February 20, 2019

Horse 2513 - My Electricity Problem, The Bigger Electricity Problem, And Why Privatisation Is Stupid

The Problem:
At about 8am yesterday morning, Mrs Rollo was disturbed not by the usual onslaught of feline hostilities which rage from time to time but by a white car and a man with a BA in Clipboardology. He came to the house, shut the power off at the power box, put a tape over the switches which are a criminal offence to remove and drove away.
I had recently arrived at work and had made a cup of coffee (of everyone’s favourite zero star coffee International Roast) and was about to settle in for the morning to do a spot of grunt work when I was told that there was no electricity.

The poles and wires in our part of the world are owned by Endeavour Energy. It was they who sent around their man in the car to switch off the power. However, I wasn’t to know that as in the first instance, I had to ring our retail electricity provider, which was Origin Energy.
Except it wasn’t.

The last bill that we had from Origin Energy was back in November last year. The account was showing $0.00 outstanding and so it was nonsensical to the person who I rang at Origin, why the elecrity was cut off.
I was sent to Endeavour Energy.

Endeavour Energy asked me if I’d run my retail electricity provider. I told them I had. They told me that I needed to track down an order for  cut off, so that it could be reversed.
So back to Origin Energy I went.

Origin Energy told me that they had sent no such order to Endeavour Energy and that I should ring Endeavour Energy to see where the order for cut off had come from.
So back to Endeavour Energy I went.

After speaking to someone at Endeavour Energy and having to reexplain the situation, I was then sent on a series of numbers until I found someone who could tell me where they order had come from. It had not come from Origin Energy as I had thought, and who I had been paying our electricity bills with but from AGL.
So I rang AGL.

AGL were incredibly confused. Not only could AGL not identify me as a customer at this address but they had details of me living at a house that I had moved out of more than five years ago. They sent me back to Endeavour Energy to see which National Meter Identifier (NMI) had been cut off.
So I went back to Endeavour Energy.

Endeavour Energy were able to tell me what the NMI for this property was, sort of. There is also a granny flat out the back, and they couldn’t determine which one it was and as they do no have accounts linked to NMIs because they are not the retail electricity provider, they sent me back to Origin Energy to get the NMI.
Which I did.

I then took that NMI to AGL, wherein I had to set up a new account because apparently (and this is the kicker) our property was an AGL owned account but unattached to any customer. This means that AGL have been supplying electricity to us, without us even knowing about it and because the account was unattached to any customer and nobody paid the bill, this is what triggered the cut off order.

So I had to create a new account with AGL, who then sent an immediate order to resupply electricity and the same man in the white car who had been around at 8am, came around at 2:25pm to turn the power back on.

Between three companies, nobody had a clue as to why we’d been transferred from Origin to AGL without our knowledge, or even how it had happened.

The Bigger Problem:
Electricity supply as far as the customer is concerned, something of a natural monopoly. The customer shouldn’t have to care about comparing a godzillion number of plans and rates, in a giant confuseopoly because in the end, electricity is  exactly fungible. 240 volts at 10 amps should be exactly the same if it comes from Kalgoorlie to Karratha or from Katoomba to Kiama. I give zero hoots about where it comes from. Broadly speaking, I’d like it to come from less fossil fuel burning, but that should be government policy and not incumbent on the poor consumer who is stuck in the middle of a retail price maelstrom to decide.

Because Electricity supply is both a natural monopoly, and a piece of national infrastructure, then history consistently proves that privatisation is rubbish. I’m not trying to make some grand statement about socialism here but if it takes the best part of six and a half hours and three companies to resolve an issue which could have been solved in less than four minutes, then you can stick whatever comments you have to make about free markets into the sun.

Private companies who have multiple administrations, which are basically duplicates of each other, who are all being funded at the lowest possible rates in the name of spinning a profit, are terrible for the consumer. Had it been back in the days of Prospect County Council which was a state-owned corporation owned by the Government of New South Wales, you would have had a guy called Geoff walk down the corridor to another guy called Steve and ask “Why’d you cut the power off at 33 Banana St?” and there would have been an answer immediately.

Privatisation has not brought prices down for consumers and to be perfectly blunt, it more than anything else was probably the root cause of the 2016 South Australian blackout, when almost the entire state losing its electricity supply due to busted interconnecters and physical destruction of wires due to storms.

The then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said that state governments had paid "little or no attention to energy security", and prize knave Queensland One Nation senator, Malcolm Roberts, blamed the incident on relying on renwable energy sources.
The truth is that without wires, electrity doesnn't flow and the real culprit for not doing proper maintenace was ElectraNet who are 46% owned by the State Grid Corporation of China, 33% owned by a Malaysian company called YTL, and something called Australian Utilities Pty Ltd.

The fact that the electricity isn't owned by the South Australian state government is stupid and all who sold off need to be put into a room with no electricity so they can think about what they've done.
The same goes for the state governments of New South Wales. Whoever thought that this was a good idea and everyone who voted for it, is criminally stupid.

More recently Mike Baird campaigned to lease 49% of NSW's state-owned electricity distribution network and as soon as he got a better job with the NAB, he jumped ship citing "family reasons" (I think that we know exactly what those "family reasons" were). It is decisions like this that stretch back to the 1980s, which explain why it takes three companies to shut off my electricity for no good reason at all.

More than six hours after the power went off and after I’d been on the phone almost continuously, doing the equivalent of their administration  for them, the power came back on again.

I had a phone call later that afternoon from AGL, asking me if I’d enjoyed the customer experience and if I would recommend them in the future.

1 comment:

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