16/11/2015 - 11:01

Electricity sector ‘Uber’d’: Nahan

16/11/2015 - 11:01

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Energy Minister Mike Nahan has welcomed the ‘Uberfication’ of the electricity industry, saying the largely state controlled market must be challenged.

Electricity sector ‘Uber’d’: Nahan
Mike Nahan. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Energy Minister Mike Nahan has welcomed the ‘Uberfication’ of the electricity industry, saying the largely state controlled market must be challenged.

Speaking at an energy and battery storage conference in Perth today, Dr Nahan said the government was working hard to ensure regulations did not block new technologies and investors from entering a sector dominated by state-owned monopolies.

These include transmission network Western Power, electricity generator and retailer Synergy, and rural provider Horizon Power

“We must do whatever we can to allow technology to challenge the existing paradigm of investment,” Dr Nahan said.

“In other words, the electricity industry, like the taxi industry, is getting Uber’d.

“Technology, innovation, entrepreneurship love monopolies because they love to attack them and that’s what’s happening.”

Dr Nahan’s statement is likely to be met with scepticism from electricity market players, who have previously said they remain concerned about the government’s control over an ongoing review of the wholesale electricity market, in which it is a major player.

In September, Business News reported Synergy’s dominance in the market was still causing unease, with some warning this was a barrier to private investment.

At the time, Dr Nahan responded by saying Synergy was losing market share in some instances and that the government was focused on removing the large subsidy taxpayers currently made towards electricity prices, paving the way for increased competition from private investors.

At today’s event, Dr Nahan also announced that battery storage and electric vehicle systems would be able to export excess electricity into the Western Power network from December 1 this year.

Calling the agreement historic, he said the new rules brought EV and battery storage generation in line with residential solar photovoltaics, which until recently were the only systems allowed to feed in to the grid.

However, Dr Nahan warned adjusting regulations to accommodate battery storage was complex.

He said current regulations protected consumers and energy players, with clear lines of responsibility for safety.

Dr Nahan told the forum that once people started installing their own battery storage systems, it was less clear which parties were responsible for the safety of those systems or legally how they connected with existing infrastructure and regulations.

“It’s a legal grey area that we’re trying to deal with,” he said.

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