The paper authored by University of Queensland economist John Quiggin and released by Flinders University’s Australian Industrial Transformation Unit says the creation of the National Electricity Market in the 1990s has failed to lower power prices and improve system reliability or environmental sustainability.
It argues the electricity grid, including physical transmission networks in each state and interconnectors linking them, should instead be publicly owned.
And it says that “renationalised” grid should be responsible for maintaining a secure power supply and moving towards a zero emissions industry.
Quiggin says minor changes to the current National Electricity Market will not be able to resolve the “energy instability” that is holding Australia back.
“The price increases of the past decades and the series of recent breakdowns reflect systemic design flaws, exacerbated by the failure to take appropriate account of the implications of climate change,” he said in a statement on Friday.
He said some believe a publicly owned power grid is “unthinkable” but recent political upheavals are proof unthinkable ideas should not be dismissed.
“It is the only coherent response to the failure of neoliberal electricity reform, just as the establishment of a publicly owned National Broadband Network was the only feasible response to the failure of telecommunications reform,” he said.
The director of the Australian Industrial Transformation Institute, Professor John Spoehr, said the paper lays down a challenge to governments of all persuasions to create a policy in the nation’s interest.
“It is clear that the current system is unreliable and untenable,” Professor John Spoehr said.
“This is a discussion we have to have, as a catalyst for genuine, nation building reform.”
The State Government has hinted that it is looking at increasing the government’s hand in the electricity system in South Australia.
Premier Jay Weatherill says his government is working on a plan for a “dramatic intervention” in the market, but he has not yet revealed what it might be.
He said in February that nationalising the market was an option, but not his preferred one.
– with AAP
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