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Privatised electricity system fails

Privatised electricity system fails

Bill English is living in Wonderland if he seriously thinks the answer to the current crisis in electricity supply is to let the markets work even more freely.

Alliance infrastructure spokesperson Jill Ovens says last Friday's sudden rise in electricity spot prices was the inevitable outcome of multiple ownership and control of what is a vital strategic resource.

"We have a situation where the focus is on electricity prices which fluctuate hourly as if we were talking about cabbages in a vegetable market.

"There is no way we will ever achieve sufficient generation capacity to allow for extreme events if we don't plan over the long-term and we don't do that planning in the public interest."

Ms Ovens says the corporatisation of the electricity system, coupled with the winding down of State Coal Mines, led to a situation where Maui gas was frittered away in the Huntly Power Station, while the expansion of the Huntly coal fields was abandoned.

"Now Pete Hodgson has discovered the corporatised Coal Corp no longer pre-strips coal in case of drought because it operates as a business.

"We couldn't transport the coal anyway because we do not have enough coal trucks. And the Australian coal we will import to get us through this Winter is more environmentally destructive than our own.

"It's a mess."

The basic needs of the people in this country (not to mention the businesses) are prey to the vagaries of the speculation-driven markets, Ms Ovens says.

"We must re-establish our sovereignty over these resources. Electricity generation and supply must be owned and operated in the public interest.

"Only then can we have a long-term, planned approach to ensure security of supply at prices people can afford."

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