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Industry News

Australian State to Fight Electric Market Power Abuse

Sept. 27, 2001--The Australian state of South Australia is faced in 2003 with joining a nationally deregulated electricity market with only two or three alternative power suppliers willing to serve its residential and small commercial customers, state industry regulator Lew Owens said yesterday, according to The Advertiser, a South Australia newspaper.

He warned that the limited amount of competition could lead to "abuses" by retailers which would force up prices, the paper said this morning.

While Owens was fretting about the possibility of market abuse in South Australia, NECA, the agency which oversees the national power market was concerned with market manipulation, and said it would act against the practice known as rebidding under which power generators drove up prices in times of tight demand.

The Australian national government has been considering delaying customer choice for small customers such as households, amid fears that they might face huge increases in their power bills. Premier John Olsen said the issue of delaying entry into the national market on January 1, 2003, was "absolutely alive," The Advertiser said.

Owens said about 10 retailers had been licensed to enter the South Australia market beginning January 1, 2003, but he had learned that as few as two might offer contracts to householders.

"There are a lot of costs in processing and metering (for residential customers) and for such small margins they say the risk is too great in South Australia," Owens said. "Clearly, if it's only one or two then that's not a competitive market we'll have to watch to be particularly careful to make sure it's not abused."

He said his greatest concern that there are no electricity price safeguards, similar to those existing in the neighboring state of Victoria.

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