Thirty years ago the State Electricity Commission in Victoria, Australia was privatised, putting hundreds of workers out of jobs, increasing prices and driving down safety standards. Now the state Labor government is promising to return energy to public hands, phase out coal and invest in public renewables.
The announcement, titled “Putting Power back in the hands of Victorians” recognises that privatisation has driven up prices and sent billions in profits offshore. The government says that “unreliable, privatised coal will be replaced by clean, government-owned, renewable energy”.
"[P]ublic renewables are not just possible, they are the only way to guarantee a rapid transition that can provide the reliable energy we need," Kate Lappin, PSI Asia Pacific Regional Secretary
The failure of Victoria’s electricity privatisation was examined by PSI’s People’s Inquiry into Privatisation. A hearing was held in the La Trobe Valley where workers spoke of huge reductions in jobs, no apprenticeships and dangerous reductions in safety standards. The inquiry found that
“The privatisation of the Victorian electricity distribution network in the 1990s led to unreliable electricity supply and poor maintenance of the network. Damningly, underinvestment in the power network was a contributing factor in the Black Saturday bushfires of 2009, which killed 173 people and destroyed thousands of homes”.
PSI’s Asia Pacific Regional Secretary said “The decision to bring energy back into public hands in Victoria is great for workers, for the public and for the planet. We hope this shows governments around the region that public renewables are not just possible, they are the only way to guarantee a rapid transition that can provide the reliable energy we need.”
More on the announcement: Australia's biggest electricity system 'on life support' as states take control of the energy transition