Alcoa bailout: What about us? say large energy users
Large electricity users have accused AGL Energy of hitting them with 50-100 per cent electricity price hikes while doing sweetheart deals with politically sensitive businesses such as Alcoa's Portland aluminium smelter which is set for a $240 million government bailout.
After the handout to the stricken plant was confirmed, big energy consumers Dow Chemicals, BHP Billiton and Brickworks are urging state and federal policymakers to fix the wider energy policy landscape so that all energy users – and not just a chosen few – could benefit from lower prices.
They urged the Victorian government to lift its moratorium on onshore gas production, citing soaring gas prices as one cause of unaffordable electricity, and South Australia to ensure that locally produced gas is available to generate power in the crisis-prone state.
Tony Frencham, chief executive of Dow Chemical Australia and New Zealand, said he was encouraged that at least in the case of Alcoa, AGL and governments recognised the importance of affordable and reliable energy.
"However, what we can't reconcile is firstly, how AGL and other energy providers can close their eyes when they raise energy prices 50-100 per cent to other Victorian industrial users when they and their wholesalers know that the increase is not cost driven?
"Secondly, how the same Victorian government can contribute to this energy shortage with an unjustified onshore gas moratorium?"
AGL declined to comment but Australian Energy Council chief Matthew Warren said the smelter got a better deal than other customers because it was Victoria's biggest electricity user and the fate of whole power stations depended on it.