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Sunday 8 March 2015

A re-elected Baird Government will require bidders for the 49 per cent lease of the electricity ‘poles and wires’ to sign a guarantee that network prices will be lower in 2019 than they were in 2014, NSW Premier Mike Baird announced today.

Mr Baird also announced that respected former Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair Allan Fels will take on the new role of Electricity Price Commissioner, to oversee the implementation and operation of the Price Guarantee.

Professor Fels’s role will include sign-off that each transaction will not put upward pressure on prices in the short, medium or long term.

“I make this pledge – unless the bidders guarantee lower prices, and Allan Fels signs off on it, these transactions will not go ahead,” Mr Baird said.

“We’ve got power prices back under control, after they rose by about 60 per cent over five years under NSW Labor.

“This Price Guarantee, and the appointment of Professor Fels to oversee it, is our contract with the people of NSW that network prices will not rise as a result of our plan.”

Under the Price Guarantee, the Baird Government will require bidders to:

  • Guarantee that network charges will be lower in 2019 than they were in 2014;
  • Cut waste and unnecessary costs in the electricity business;
  • Curtail union rorts and work practices that have pushed up prices;
  • Ensure no return of “gold plating” of the networks; and
  • Pass on savings from greater efficiency to consumers, in accordance with the AER’s Efficiency Benefit Sharing Scheme.

Successful bidders will be required to provide an annual statement on their compliance with the Guarantee to the Electricity Price Commissioner, who will be able to refer any concerns to the Australian Energy Regulator or the ACCC.“The question here is, whom do you trust to keep downward pressure on electricity prices?” Mr Baird said.

“Is it discredited NSW Labor, or is it the Baird Government, with the additional oversight of Australia’s most respected consumer advocate?”