Think tank supports selling off state power
RESOURCES Minister Martin Ferguson's call for the states to privatise their electricity networks has been backed by a national economic think tank.
Minister Ferguson released a white paper proposing major reforms to Australia's energy markets including selling off the state's power transmission networks.
The Committee for the Economic Development of Australia released a report on "Australia's Energy Options" on Wednesday, reinforcing the Labor Government's call to sell off state government assets.
Mr Ferguson's white paper attributed huge price hikes in power bills to rising peak demand and gold-plating of electricity networks, among other things.
But CEDA chief executive Professor Stephen Martin said the CEDA research shows it was the "ownership structures" that were the driving price rises.
Mr Martin and Mr Ferguson were both in agreement on state government gold-plating, due to incentives paid to power transmission companies for over-investment.
"State governments are effectively using their utilities as a means of indirect taxation, in part because they get extraordinary income that private operators cannot get," Mr Martin said.
Professor Martin said the report also recommended that steps be taken to speed up the roll-out of smart meters and time-of-use pricing, a consumer energy use education campaign be developed, and a review of energy concession provisions be undertaken.
All of those CEDA recommendations were similar to the government's energy white paper.
Differently the CEDA report highlighted a need for a national review of what Mr Martin called 'energy hardship concessions'.
"This research has found that families may be at increased risk of energy hardship, particularly those with young children, but may not be able to access concessions," he said.
"Energy is an essential service and given rising electricity prices in recent years, it is timely that a national review of energy hardship provisions be undertaken to ensure it is reaching all those in need."