Australian Electricity Reform: The Ownership Debate

Regional Energy Resources Information Centre, Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok
Publication Type:
Journal Article
International Energy Journal, 2005, 6 (1), pp. 1 - 12
Issue Date:
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A direct and indirect change in the ownership of significant segments of the electricity industry -from the public to the private arena - has been an accompaniment to the structural and regulatory reform of the Australian electricity industry, underway for much of the last decade. While the structural and regulatory aspects of reform have engendered considerable public debate, the debate on the various aspects of the change in ownership - its rationale, methods, and impacts - has however been rather narrow, largely opaque, and mostly surreptitious, confined almost exclusively to the immediate fiscal impacts of the sale of electricity assets. It lacks any substantive consideration of the historical, political, and philosophical underpinnings of this change, and the profound, variegated, and fundamental consequences that this change will inevitably induce in terms of redistributing wealth in society, recasting the balance between the market and the welfare state, reorganizing the institutions of governance, realigning economic and political interests, reinterpreting of the role of the state, and indeed a rethinking on the philosophical foundations of a civilized society. This paper provides reconnoiter of the political and philosophical connects of the change in the ownership of the Australian electricity industry and argues for the need to broaden the nature of the current debate on these issues. While the review focuses on the Australian electricity industry, the messages are relevant for other countries undertaking reform, especially developing countries as they begin to dismantle and privatize their electricity infrastructures.
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