Power companies accused of ‘unconscionable conduct’ as they withdraw from grid

“It’s not in good faith and fairly unconscionable conduct. Yes, there is some sort of justification for it, but it’s the wrong thing to do,” McConnell said.

Credit:Matt Golding

Asked on Tuesday if power companies were gaming the system, federal Energy Minister Chris Bowen said the compliance regulator was monitoring the situation “very, very closely”.

“The Australian Energy Regulator reminded [power companies] of their obligations of the law this morning,” Bowen said.

The market operator had reassured ministers that it believed there was still sufficient power available to the grid.

“I have been in contact with [the AEMO] and they are confident the situation can be and will be avoided in NSW and Victoria in particular in coming days,” Bowen said on Tuesday. “Nobody should turn off any power usage that they need for their comfort or their safety … nobody is asking for that to happen.”

A spokesperson for the Australian Energy Council, which represents major power generators including AGL, EnergyAustralia and Origin, said its members were losing money selling power due to soaring costs of the coal and gas they burn.

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“The price cap unintentionally means that some plants can’t recover their fuel costs. Participants are legitimately seeking ways to resolve the problem,” the spokesperson said.

NSW Treasurer and Energy Minister Matt Kean said he was in close contact with the market operator and had “every confidence” there was enough power available to avoid blackouts, and he identified compensation payments as a cause of shortfall warnings that had sparked concern.

“The reason that generators are waiting for the market operator to direct them, rather than taking a loss in the market is because they are eligible for some compensation from the Australian Energy Regulator,” Kean said.

Victorian Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio warned it was “unacceptable to see some businesses potentially gaming the system to increase their profits”.

“Any such behaviour will be investigated,” she said. “We will continue pushing for reforms that ensure the needs of Victorians are put ahead of big company profits.”

with Josh Gordon

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