ‘hard products’ (commodities and manufactures) is that they are ‘language and culture’ neutral; if the price is right and the technical and other barriers can be addressed, market opportunities can be realised. Simply put the agenda is obvious and transparent.

As we see it the hurdle that many Australian companies within an exchange will be the need to learn and understand the soft diplomacy required in bedding down arrangements as the cultural context of business is different to that of the West.

A mixed blessing is probably the best description. A number of major concerns with this agreement:

  1. Firstly there is no mention of China needing to float it’s currency to achieve a more honest and realistic exchange rate.
  2. The agreement favours large-scale innovative makers and mining.
  3. Maintaining small to medium business input will be difficult.
  4. China is not required to place a carbon footprint on it’s export products, an economic advantage. In addition Australia does not require imports to place a carbon footprint on products. Should such a footprint be costed in real terms local manufacturing competes.
  5. China’s agreement with the USA may result in pollution issues being costed.
  6. We have heard no analysis of any imbedded uncompetitive clauses that may have a detrimental effect on Australian export business and local business alike.

Meanwhile back in NZ. After signing the NZ/China FTA Plinius Audio based in Christchurch NZ spent almost 5 years getting the CCC approval process to work for its products to enter China having been tested and proved compliant here.

Back to the now in Australia we are having our own ‘realities’ where according to our agribusiness contacts China is always going to control raw materials into China, it is a balancing act between feeding the people with Grain, clothing the people and exporting, and manipulating the price of commodities into China. Why? Because if they lose too much control, they cannot keep the rate of growth in the range where they have it. It follows that if China’s economy slows down it has huge implications not just for China, but for its main trading partners, of which Australia is a major one for Raw Materials.

Whether it is perceived or ‘real’ most feel the so-called free-trade agreements and other international contracts zap control from sovereign nations and hand it to rootless instrumentalities, undermining the role of governments.

It all culminates with: Planning, the timeframes that each culture believes plans should be projected forward and whether your side is proactive or reactive and when to be so inclined.

Relatively stable – but out of control – added costs

Your real energy costs are the networks. Interesting statement and arguably true. But is more gaming going on than meets the eye? The October 2014 energy bill arrives, and despite having negotiated a better energy price for your Victorian based small to medium sized business, you see you are paying more. Why you ask? You have a new energy price, no carbon price added, do not have solar, have reduced your load through energy efficiency measures as was encouraged and expected to be better off. The concerned business sent us their bill for analysis and what stood out.

From the Energy Retailer:

The unit price of energy had = reduced 33% – good.

The Retailers ‘other charges’ introduced new fees = increase 18% – bad

The Retailers LRET liability passed to you = increase 69% – bad

Therefore after paying a lower energy price and the Retailer contract exchanged, you find increased fees and passed to you their liability for the shortfall in their obligation on environmental charges.

From the government:

Relatively stable on state government imposts = good.

Therefore there are no new imposts from government – yet.

From the Networks:

Peak consumption charges = up 16% – bad

Off Peak consumption charges = up 7% – bad

The net effect on their total billing from the changes about 14% increases and that you can clearly see it is higher than inflation estimates. When you consider the business did expect a net reduction of 13% – it is another price shock they did not see coming – so much for cheaper electricity!

From an environmental perspective the good thing is the business reduced their carbon footprint about 8% through state government offered energy efficiency measures. At least they can have a conscience vote to please!

As has been said previously, the energy industry is the only industry in Australia that can avoid the contract terms as it suits. What is not helpful is the AER Determinations of late that introduce ‘may do’ As opposed to ‘must do’ in their wordings of onus for the industry. You could say there is a lot of water in that soup!

Prepare for unexpected climate events – but can we?

Reported is the driest ever on record and hottest ever recorded for the period, and OMG might be the response from agribusiness in those affected districts.

First look at these three stories:

South Australia and western Victoria head into drought after dry October

Catherine McAloon, Friday November 7, 2014 – 15:34 EDT

“The weather bureau’s latest drought statement shows severe rainfall deficiencies have developed in western Victoria and south-east South Australia.

South Australia recorded its driest October on record.

Australia-wide, it was the seventh driest October overall, but maximum temperatures across the country were the hottest ever recorded for the month.

Climatologist Lynette Bettio says rainfall from July to October in parts of western Victoria and southern South Australia was among the lowest ever for that period.

“”These are percentile rankings, so if you lined up all the July to October periods on record, starting at 1900, which is when we start our records, this July to October period, those areas covered by the rainfall deficiencies, which is much of western Victoria and southern parts of South Australia, would be in the bottom 10 per cent and the bottom 5 per cent,”” Dr Bettio said.

Richard Thornton, of the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Co-operative Research Centre, says the dry conditions could mean bushfires develop sooner than expected.”

Academic says climate extremes the major problem for farmers

Michael Condon, Friday November 7, 2014 – 15:27 EDT

“An academic says climate change will not be catastrophic for farmers, as they can manage any long term change.

Agricultural scientist Professor Richard Eckard, from the University of Melbourne, says extreme weather events like fire and flood do more damage to farmers and farming viability than the long term nature of any climate change.

“”That is where attention should be focussed,”” Prof Eckard said.

“”Because the real threats are dealing with the extreme weather events.

The attitudes are slowly changing to recognise that there is something changing in our weather.

I think a lot of the farming community might say that that is part of the natural cycle but regardless of whether or not you think it is a permanent change or a natural cycle, it does represent a change in what we see in the extremes.

A heatwave in November is one example of that.

Any gradual change we can adapt to over time, if is a gradual increase in temperature you can start breeding different animals or plants in that direction to deal with those changes.

It is really the unexpected extreme events that will catch us unawares that we need to be prepared for.

I am talking about the floods, the bushfires the extremes in temperature, in unusual times throughout the year,”” Professor Eckard said.”

Time to get serious about land use and emissions

By Stephen Bygrave on 10 November 2014

“Agricultural emissions in Australia could be responsible for over half of Australia’s total emissions. The land use sector has the most to lose, and the most to gain from climate change. Following discussion with farmers, it’s clear many of them are looking at ways they can stay on their land, and even make it more productive in the face of the changing climate.

There are those already revegetating their land, and experiencing the benefits of doing so. Others are looking to keep their topsoil, that otherwise blows all the way to Antarctica, with methods such as no-till farming.

Our research also found that just leaving native forests to recover could draw down more than 10 year’s worth of Australia’ total annual carbon pollution.

The recommendations in Land Use: Agriculture and Forestry are not radical – no more than the IPCC calling for global zero emissions is radical. They’re things that some are already doing, and that we must do if we’re to inhabit the planet into the future.

In fact one thing the fifth assessment report does very clearly is provide even stronger evidence that we’re already feeling the impacts of climate change. As if we needed it. We’ve already been in conversation with farmers who’ve been forced from their land, largely because of climate change. Farmers like John Pettigrew in the Goulburn Valley don’t bulldoze their 10,000 peach trees if there’s any hope of things improving.

We’re heading into a hotter, drier summer in a country where hotter, drier summers have become the norm.  In fact over 75 per cent of Queensland & northern NSW are approaching four years of drought now, and the western districts of Victoria look set to join them.

Even the National Farmers Federation, based on ABARES data, acknowledge that “without actions to adapt to a changing climate and to mitigate the effects of greenhouse gases, Australian production of wheat, beef, dairy and sugar could decline by up to 10 percent by 2030 and 19 percent by 2050.”

One of the pathways identified in our paper is to reduce livestock by 24% in the intensive zone and by 16% in the extensive zone. This matches the trend of Australians overall eating less meat, and allows farmers to take control of their production before the decisions are taken out of their hands.

This number is fully encompassed by the controversial live export trade – meeting this target would still allow for consumption of far more meat than is healthy for everyone in the country.”

Co2Land org asks: What does all this mean? We do not think it matters whether is it anthropogenic or not as the cause. However, we do care that what contributes to our wellbeing needs us to care. You see our markets need a healthy environment as much as carbon life forms do too. So even if we just assume people, and our activities are 50% responsible for the change in climate the measure still needs to be based on what if we don’t abate and what difference will that make.

Without complex modelling a significant number can still be indicative of what could be avoided. And, what must be avoided is the tipping point of climate change – the point not imaginable.

Long view, short term bridging – selling the network asset

What do you know about NSW and Qld privatising their energy networks? Worst kept secret was the reply. ‘They’ intend to divest of the high cost responsibility as quickly as possible. Yet, when you speak to ‘them’ they are stunned that it is possible – the standard reply is it is a position statement to be tested, not ‘yet’ policy. Typically, the form of reply is: ‘we have not been told, but we have been asked to consider what would happen if’. Our immediate thought is it is more proof the public and sector is now saturated with ‘micro managers’ and their work is to be without purpose other than pedant corrections of the efforts the junior staff to innovate.

We now hear you say – how could synergy be possible in that sort of workplace? Reality takes over – it is not possible to have synergy as it involves a need for common purpose. In those sectors what is actually happening is the portrayal of a fictional character as being real. You see for the networks companies, they are operating on a model that has reached the end of its economic life. They must change to survive or to be counted as an asset. The secret word here is ‘asset’.

Co2Land org has always been told that if the bankable is present then there will be an opportunity for business. This is not meant to be a profound statement as such, but a good indication that in the background changes are afoot and plans are being set for change. Why is this important in this post?

The day after our discussion the following story was published 8 Oct 2014:

http://www.afr.com/p/special_reports/energy_security/strong_appetite_for_energy_sector_zmEISUe8FvDkd9uxACcK6M?utm_source=outbrain&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=outbrain_amplify – Strong appetite for energy sector privatisations.

“This content is produced by Commonwealth Bank in commercial partnership with The Australian Financial Review.

Australia’s energy and utilities sector is moving towards its most significant period of privatisation since the Victorian and South Australian experience in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Subject to election outcomes, the governments of New South Wales and Queensland have indicated a desire to sell their mature electricity network assets in order to free up funds for new infrastructure projects.

Both states plan to privatise their electricity networks and in addition, Queensland may sell its power generation businesses.

Across the two states, six electricity network companies are being privatised, with Ausgrid in NSW the largest.

Each government has appointed advisers and indicated that if they are re-elected the process will begin almost immediately.

The NSW program is expected to end in the middle of 2016 and Queensland is expected to finish six to 12 months after that.

The scale of the programs with more than $50 billion in assets coming onto the market at the same time presents potential challenges, says Simon Ling, managing director Debt Markets Commonwealth Bank.

“Given both electoral cycles are running on similar time frames, there are market liquidity considerations and constraints depending on the size and the timing of the assets coming to market.”

Both states are engaging in asset turnover – selling mature assets now in order to invest in new assets for the future. They each have commitments for new road and rail infrastructure, and they also want to be able pay down debt.

Fortunately, the timing is beneficial. There is a lot of interest in the market from domestic and offshore super funds, pension funds and infrastructure investors.

However, given the scale of the programs there will be pressure on banks to accept a larger exposure than they would typically take on an interim basis, before longer term funding plans can be put in place.

In terms of the structure of the financing, Mr Ling says, “We expect that the arranging banks will have appetite for significant holds on most of the assets and the balance will be syndicated out to local and international banks with interest. There will also be a need for a short term bridging component to the bond markets.”

Challenges

In programs of this size it is important to appreciate the challenges faced by the governments and financiers.

For NSW and Queensland, the first order of business is certainty of execution. Governments need to be sure that there is enough liquidity in the market to get the deals done.

And of course the other big priority is to deliver the optimum price and return for their communities.

“That comes back to the question about sequencing,” says Mr Ling. “The governments are going to have to be sensible with sequencing because if they want certainty of execution and price tension they need to be careful how they bring this to the market.

“The good news, however, is that there is more than sufficient appetite for this.”

Domestic banks will run multiple teams supporting a number of key bidders in order to increase chances of successfully backing the eventual winners.

For banks, the key risk is the large exposure they will have to take at the close of the transaction, given that the largest companies could require senior debt acquisition financing around $10 billion.

“Once again there is cause for optimism. Global demand for these assets means that ultimately the debt will be able to be placed widely around the world,” says Mr Ling.

Who will invest

Most of the demand for these assets will come from investors looking for low risk, stable assets and regulated cash flows to invest in. Offshore bond markets are also expected to be more receptive and active in this latest round of privatisation than compared to the Victorian and South Australian programs, for instance.

US private placement investors are very familiar with regulated assets in Australia and are expected to have a large appetite for these new opportunities when they come on the market.

In the US, UK and Europe assets such as these would appeal to local capital markets because there is a very highly developed long end to those capital markets. The long dated market in Australia is less developed, therefore core long term funding will be dominated by offshore investors who recognise the unique opportunity to invest in these high quality infrastructure assets operating within a stable regulatory environment.”

All this sounds so admirable, why are we suspicious? Well the answer may come in the form of the inquiry into the senate’s power price inquiry. The Business Speculator asked, “Is the Senate’s power price inquiry a useless witch hunt?” This story is by TRISTAN EDIS 3 OCT, http://www.businessspectator.com.au/article/2014/10/3/energy-markets/senates-power-price-inquiry-useless-witch-hunt?utm_source=exact

The story quotes: “The Senate has agreed to launch a far ranging inquiry into the effectiveness of regulation over monopoly power network businesses to assess the extent to which consumers may be paying too much for poles and wires.

In addition, it will also examine whether the arrangements for the connection and pricing of network services discriminates against households and businesses that generate their own electricity – for example, via solar PV systems. (The full terms of reference are provided at bottom.)

This inquiry comes on top of countless other reviews and inquiries, with timeline below, including a Senate inquiry looking into electricity price rises just two years earlier. This naturally draws the question, what will yet another inquiry possibly achieve?”

So CO2Land org asks is the result a forgone conclusion? Nothing more than a rubber stamp to say regulation will assure the new buyer will make money and the consumer continues to pay too much?

This is especially relevant when Ernst & Young also reported in the ABC on 13 October 2014, that “the Federal Parliament has announced a Senate inquiry to investigate whether the so-called gold plating of Australia’s electricity networks is artificially driving up the cost of electricity.

Up to 60 per cent of some household electricity bills can be attributed to network costs, which is the amount passed on to consumers for maintaining infrastructure such as poles and wires.”

We also feel it is important to know a little history – If you did not know Australia has in recent times had a non-regulated network in the east. How could this be possible? You see the regulatory rules were written for AC (alternating current) wires connections. DC (direct current) is not AC regulated. So what if we wanted to build DC lines? You could speculate it would introduce competition – assuming competition was welcome!

Another interesting matter is the preoccupation in the story ‘Strong appetite for energy sector privatisations’ with the bank on saying” “However, given the scale of the programs there will be pressure on banks to accept a larger exposure than they would typically take on” – And, “the unique opportunity to invest in these high quality infrastructure assets operating within a stable regulatory environment.”

Forgive us but what about the inquiry! A fair go? Or is it a means to the end!