Thursday, 11 December 2014

1,500 Essential Energy jobs on the chopping block and reliable power supply at risk on NSW North Coast

The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) released a draft revenue determination for the NSW electricity distributor, Essential Energy, for the five year period through to June 2019.

The Draft Essential Energy distribution determination 2015–16 to 2018–19 affects many residential and business customers on the NSW North Coast
According to Essential Energy on 27 November 2014:

The AER draft determinations released today would mean, if implemented:

• Immediate job reductions of 4,600 employees (38%) across NSW (Ausgrid 2,400, Endeavour Energy
700 and Essential Energy 1,500).
• An inability to place 750 apprentices, currently in training, when they graduate to trade over the
next four years.
• A likely reduction of $460m in vegetation management programs over the next four years.
• Deterioration in the time taken for electricity networks to restore electricity supply to communities
after major storm events.

AER apparently also expects Essential Energy to increase efficiency savings by exposing customers to more frequent brownouts and blackouts during peak demand periods [AER Draft Determination Overview, p26].

The number of hot days are increasing on the NSW North Coast and, maximum daily temperatures in Grafton during the first six days of December 2014 were between 29°C and 33.5°C, Lismore’s maximum daily temperature for the same period ranged between 26.5°C and 30.8°C, Casino’s maximums reached 28.9°C and 35.3°C, while Kyogle’s  maximums fluctuating between 31.8°C to 35.3°C.

When one combines this heat in the first six days of an Australian summer with the aging population demographic of the region, it does not take a genius to see that any increase in power outages carries a risk to the health and wellbeing of older residents as well as infants and the ill.

Battling heat with no power for fan or air conditioner due to what should be an avoidable power outage may mean that nursing mothers and the frail aged will find little comfort in the fact that that AER expects residential electricity bills to decrease next financial year under its plan.

The NSW Nationals MP for Clarence response on 3 December in the Clarence Valley Review was weak to say the least:

Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis said that “every consumer would welcome a drop in electricity prices to households and small businesses”, but opposed the idea of further job cuts at EE.
“What we [the Nationals] don’t agree with is the impact on regional communities, with any job losses,” he said.
“That’s why we opposed the sale of poles and wires in the first place – and that’s why the Nationals fought to secure EE remaining in government hands.

But then, this is a politician who has conveniently forgotten that earlier this year he voted for the second phase of privatisation of the state’s electricity infrastructure:

Nationals MP for Clarence Chris Gulaptis has voted with his party to back the State Government's proposed sell-off of electricity infrastructure.
[The Daily Examiner, 13 June 2014]

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